1 Peter 1 - The Biblical Illustrator

Bible Comments
  • 1 Peter 1:3-5 open_in_new

    Blessed be the God and Father.

    Man blessing God

    I. Man blesseth God three ways.

    1. In his heart, when, refreshed with God’s favour and inflamed with the joys of His presence, he doth lift up his heart with affection, striving to laud God and acknowledge His mercy.

    2. In his tongue, when he taketh to him words, and openeth his lips to confess and praise God either in secret or openly.

    3. In his works, and that-

    (1) When he sets up memorials of God’s great works or deliverances.

    (2) When he receives the sacrament, setting himself apart to celebrate the memory of Christ’s death.

    (3) By the obedience of his life, striving to glorify God in a holy conversation.

    (4) And lastly, by showing mercy, and thereby causing others to bless God.

    II. Great reason hath man to bless God.

    1. For God is blessedness itself, and whither should the water run but into the sea, from whence it is originally taken.

    2. Besides, the Lord hath required our praise, as the chief means of glorifying Him.

    3. And He hath blessed us, and therefore we have great reason to bless Him. He hath blessed us in the creatures, in His Son, by His angels, by His ministers; blessed us in the blessings of the gospel, blessed us in His house, and in our own houses, in our sabbaths, sacraments, the Word, prayer, etc., blessed us in our souls, bodies, states, names, etc. (N. Byfield.)

    An ascription of praise

    I. The spirit of devotional thankfulness. “Blessed be the God and Father of Jesus Christ.” A living Christian cannot receive Divine mercies like a dumb animal, but rejoices in the sunshine of thanksgiving.

    1. It should be the ruling principle of our lives. How much happiness is lost by forgetting the privileges we enjoy! Thankfulness in our lives would enable us to appreciate what we already possess.

    2. It should be the keynote of our prayers. It is discouraging to bestow favour on a hard and unthankful recipient.

    3. It should permeate all our religion. There is something in praise that softens the heart and ennobles the mind.

    II. The grand reason which demands this spirit. It is the regeneration which is in Christ Jesus. This regeneration is represented as introducing us to three grand privileges, which may well excite our praise.

    1. A prospect of eternal life-“To a lively hope.”

    2. A prospect of unchanging possession-“To an inheritance incorruptible,” etc.

    3. A possession of perfect protection-“Who are guarded” by the power of God.

    4. A prospect of perfect victory-“Unto salvation.” (J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)

    The apostolic benediction

    The Epistle at this point where it begins to flow is Like one of those infant rivers which burst full bodied at their birth from a great inland sea in which their waters have been gathered. Unlike the waters of Ezekiel’s vision, that gathered volume as they flowed, this is a river to swim in the moment that it breaks away from the fountainhead,

    1. Who is this of whom the prophet speaks?-God.

    2. In what aspect does the Supreme present Himself?-As the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    3. What has He done?-Begotten us again; made us new creatures.

    4. From what motive has He acted?-According to His abundant mercy.

    5. By what means has He accomplished this great change?-By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

    6. To what end in the experience of His people does He thus work?-To a living hope burning in their hearts here, and an inheritance incorruptible beyond the grave. (W. Arnot.)

    An outburst of praise

    I. Praise to God.

    1. Reverent.

    2. Loving.

    3. Intelligent.

    4. Grateful.

    II. Praise to God, for a bright hope of a glorious future.

    1. It is praise to God for a hope.

    (1) Expectant desire.

    (2) Living hope. In contrast with dead hopes; lying hopes; weak hopes.

    2. It is praise to God for a future.

    (1) In contrast with the present lot.

    (2) A completion of what inheritance in Palestine might have been.

    III. Praise to God, for His wonderful methods of ensuring the future and inspiring that hope.

    1. The future is ensured.

    (1) God has reserved it in safe keeping.

    (2) God will, in due time, let it be revealed.

    (3) God has ensured it as an inheritance.

    2. How is the hope of the future inspired and preserved?

    (1) It is a hope that is born with man’s new birth.

    (2) It is a hope that is continued by God in connection with man’s character. “Guarded by the power of God through faith.” (U. R. Thomas.)

    A seven-fold hymn praise

    1. “Abundant mercy.” Everything must start from that. Our first cry must be, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” God’s mercy is abundant wherever you see it. You see mercy in nature and in providence, but in Christ it seems to overflow its banks.

    2. The new birth. If we are to enjoy heaven we must be born again, have new tastes.

    3. A living hope. This irradiates all the future. Earthly hopes are dying hopes. The most that the worldly man can say is, “while I breathe I hope.” But the Christian’s hope is not crushed by death; it is a living hope in that He gives me life. See yonder swimmer tossed about by the waves; he is sinking, but at last they see him; a boat puts off; the cry is raised from the pier head; the rescuers are on their way; he lifts himself once more, he sees the boat sweeping towards him; he has a living hope; he struggles a little longer, until the rescuers are able to pull him into the boat. So it is with our hope; living hope inspires us with courage.

    4. Then he comes to the blessing, which is like the central shaft of the candlestick-the blessing upon which all the rest depends-the risen Christ. “By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” We worship no dead hero, but a living, loving Lord.

    5. “An incorruptible inheritance.” I once received a letter asking me to preach a sermon about heaven. I cannot preach about heaven. St. Peter could not. He could only tell us what it was not.

    6. The guaranteed preservation. “Kept by the power of God.”

    7. “Salvation to be revealed.” (E. A. Stuart, M. A.)

    Benedictus Deus

    The sum of this text, and the name of it too, is set down in the very first word of it. A Benedictus it is from us to God, for something coming from God to or for us. Something? Nay, many. And many they are; we reduce them to three: Our regeneration which is past, our hope which is present, and our inheritance which is to come.

    1. Regenerating, or begetting, is of itself a benefit; we get life by it if nothing else.

    2. But to beget to an inheritance is more than simply to beget.

    3. And yet more than that, to beget to such an inheritance as this, of which so many things are here spoken.

    For the order we will put the words in no other, for we can put them in no better than they stand.

    1. God first, and the true God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    2. Then His mercy, the cause moving.

    3. Then Christ’s resurrection, the means working.

    4. Then our regeneration, the act producing.

    Producing hope of the inheritance, then after the inheritance we hope for. Of which two points there are: How it is qualified, uncorrupt, undefiled, not fading. Then, how seated, even in heaven there it is, there kept it is. Now then for these. For His mercy first: for our regenerating by His mercy; for the hope of this inheritance, but more for the inheritance itself, specially such a one so conditioned as here is set down; for keeping it for us in heaven; for keeping us for it on earth. For these all, but above all for the means of all, the rising of Christ, the gate of this hope, the pledge of this inheritance; for these owe we this Benedictus to God. To God the Father and to Christ our Lord, by whom and by whose rising, lose this life when we will, we have hope of a better; betide our inheritance on earth what shall, we have another kept for us in heaven. Thus every one naturally ariseth out of other. Blessed be God. Yea, blessed and thanked and praised; but here blessed suits best, that the most proper return for a blessing that we inherit is the blessing (1 Peter 3:9). The hope is a blessed hope (Titus 2:13). But the inheritance is the state of blessedness itself. Therefore Benedictus is said well. But thereby hangs a scruple; for what are we that we should take upon us to bless God? Yes, He us, and we Him too, as if they were reciprocal, one the echo, the reflection of the other. Equal they are not. It were fond to imagine the Father gives the child no other blessing but the child can give him as good again. What then? He that wisheth heartily would do more than wish if his power were according. What say we, then, when we say Benedictus? It is a word compound; take it in sunder, and dicere is, to say somewhat, to speak; and that we can; and bene is (speaking), to speak well; and that we ought. To speak, is confession; to speak well, is praise; and praise becometh Him, and us to give it Him. And what good can we wish Him that He hath not? Say we it, say we it not, He is blessed alike. True to Him we cannot wish; not to His person; but to His name we can, and to His Word we can; we can wish it more devoutly heard. God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the style of the New Testament, ye read it not in the Old. The sun was yet under the horizon, but now up, and of a good height.

    (1) Blessed be God; say that, and no more, and never a Jew, Turk, or Pagan but will say as much. We would not bestow our Benedictus upon any but the true God, so settle our Benedictus upon the right God.

    (2) For this cause, but not for this alone, when we bless Him I daresay we would bless Him with His best title. So hath it ever been. You shall observe in titles ever upon the coming of a greater, the less is laid down. For if this be to be God, to be bounteous, beneficial. In nothing was God ever so beneficial as in sending His only begotten Son into the world. This shall be His title forever. Forever to have a chief place in our Benedictus. And yet there is another on Christ’s behalf, our Lord; even to bring Him in too. For, seeing all that which follows comes not but by the rising of Christ, we cannot leave Him out. All the good that comes to us, as it comes to us from God, so it comes to us by Christ. This is most plain; first, that did generate Christ; before that did regenerate us. If He not generate, we not regenerate; then no children, then no inheritance. For in Him this text, and all other texts, are yea and amen. By this time we see why this addition, it is His title of severance, it is the highest title of His honour; it takes in Christ, who would not be left out in our Benedictus. From the party whom we pass to the cause, why. For we say not this Benedictus, as we say many a one here, without any cause; Benedictus for nothing; nay, for God is ever aforehand with us. For generation is the proper act of a Father. But before we come to it let us not stride over that which stands before it. God did this, did all that follows, but upon what motive? According to His mercy. And mercy accords well with a Father; no compassion like His. But the benefits ensuing are too great to run in the common current of mercy. “Great,” therefore according to His great mercy. Mercy, the thing; great, the measure; a word of number rather than magnitude. The meaning is, no single mercy would do it; no, though great, there must be many. For many the defects to be removed, many the sins to be forgiven, many the perfections to be attained, therefore, according to His manifold mercy. “According” is well said. For that indeed is the chord, to which this and all our Benedictuses are to be tuned. Yea, many times blessed for His manifold mercies. Mercy, then, first; regeneration second, the act of this mercy. Verily, even for our natural generation, we owe Him a Benedictus. No man by his first birth, be it never so high or noble, is a whir the nearer this inheritance. Now “re” hath in it two powers. “Re” is “again” the second time. For two there be, that old creation, and the new creature in Christ. But “re” is not only again, but “again” upon a loss. Not a second only, but a second upon the failing of the first. So doth redemption, a buying again, upon a former aliening. Reconciliation, upon a former falling out. Restitution, upon a former attainder. Resurrection, upon a fall taken formerly. Regeneration, upon a former degenerating, from our first estate. Our first would not serve; it was corrupt, it was defiled, it did degenerate. There was more then need of a new, a second, a regeneration, to make us children of grace again, and so of life. This act of regenerating is determined doubly, Εἴς is twice repeated. To hope first, then to the inheritance; ye may put them together, to the hope of an inheritance. But because an inheritance is no present matter; it is to come, and to be coming to. From begetting, we step not straight to entering upon our inheritance. There needs no great Benedictus for hope. For what is hope? What, but a waking man’s dream? And such hopes there be many in the world. But this is none such. To show it is none such it is severed by two terms: regeneravit and vivam. They are worth the marking both.

    (a) Regeneravit, first; that it is spes generata. So this a substantial hope, called therefore by St. Paul the “helmet of hope” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-28), the “anchor of hope” (Hebrews 6:1-20), things of substance, that will hold, that have metal in them.

    (b) Then mark vivam. And vivam follows well of regeneravit. For they that are begotten are so to live, to have life. Vivam also imports there is a dead or a dying hope, but this is not such but a living.

    Nay, viva is more than vivens, lively, then living. Where viva is said of ought the meaning is they spring, they grow, they have life in themselves. And, indeed, regeneravit is a good verb to join with hope. There is in hope a kind of regendering power; it begets men anew. And viva is a good epithet for it. When one droops give him hope, his spirits will come to him afresh, it will make him alive again. And for such a hope blessed be God. And whence hath it this life? The next word shows it, vivam, per resurrectionem. The vigour it hath from Christ rising, and by His rising opening to us the gate of life at large. Life by the resurrection, the true life indeed. Not to live here still, but to rise again and live as Christ did. We for the most part put it wrong, for we put it in them that must die, and then must our hope die with them, and so prove a dying hope. But put it in one that dies not, that shall never die, and then it will be spes viva indeed. No reed, no cobweb-hope then; but helmet, anchor hope-hope that will never confound you. And who is that, or where is He, that we might hope in Him? That is Jesus Christ, our hope; so calls Him St. Paul (1 Timothy 1:1). Yet not Christ every way considered; not as yesterday, in the grave, nor as the day before, giving up the ghost upon the Cross, dead, and buried, yields but dead hope. But in Jesus Christ rising again. We pass now to the inheritance. But as we pass will ye observe the situation first? It is well worth your observing that the resurrection is placed in the midst, between our hope and our inheritance. To hope before it, before the resurrection, hope; but after to the inheritance itself, to the full possession and fruition of it. An “inheritance” accords well with “according to His mercy.” We have it not of ourselves or by our merits, but of Him and by His mercies. Else were it a purchase and no inheritance. It comes to us freely, as the inheritance to children. Well with mercy, and well with regeneravit. For the inheritance is of children. Nor shall we need to doubt any prejudice to God, from whom it comes, by our coming to this inheritance. Here the inheritance comes not but by the death of the party in possession, but there no prejudice to the ancestor; he dies not for the heir to succeed. Nor no prejudice to the heir neither; to us by Him, not to Him by us. It is not as here, one carries it from all, and all the rest go without; or if they come in his part is the less. So say we again now, one thing to be born to an inheritance, another to such an inheritance as this here. For in inheritances there is great odds, one much better than another even here with us. St. Peter writes to the dispersed Jews, and by in caelo, he gives them an item, this inheritance is no new Canaan here on earth, nor Christ any earthly Messiahs to settle them in a new land of promise. “In heaven,” then. There it is first, and there it is kept; the being there one, the keeping another. For that there it is kept is happy for us. Earth would not keep it, here it would be in hazard. It would go the same way Paradise went. Since it would be lost in earth it is kept in heaven. And a Benedictus for that too, as for the regenerating us to it here on earth, so for the keeping, the preserving of it there in heaven. Kept, and for us kept, else all were nothing, that makes up all that it is not only preserved, but reserved for us there. But reserved yet under the veil. But time shall come when the veil shall be taken off, and of that which is now within it there shall be a reveiling. Only it stayeth till the work of regeneration be accomplished. For these come we now to our Benedictus. For if God, according to His manifold mercy, have done all this for us, we also, according to our duty, are to do somewhat again. First, then, dictus, somewhat would be said by way of recognition; this hath God done for us, and more also. But to say Benedictus anyway is not to content us, but to say it solemnly. How is that? Benedictus in our mouth and the holy Eucharist in our hands. And yet this is not all; we are not to stay here, but to aspire farther, even to strive to be like to God, and be like God we shall not unless our dicere be facere as His is, unless somewhat be done withal. In very deed there is no blessing, but with the hand stretched out. (Bp. Andrewes.)

    According to His abundant mercy.

    God’s abundant mercy

    A little mercy, such as is in man, or some reasonable store, as in angels, would not serve the turn.

    1. Was it a small matter that moved God to choose thee to salvation, rather than thousands of others, or was it a small mercy to give us His only Son, to deliver us by suffering all the wrath due to us?

    2. Is it a small measure of mercy to call us to the hope of salvation from our wretched estate when we went on in sin, and minded no good, nay, all evil?

    3. They that have had their part in this abundant mercy must be stirred up to abundant thanksgiving (Psalms 116:12-14). We must testify our love in zealous obedience all the days of our life, showing forth the virtues of Him that hath called us out of darkness into His marvellous light.

    4. It teaches us also to show mercy to one another: in giving, forgiving, and the like.

    5. It shows also the miserableness of our estate, that without abundant mercy we can never be saved. (John Rogers.)

    A string of pearls

    I might almost entitle these three verses a New Testament psalm. They are stanzas of a majestic song. You have here a delightful hymn; it scarce needs to be turned into verse; it is in itself essential poetry. To lead the mind to praise God is one of the surest ways of uplifting it from depression. The wild beasts of anxiety and discontent which surround our bivouac in the wilderness will be driven away by the fire of our gratitude and the song of our praise. In these three verses we have a string of pearls, a necklace of diamonds, a cabinet of jewels.

    I. I see in the text, as the source of all the rest, abundant mercy. No other attribute could have helped us had “mercy” refused. As we are by nature, justice condemns us, holiness frowns upon us, power crushes us, truth confirms the threatening of the law, and wrath fulfils it. It is from the mercy of God that all our hopes begin. Mercy is needed for the miserable, and yet more for the sinful. Misery and sin are fully united in the human race, and mercy here performs her noblest deeds. God has vouchsafed His mercy to us, and we must thankfully acknowledge that in our case His mercy has been “abundant” mercy. Where sin hath abounded, grace hath much more abounded. Contemplate the abundant mercy of our blessed God. A river deep and broad is before you. Track it to its fountainhead; see it welling up in the covenant of grace, in the eternal purposes of infinite wisdom. The secret source is no small spring, no mere bubbling fount, it is a very Geyser, leaping aloft in fulness of power; the springs of the sea are not comparable therewith. Not even an angel could fathom the springs of eternal love or measure the depths of infinite grace. Follow now the stream; mark it in all its course. See how it widens and deepens, how at the Cross it expands into a measureless river! Mark how the filthy come and wash; see how each polluted one comes up milk-white from the washing!

    1. It is God’s great mercy that is spoken of herein. You must measure His Godhead before you shall compute His mercy.

    2. But note again, it is the mercy of the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When I see Jesus descending from heaven to earth, paying all the debts of His people, I can well understand that the mercy of God in Christ must be abundant mercy.

    3. Note carefully another word, it is the mercy of “the Father.” The Father of Him who is the perfect and the ever blessed is also your Father, and all His mercy belongs to you. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name.”

    II. The next great blessing in the text is that of incorruptible life. Mark that, O believer. One of the first displays of Divine mercy which we experience is being begotten again. Our first birth gave us the image of the first Adam-“earthly”; our second birth, and that alone, gives us the image of the second Adam, which is “heavenly.”

    1. The new life of a Christian is Divine in its origin-God hath begotten us. The new life cometh not from man, it is wrought by the operation of the Holy Ghost. As certainly as God spake, and it was done, in the creation of the world, so He speaks in the heart of man, and it is done, and the new creature is born.

    2. The new life in us, as it has a Divine origin, has also a Divine nature. Ye are made partakers of the Divine nature. The Holy Spirit Himself enters the believer and abides in him, and makes him a living man. What a great mystery is this, but at the same time what a blessing! Observe, to be begotten again is a very marvellous thing. Suppose a man born into this world with a predisposition to some sad hereditary disease. There he is, filled with disease, and medicine cannot eject the unwelcome tenant from his body. Suppose that man’s body could be altogether new born, and he could receive a new body pure from all taint, it would be a great mercy. But it does not approach to regeneration, because our supposition only deals with the body, while the new birth renews the soul, and even implants a higher nature. Regeneration overcomes not a mere material disease, not an infliction in the flesh, but the natural depravity of the heart, the deadly disorder of the soul.

    III. A third blessing, strictly connected with this new life, is a lively hope. “He hath begotten us again unto a lively hope.” Could a man live without hope? Men manage to survive the worst condition of distress when they are encouraged by a hope, but is not suicide the natural result of the death of hope? Yes, we must have a hope, and the Christian is not left without one.

    1. He has “a lively hope,” that is to say, first, he has a hope within him, real, true, and operative. A Christian’s hope purifies him, excites him to diligence, makes him seek after that which he expects to obtain.

    2. It is a “lively hope” in another sense, namely, that it cheers and enlivens.

    3. It is also called a “living hope,” because it is imperishable. Other hopes fade like withering flowers. The only imperishable hope is that which climbs above the stars, and fixes itself upon the throne of God and the person of Jesus Christ.

    4. The hope which God has given to His truly quickened people is a lively hope, however, mainly because it deals with life. Charles Borromeo, the famous bishop of Milan, ordered a painter who was about to draw a skeleton with a scythe over a sepulchre to substitute for it the golden key of Paradise. Truly this is a most fitting emblem for a believer’s tomb, for what is death but the key of heaven to the Christian? We notice frequently over cemetery gates, as an emblematic device, a torch turned over ready to be quenched. Ah, it is not so, the torch of our life burns the better, and blazes the brighter for the change of death.

    IV. We notice another delightful possession which ought effectually to chasten away from all of us the glooms of this life, and that is a risen Saviour. Jesus Christ died, not in appearance, but in reality; in proof whereof His heart was pierced by the soldier’s spear. He was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, truly a corpse. He really and literally rose from the dead,-the selfsame Christ who was born of the Virgin Mary, who suffered under Pontius Pilate, and afterwards ascended into heaven. Now, note ye well the comfort which arises out of this fact, since it proves that we possess a living advocate, mediator, and high priest, who has passed into the heavens. Moreover, since all believers, being partakers of the incorruptible life of God, are one with Jesus Christ, that which happens to Him virtually happens to them. They died in His death, they live in His life, they reign in His glory.

    V. The fifth is as incorruptible inheritance. A heavenly nature requires a heavenly inheritance, heaven-born children must have a heavenly portion.

    1. First, as this substance-it is “incorruptible.

    2. Next, for purity-it is “undefiled.”

    3. And then it is added for its beauty,-“it fadeth not away.”

    4. And then for possession, it is secure reserved in heaven for you.

    VI. The sixth blessing is inviolable security. The inheritance is kept for you, and you are kept for the inheritance. The word is a military one, it signifies a city garrisoned and defended. Each believer is kept by that same power which “bears the earth’s huge pillars up,” and sustains the arches of heaven. VII. Out of the seven treasures of the Christian the last comprehends all, is better than all-it is a blessed God. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is joy to have heaven, it is joy to possess a new life to fit me for heaven, but the greatest of all is to have my God, my own Saviour’s God, my Father, my own Saviour’s Father, to be all my own. God Himself has said, “I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

    The anthem of the redeemed

    Gratitude is happiness, and happiness speaks in poetry, and delights in song. Music is the language of a jubilant heart.

    I. We have here the “abundant mercy” of God in producing a living hope in the breast of rebels against his authority. This expression implies three things:

    1. That humanity once had a living hope. The breast of man, in the short but bright period of innocence, was indeed inspired with a living hope.

    2. That mankind have somehow or Other lost this living hope. We know how they lost it. It was sin that quenched this glorious lamp.

    3. That the reproduction of this living hope is a wonderful display of Divine mercy. Justice overwhelms the sinner with terror and midnight despair.

    II. We have here the “abundant mercy” of God, in the transcendent value of the object on which this living hope is fastened. “An inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, etc. Hope always implies an object. The value of the hope depends upon the nature of the object.

    III. We have here the “abundant mercy” of God, in the wonderful instrumentality by which this living hope is reproduced. It is “begotten again by the resurrection of Christ from the dead.” How does the resurrection of Christ appear necessary for the reproduction in man of this living hope?

    1. Christ taught the existence both of the desirable and the obtainable in connection with the future state. In the nature of the case hope implies both of these things. This something Christ presented in His teaching. He revealed to men heaven in all its glories, and He revealed too the manner in which that heaven could be obtained. Hence His teaching was in every way adapted to generate this living hope in the minds of men.

    2. His resurrection from the dead was an incontrovertible proof of the truth of what He taught.

    IV. We have here the “abundant mercy” of God, in the almighty agency he employs, to secure the ultimate realisation of this living hope.

    1. The implied necessity of God’s preserving agency “Who are kept.” No power but that of God can keep us.

    2. The expressed method of God’s preserving agency. “Through faith.” He always works by means.

    3. The glorious designs of God’s preserving agency. “Unto eternal salvation.” And in this constant agency what “abundant mercy”! “Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for His mercy endureth forever.” (Homilist.)

    God’s mercy manifold

    As John Bunyan says, all the flowers in God’s garden are double; there is no single mercy; nay, they are not only double flowers, but they are manifold flowers. There are many flowers upon one stalk, and many flowers in one flower. You shall think you have but one mercy, but you shall find it to be a whole, flock of mercies. Manifold mercies! Like the drops of a lustre, which reflect a rainbow of colours when the sun is glittering upon them, and each one, when turned in different ways from its prismatic form, shows all the varieties of colour, so the mercy of God is one and yet many, the same, yet ever changing, a combination of all the beauties of love blended harmoniously together. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

    Begotten us again unto a lively hope.-

    The Christian’s living hope and incorruptible inheritance

    If I had to say in a word what the Christian’s hope is, I should say it is the hope of an unfading inheritance, the hope of being made meet for it, the hope of what is condensed into that all-comprehensive word “salvation!” And can you make mention of any other hope that does not pale when placed beside this?

    I. It is a living hope.

    1. The living hope of a living man. A man spiritually dead cannot possess this hope. It is not a phantasy. It is not an effeminate wish, or a masculine wish for that matter; it is not a mere sentiment or a fond desire. It is a living hope! It is an indivisible, inalienable part of his new life, and it cannot exist in any other heart than that of the spiritually transformed man-the man who is “begotten again.”

    2. It is a living hope because it centres in a living Christ. Begotten to it, how? “By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The life of Christ, so full of goodness, and love, and purity, and self-sacrifice, and His death, so awful, the culminating sacrifice of all, were not enough. He must come back into life, or no sinner can be forgiven. Blessed be God! He did come back!

    3. The Christian’s hope is a living one as contrasted with and opposed to hopes that perish. God hath pledged its realisation under the seal of His own oath.

    II. God is the author of this hope. He hath begotten us again to it. It is all of His abundant mercy. Therefore let us bless Him for it. And let us show our gratitude to Him by letting the light of our hope shine on others.

    III. The inheritance to which the Christian’s hope points. (E. D. Solomon.)

    Shadows of the future

    To the Christian the future life is not merely a subject of anticipation, but of confident and well-grounded assurance. Our Saviour seemed specially anxious to impress this fact on the minds of His disciples. He said to them, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” Well, now we know that Christ lives. The existence of the Church of Christ today is an unmistakable evidence of the existence and continued activity of Christ. And if Christ lives, then we shall live also. What ought to be the influence of these anticipations on our life as Christian men and women here?

    I. These anticipations ought to have a place in our thoughts, in our conversations, in our prayers, in our affections, and in the activities of our lives. It is the fashion of some preachers to decry this “other world religion,” as they call it. They say, “We have nothing whatever to do with the other world; the present life demands all our care,” and they would severely repress all interest in the future life. The human heart rebels against all such unnatural restriction. You may just as well say to the mariner, “Because there are rocks and quicksands in the course which you have to take you must never lift up your eyes to the stars, but keep them steadily fixed on the waters you have to cross.” “Why,” he would say, “I guide my way across the waters of this world by the light of other worlds.” And so the Christian mariner can say, “I guide my course through this world by the light and the hope and the influence of the other world.”

    II. Our thoughts of the future life should be characterised by moderation, reverence, and spirituality. Let us be content with the beautiful simplicity and lofty spirituality of the New Testament representations as a life of glorious spiritual progress, of freedom from sin, holy love, honourable service, delightful fellowship, and a growing likeness to Christ; “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is,” We shall be with Him, and we shall do Him service. (F. Binns.)

    Great expectations

    I. Christian hope in the excellency of its nature. Life’s pathway strewn with withered hopes. Gold, pleasure, fame, etc., disappoint.

    II. Christian hope in the divinity of its source.

    III. Christian hope in the medium of its production. Jesus, by His resurrection, the proof, pledge, and pattern of our future heavenly happiness.

    IV. Christian hope in the glory of its object.

    1. Vast “inheritance.”

    2. Righteous-gotten rightly and enjoyed rightly.

    3. Everlasting.

    V. Christian hope in the certainty of its realisation. (B. D. Johns.)

    The lively hope

    I. The true character of the Christian’s hope.

    1. It is lively in the sense of living. It is not delusive. It is no self-excited sentiment-the fruit of ignorance and presumption. It has a real, a well-defined, and well-ascertained existence in the heart.

    2. It is a lively hope in the sense of activity. It produces courage, patience, holiness.

    II. The object of the Christian’s hope. “An inheritance,” etc.

    III. The method of attaining this hope.

    1. Its author is God. It is a Divine creation in the heart.

    2. This gift of God is prompted by His abundant mercy.

    3. Yet the mercy which restores hope to man is not indiscriminate-it is the mercy of righteousness.

    4. The medium through which this blessing reaches us-“the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” This was pre eminently the Divine attestation of the truth of the Saviour’s Messianic mission.

    IV. The security or the possessors of this hope. (Thos. Brookes.)

    The Christian salvation described and acknowledged

    I. The blessings acknowledged.

    1. Divine sonship. We become the children of God-both in reference to state and character, to condition and disposition-through the belief of the truth; and this belief of the truth is produced and maintained by the influence of the Holy Spirit.

    2. The inheritance provided for them.

    3. The living hope of the inheritance, through the resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead. This hope rests entirely on God’s free sovereign kindness, manifested in harmony with His righteousness; but it is only in the belief of the truth that this sovereign kindness can be apprehended as a ground of hope.

    II. The acknowledgment of these blessings.

    1. God is the author of these blessings.

    2. It is as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that God bestows these blessings. In the riches of His sovereign mercy He determined to save an innumerable multitude of sinful men, and in the depth of His wisdom He formed a plan for realising the determination of His mercy, not merely in consistency with, but in glorious illustration of, His holiness and justice.

    3. These blessings originate in the “abundant mercy” of God.

    (1) Think on the character of Him who bestows these blessings-the absolute, independent Jehovah, perfectly, infinitely, unchangeably, happy in Himself.

    (2) Think on the nature of the blessings,-the very highest that can be conferred on creatures, and in their measure limited by nothing but the capacity of the recipient.

    (3) Think on the character of those on whom they are bestowed-sinners, guilty, depraved, condemned; deserving everlasting destruction.

    (4) Think of the number of those on whom these blessings are bestowed (Revelation 21:24; Revelation 7:9).

    (5) Think of the means through which the blessings are communicated-the Incarnation, the sacrifice of God’s own son (1 John 4:10; John 3:16).

    4. These blessings are of vast magnitude and incalculable value. They include deliverance from guilt, depravity, degradation, death, everlasting misery; the enjoyment of the favour of God, tranquillity of conscience, ever-growing conformity to the Divine image, and happiness throughout eternity.

    5. The proper method of acknowledging these benefits is “to bless” their munificent giver. This is one of the purposes for which we are begotten again (Isaiah 43:21; 1 Peter 2:9). Our whole life should be a hymn of praise to the God of our salvation (Psalms 103:1-4; Psalms 86:12-13; Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:15-16; Revelation 5:13). (J. Brown, D. D.)

    Begotten unto a living hope

    We are not surprised that Peter attached special importance to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The most significant fact about the crucifixion was that it culminated in the resurrection. If Christ had not risen from the dead, there would have been no adequate message for the world. Now, though the story of the resurrection was to all the apostles specially inspiring, it was that which brought hope to Peter above all others. After his three-fold denial of Christ, he had gone out, weeping bitterly. Hence the special emphasis with which our Lord mentioned Peter in His message to His disciples: “Tell My disciples, and Peter, that I am risen from the dead,” etc. Thus the resurrection of Jesus Christ was everything to Peter. It was that which brought; with it hope to the man who, of all the apostles-excepting Judas-had lost most hope.

    I. Peter’s high conception here of God’s mercy. Peter does not undertake to measure or to describe it. It is a mercy that has filled him with wonderment and with boundless gratitude. Peter speaks these words out of the exuberance of his own joy. That word “us” has a “me” at the heart of it. The powerful preacher is the man who preaches out of his own experience; and thus the greatest sinner forgiven must always be the greatest witness, if he is only true to his privilege. No other disciple had experienced the intense grief which Peter had felt. Hence the special significance of these words upon his lips. This word “again” further emphasises the testimony. All hope had practically died out of Peter. He thought everything had ended in darkness; hence the thanks he gives to Him who had begotten him and his brethren unto a lively hope.

    II. Peter’s high conception of the hope unto which he and others had been begotten. It was a hope full of life. Peter had no patience with anything that did not abound with life. He himself was all alive, whether he confessed or denied his Lord. His was an intense nature. And when hope was rekindled in him, it was a living hope. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, had that living hope. Then he spoke in the face of the mightiest opposition, spoke only as a man with a flaming heart and a fiery tongue could have spoken. He attributed all this hope to God’s mercy. “It was the gift of another,” said Peter, practically; “I never could work myself up into this enthusiasm. All my energy was gone, and my enthusiasm had died out of me; but He who gave His Son has given me again this lively hope.”

    III. Peter’s high conception of the inheritance in store for us-“an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled,” etc. This assurance, if you possess it, ought to make a difference to all your life. Here is a man who believes that this life of fifty, sixty, or seventy years, as the case may be, embraces everything: that there is nothing beyond it for him. What noble heroism can you expect of that man? But here is another man who feels that, after all, this life is but the preparatory period, the time of schooling for an inheritance in which life shall show its full meaning, and every capacity of our being shall be ennobled and find full exercise. I will tell you what such a man ought to be. I do not say what those who profess to believe this often are, but what each of them ought to be. (D. Davies.)

    A right to hope

    My father said once, “Harriet, I have been reviewing my evidences. I have been putting the question to myself, just as I would press it on a sinner, or a person newly converted; and I have come to the conclusion that I have a right to hope.” That kind of mechanical or conventional test used to prevail in churches as now; and here was this old saint, that had been for fifty or sixty years working almost beyond human strength in the midst of the world, as sweet as honey in the honeycomb in his disposition, putting himself on the rack of self examination, and coming, with great hesitation and modesty, at last, to the conclusion that he had a right to hope! Hope! When a man has any conception of Jesus Christ, how can he have anything else? Hope! When the heart of Christ is pouring forth salvation, and is made manifest, as the shining of the sun, and has enough and to spare, how can one do otherwise than hope? And yet there are a great many persons who cannot do it. There are a great many who do not realise the blessing which is vouchsafed to them, sometimes from their bodily condition, and sometimes from their mental training; sometimes from one reason, and sometimes from another. (H. W. Beecher.)

    The Christian’s hope

    Dr. Arnold’s whole countenance would be lit up at his favourite verse in the Te Deum: “When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, Thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.” (Stanleys Life of Arnold.)

    Christian hope well founded

    God would never show us a thing He did not mean to give us. This is the way one boy teases another. (Geo. MacDonald.)

    The death test

    A few hours before Bishop Jones’s death (Methodist Episcopal Church), his son-in-law, anxious for some dying testimony, bent over him and asked, “Bishop, say something to us, some parting words.” The brief, emphatic reply was, “I am not disappointed.”

    Christianity provides a future

    A converted Japanese artist said recently to a missionary, “I suppose the reason why English artists put so much perspective into their drawings is because Christianity has given them a future; and the reason why Oriental artists fail to do so, is because Buddha and Confucius do not raise their eyes above the present.”

    By the resurrection of Jesus Christ.-

    Easter hopes

    I. To say that we cannot get on without hope is a truism. Hope is not the salt, it is the sinew of man’s moral life. His capacity for excellence is exactly proportioned to his power of throwing himself onward into a future, which is as yet beyond his reach, and which may even be always beyond it. This truth holds good whether we look at man as an individual or as a member of society. The great object of a wise educator is to set before the boy whom he is teaching some future to which he may aspire, and which may fire his best enthusiasms; some future which may supply him with a strong motive for making the most of his present opportunities; some future upon which, during the drudgery and toil of his earlier tasks, his eye may rest, as upon the prize which will reward| him, the object of his hope. And does not the same rule hold in later life? The boy becomes a man, the father of a family, and he transfers to his children some of the hope which he cherished for himself. He thinks less of what they are than of what it is probable that they will be a few years hence. So strong and penetrating is his sympathy, that in them he lives his own boyhood over again, only with the larger experience and wider horizon of his manhood. Nor is this less true of a professional work in life: hope is ever the motive principle of the exertions which command success. Minds of a lower type look forward to the reputation which will be won by success; minds of a higher order look forward to the happiness of doing work for God by rendering some real service to their generation or to posterity. And it is this hope which sustains them under all discouragements. Nor is hope less essential to associations of men than to man in his individual capacity. An army is never thoroughly demoralised until the hope of victory is gone. A nation is not ruined until it, has reached a point at which it remarks that it can make out for itself no prospect of expansion in coming years. And as hope is thus necessary to the temporary well-being of societies of men, and of individual men, so is it essential to the highest well-being of man as man. The hope upon which states, institutions, artists, painters, military men, politicians rest, is directed to objects within the sphere of sense and time. But man, as man, must look beyond sense and time. The man who has no clear belief in a future life may undoubtedly have, within some very restricted limits, a strong sense of duty. He may even persuade himself that this sense of duty is all the better and purer from not being bribed by the prospect of a future reward or stimulated, as he would say, unhealthily, by the dread of future punishment. But, for all that, his moral life is fatally impoverished. It is not merely that he has fewer and feebler motives to right action; it is that he has a false estimate of his real place in the universe. He has forfeited, in the legitimate sense of the term, his true title to self-respect. He has divested himself of the bearing, the instincts, the sense of noble birth and high destiny which properly belong to him.

    II. Man then needs a hope, resting on something beyond this scene of sense and time. And God has given him one, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Our Lord indeed taught, in the plainest language, the reality of a future life (John 14:2; Matthew 25:46; Matthew 6:20; Luke 20:38). He contributed to the establishment of this truth in the deepest convictions of men, not merely many lessons taught in words, but a fact, palpable to the senses. His resurrection converted hopes, surmises, speculations, trains of inference, into strong certainties. Not that the fact of Christ’s resurrection could force itself upon reluctant minds, or rather upon reluctant wills, in the earliest ages, as now, there were expedients for evading its force. The evangelical narrative, the convictions of the earliest Church, the moral strength of the Church, advancing through blood and suffering to the heights of a worldwide empire, resist these expedients, as inconsistent with fact, inconsistent with reason. There are at least three forms of interest which might be accorded to such a fact as the resurrection. The first, the interest of curiosity in a wonder, altogether at variance with the observed course of nature. This interest may exist in a high degree; observing and registering the fact, yet never for one moment getting beyond it. The second, the interest of active reason, which is satisfied that such a fact must have consequences and is anxious to trace them. This interest may lead a man to see that the resurrection does prove the truth of Christianity, even though he may know nothing of the power of Christ’s blood and of Christ’s life as a matter of experience. A third kind of interest is practical and moral. It is an effort to answer the question, What does the resurrection of Christ say to me, mean for me? If it is true, if Christianity is true, what ought to be the effect on my thoughts, my feelings, my life? Now St. Peter answers that all should be invigorated by a living hope. Burthen this absorbing moral interest does not come of ordinary powers of observation and reason, like the two earlier forms of interest. We are, says St. Peter, “begotten” unto it. Of this birth, the Father of souls is the Author, and His Eternal Spirit the instrument, and union with Christ the essence or effect. It does much else for us; but it does this among other things, and not least among them: it endows us with a living hope.

    III. St. Peter calls this “hope” a lively, or living, one. What does he mean by this? There are within many a soul trances of powers, ideas, feelings, which once lived, but which have died away. We investigate them from time to time, like the buried ruins of Pompeii or Herculaneum. But a Christian’s hops endures. Earthly disappointments do but force us to make more of it. The lapse of time does but bring us nearer to its object. Surely we can ask ourselves few questions so important as “Have I this hope?” Not to have this hope is to be living at random; it is to be drifting on towards eternity without a chart in hand, or a harbour in view. And if we humbly trust that we have this hope, what are the tests of our possessing it?

    1. A first test is that earthly things sit easily upon us. We are not uninterested in them: far from it. We know how much depends on our way of dealing with them. But, also, we are not enslaved by them. To have caught a real glimpse of the eternal is to have lost heart and relish for the things of time.

    2. A second test of our having this hope is a willingness to make sacrifices for it. “What difference do my hopes of another world make in my daily life? What am I doing, what do I leave undone, that I should not leave undone or do, if I believed that all really ended at death? What changes would be made in my habits, occupations, daily modes of thought and feeling, if-to put a horrible supposition-I could awake tomorrow morning and find that Christ’s conquest of the eternal world for me was a fable?”

    3. A third test is progressive efforts to prepare for the future life (1 John 3:3). (Canon Liddon.)

    The risen Lord the Christian’s hope

    I. The ground of this hope.

    II. The power of this hope.

    III. The destiny of this hope. (J. E. H. Meier.)

    The right view of Christ’s resurrection

    I. The different effects produced upon the minds of many, who have only an outward belief of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. Of all the wonderful events which marked the Saviour’s abode upon earth, there does not appear one for which so much was done to make it clearly proved by its evidence as His resurrection. It was proved by the angels, by the confession of the Roman soldiers who guarded the sepulchre. It was proved by the single testimony of some of the apostles. It was proved by the testimony of the eye, the ear, and the hand (1 John 1:1). The consequence has been, that all who profess to believe Christianity believe the fact of Christ’s resurrection. But with many it goes no further than to convince their reason. It brings no personal conviction of the deep interest which the soul now has, and the soul and body hereafter shall have, in this great truth. Then, again, many believe the resurrection of Christ, not only as an established fact, but as a certain pledge of the general resurrection in the last day. But here they also stop. The belief of their own resurrection has no effect upon their will. They cannot look forward with the certain hope of holy Job (Job 19:25-27). How different a view does St. Paul give us of what the belief of the resurrection of Christ, as the pledge of our own, ought to produce upon the soul (Romans 6:4). St. Paul shows that there must be a conformity of the soul to Christ while it is in the fleshly body, if we would be partakers of the glorified body “at the resurrection of the just” (Colossians 3:1). I will name one other class of persons, who, in a certain way, believe in the resurrection of Christ. Many believe it because it stands as an article in the creed. But here they also stop. The fact of the resurrection of our Lord produces no soul-stirring feelings of wonder, gratitude, and love towards this triumphant Conqueror of Satan, sin, and death; neither does it beget in them any holy desires to be conformed to His image in the converting power of the Holy Ghost. Beware of this deadening view of any of the great doctrines of the gospel of our salvation.

    II. The only right view of this great and most important fact of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the grave. The text shows us what effect true faith in this great fact had produced upon the first Christians: by it they were “begotten again unto a lively hope.” It was in them a practical truth-it touched their hearts. Through the power of it, in the presence and influence of the Holy Ghost, they were anew created, new born unto God. It was a hope which was embodied in their whole character, gave strength and substance to all they did, and was to them that “hope which” was “laid up for them in heaven” (Colossians 1:5). Hence we see that a real and justifying belief of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ acts immediately upon the will and the affections. (H. Marriott.)

    A lively hope generated by Christ’s resurrection

    By speaking of our being “begotten again to a lively hope,” the apostle would simply indicate something of a universal change having passed, through Christ’s resurrection, over this earth and its inhabitants. And such a change did actually pass. There was substituted a living hope for a dead throughout every department of this creation, amongst its irrational as well as its rational tenants. It was not that heretofore there had been no hope whatsoever; for man is so constructed that he cannot live without hope; he must follow a meteor where there is no star on the firmament. There was hope amongst men, even when truth had almost departed, and ignorance of God pressed heavily on all countries and classes. There was hope that Deity might be propitiated; that in some better world the disorders of the present might be rectified. Reason did something, in the midst of ponderous night, to keep men from quite parting with the expectation of immortality; and, combining the teachings of conscience with the lingerings of tradition, it caused a spectre of hope to flit to and fro amid the cloud and the darkness. Yes, a spectre of hope!-a dead thing, though, at times, it appeared amongst the living, and wore something of the hues which had belonged to the fresh and beautiful visitant that had gladdened the earth, whilst yet untainted by sin. A living hope! a hope that is not merely performing some of the actions, but possessing all the energies, of life-that should not merely beckon onward, but waited to be examined and handled-this never sprang from the reveries of philosophers, but eluded the searchings of those who laboured most gravely at the opening a path to happiness hereafter (H. Melvill, B. D.)

    To an inheritance incorruptible.-

    The heavenly inheritance

    The greatness of God’s mercy is to be seen-

    I. In the great number of the saved.

    II. In the greatness of the change which takes place in this great multitude. The very life of God is transmitted to the soul of the believer in regeneration.

    III. In the greatness of the inheritance.

    1. “Incorruptible.” Heaven has in it the power of endless rejuvenation.

    2. “Undefiled.” Its worth is intrinsic; it does not sometimes go up and sometimes come down; its value is the same the centuries through; it was worth the blood of Christ two thousand years ago, and it is worth the blood today again.

    3. “That fadeth not away”-amaranthine, evergreen, always fruitful, always beautiful. No autumn winds strip the trees of their foliage, no winter blasts rob the fields of their verdure. A pamphlet was being lately circulated in this country to persuade English men to emigrate to Texas, and one reason adduced was that the soil being so rich and the climate so equably soft, two harvests could be gathered in one year. A very cogent reason, doubtless, if true. But my text speaks of a better country than Texas-a country which will yield not two crops, but twelve crops in the twelve months (Revelation 22:2).

    IV. In the greatness of the expense to which He went to be able to confer this great inheritance.

    V. In the greatness of the power that is pledged to bring the great multitude to the possession of the inheritance. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

    The inheritance of moral manhood

    I. The inheritance of the good is distinguished by every species of excellence.

    1. “Incorruptible.” The principle of decay is not in it. The pyramid crumbles at the touch of time, and the long-during mountains shake under the footstep of ages; but eternal cycles roll over the plains of heaven without impairing the beauty or paling the brilliance of the “incorruptible” inheritance.

    2. “Undefiled.” Inherently and essentially pure.

    3. “Fadeth not away.”

    II. The inheritance of the good is in safe keeping-“reserved in heaven.” This “inheritance” could not be on earth. Its vitality would perish. Its purity would be sullied. Its brightness would be dimmed. It is necessary that it should be “reserved” or kept back for a season. You may have seen a parent reach down from an eminence some valuable article and show it to the child; the child has lifted his tiny hands to grasp the prize, but the parent has interposed, saying, “No, my son, this is for you when you are a man.” Precisely so with us; wait until you are “made meet to be partakers of the inheritance with the saints in light.” In what does this meetness consist? Undoubtedly in moral manhood. The soul is to “become of age” by growth in moral purity and moral power.

    1. A recognition of God in everything. In battle, and storm, and plague, the clear eye of moral man looks up, knowing that Omnipotence guides that storm, and guards the child’s “inheritance.”

    2. Power over every combination of circumstances. The man is perfectly calm in positions which alarm the child. The “heir” knows that even if circumstances should press so heavily upon him that his “earthly house of this tabernacle should be dissolved,” he has “a building of God-a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:5).

    3. An intelligent decisiveness of character. Is your conviction strong and intelligent? Is your purpose high and determined? Never was fixedness of moral view more essential to progress than in the present day. Every breeze seems laden with refined error and mystic heresy. Know well your doctrines; fix your eye earnestly on the beacon lights of immutable truth.

    III. The inheritance is the portion of a special class. “Kept.”

    1. By the supreme love of their omnipotent Saviour (John 10:28-29). The Lord Jesus not only redeemed His people, He is at this hour interceding for them; and His intercession keeps the saints. Peter was kept (Luke 22:31) by the Saviour’s mediation.

    2. By the ministry of angels. This reflection is illustrative not only of the goodness of the Lord, but also of the dignity of the saved. No guardian band keeps watch over the sun in his glorious palace, no eyes glitter upon the stars as upon an appointed charge; but spirits, pure and strong, hover around the humble child of God. They constitute the military guard of the minor heir, and when he attains his majority they cease to be his protectors only that they may become his companions.

    3. By the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

    IV. The inheritance of the good can be entered upon only in God’s own time. “Ready to be revealed in the last time.” The Bible does not hold out heaven as an inducement to cease from earthwork, nor as a prize to be seized unconditionally. Is it your highest wish to enter heaven yourself, and leave your fellow creatures to do the best they can for themselves? Is there no moral work to be done before you enter on your promised rest? Is there no prodigal to reclaim, no aching heart to comfort? We must add labour to hope, and patience to faith. It is in this fashion that we prove the practical value of Christianity. Lessons:

    1. Seek to be assured of your heirship.

    2. Remember that you are under age.

    3. Rise superior to your troubles. (J. Parker, D. D.)

    Begotten to the heavenly inheritance

    These two terms, “begotten again” and the “incorruptible inheritance,” are made for each other, like the two halves of a seashell. They shut accurately upon each other, but upon nothing else. Our inheritance by the first birth is neither undefiled nor unfading. To escape the curse of the first birthright we must have another birth. The new creature in Christ is joint heir with Him- heir of all things. The inheritance is-

    (1) Incorruptible. It is not liable to complete dissolution, like a dead body that returns to dust. It is-

    (2) Undefiled. It is not liable to have all its beauty dimmed by some unclean spot falling on its form. Often an earthly inheritance, while its substance abides the same, loses all its attraction for the owner. The eldest son, perhaps, for whom it was fondly cherished, has thrown away his good name. Henceforth the father cannot look with complacency on his green fields and waving woods. A glance at the landscape makes him shudder. His inheritance is defiled. Not so the heritage to which the children of God have, in the regeneration, been served heirs. The inheritance is-

    (3) Unfading; its bloom will never wither. The Lamb is the light thereof, and there shall be no night there. The silence of Scripture, especially in contrast with the coarseness of earth born systems, is sometimes as emphatic a testimony to its Divine origin as its positive revelations. Lights on the shore flash far over the ocean, and conduct the voyager to the land; but they do not reveal to him while at sea the particular features of the landscape; it is thus that the Bible exhibits lights sufficient to guide inquirers safe to heaven, but not sufficient to reveal its interior beauties. Those who reach the better land will discover its glories after they arrive. (W. Arnot.)

    The security of the inheritance

    Some are born to a great inheritance, and yet miss it. In our days thrones are frequently shaken, and their occupants cast off. Princes who were born to a royal heritage wander as exiles in a foreign land. But there are no revolutions in the kingdom of heaven. Every one gets his own there. The laws of nature give a token of the certainty that prevails in the region where the Lord reigns. Although a globule of air were imprisoned for a thousand years within a shell at the bottom of the ocean, the moment its prison house decayed it would rise sheer through the water, though it were miles in depth, and never halt till it emerged with a bound into its native element, the sky. Behold a specimen of His power, who has promised “none of them shall be lost.” (W. Arnot.)

    Who are kept by the power of God.-

    Divine power and human faith

    It is not Divine power alone, which would make man a mere passive creature; not human faith alone, which were to risk salvation on human strength. Were heaven “reserved” for man, and man left to himself to fight his way there, even with all the grand revelation of the Gospel, who would ever enter there? The Divine power is the efficient cause, faith the instrumental cause, in salvation. All worlds that revolve in space are upheld by Omnipotence: but the God of All-might upholds them by means of the grand law of gravitation. A flower is the work of Divine wisdom and beneficence, the forthputting of the Divine power of life; but it is by means of root and soil, and moisture and warmth, and light, that the flower shoots and blossoms into beauty. Such, however, are illustrations of means in the lower sphere of nature. We are sustained in life by the will and power of God. But He has given us instinct and reason, so that in the use of food, air, exercise, sleep, our bodily powers are maintained. There are two keepings: heaven for us, us for heaven. How does God guard His own? A large question, which admits of two main answers, the second of which will bring us to speak of the grace of faith. God guards His people by outward defence and by inward help. By outward defence, that is, by providence. No man ever can know in this life how much he owes to the restraining and overruling providence of God. He may be able to mark some things, but who can fully trace the all-guiding hand of God? Two ways there are in war to relieve a beleaguered city. One is by force from without to compel the enemy to raise the siege and abandon the attack; the other, to throw in succours-troops, provisions. We may know that God by His power can do either. For wise reasons He does not drive off the assaulting hosts. He throws into the city of Mansoul, succours. This is grace. Supplies of grace make the Christian strong. And he rejoices in not only the incoming of new life, but in the mortifying of inbred sin. Observe God’s method. He saves no man against his will or without his will. Salvation is of God. How then? God deals with man as a reasonable being. Faith is really the movement of the whole soul. There is in all this no force, no compulsion, no violation of the laws of mind. All is natural, while supernatural. (D. S. Brunton.)

    Of perseverance

    I. By what means no Christians come to persevere?

    1. By the help of ordinances; prayer, word, sacraments.

    2. By the sacred influence and concurrence of the Spirit.

    3. By Christ’s daily intercession.

    By what arguments may we prove the saints’ perseverance?

    1. “From the truth of God.” God hath both asserted and promised it (1Jn 2:9; 1 John 2:27; John 10:28; Jeremiah 32:40; Malachi 2:16).

    2. From the power of God.

    3. From God’s electing love.

    4. From believers’ union with Christ.

    5. From the nature of a purchase. Would Christ, think ye, have shed His blood that we might believe in Him for a while, and then fall away?

    6. From a believer’s “victory over the world.”

    What motives and incentives are there to make Christians persevere?

    1. It is the crown and glory of a Christian to persevere. The excellency of a building is not in having the first stone laid, but when it is finished. The excellency of a Christian is, when he hath finished the work of faith.

    2. You are within a few days’ march of heaven.

    3. How sad not to persevere in holiness! You expose yourselves to the reproaches of men and the rebukes of God.

    4. The promises of mercy are annexed only to perseverance (Revelation 3:5; Luke 22:28).

    What expedients or means may be used for a Christian’s perseverance?

    1. Take heed of those things which will make you fall away.

    (1) Presumption.

    (2) Hypocrisy.

    (3) An evil heart of unbelief.

    2. If you would persevere in sanctity-

    (1) Look that you enter into religion upon a right ground; be well grounded in the distinct knowledge of God; you must know the love of the Father, the merit of the Son, and the efficacy of the Holy Ghost.

    (2) Get a real work of grace in your heart. Nothing will hold out but grace; paint will fall off.

    (3) Be very sincere.

    (4) Be humble.

    (5) Cherish the grace of faith.

    (6) Seek God’s power to help.

    (7) Set before your eyes the noble examples of those who have persevered in religion. (T. Watson.)

    By, through, for

    We have in this verse and the preceding one a grand picture of the double operation of the Divine power on the two sides of the veil. God works amidst the unseen realities, preserving the inheritance for us; and God works here, keeping us for the inheritance. It were vain to prepare the house unless He prepared its occupants. It were vain to nourish in human hearts desires and fitnesses for that supernal bliss, unless He were preparing the fruition of our desires. These two processes go on side by side, and at last the results of the two shall fit together like the two halves of a tally, and neither shall the saints be wanting for the inheritance, nor the inheritance for the saints.

    I. What are we kept by? The Divine strength is as a fortress, protecting our weakness, and we lie safe in the hollow of that great sphere like some weaponless creature in its shell. We are imbedded, surrounded, over-arched above, and under-propped, and guarded on either side, and therefore we lie secure. The weakest of us can get behind that great shelter of the power of God. The fortress defends us, if we abide in it, from sin that would wreck our souls, but it does not shelter us, though we abide in it, from sorrows and all the ills and wearinesses and toils that flesh has to encounter, not because it is flesh, but because God is good. We are kept from the evil that is in the evil. The very exposure to the one often becomes the defence from the other. Then let us remember, too, that this power in which we are kept is a power which keeps us by itself being in us. So Paul speaks about being strengthened within with “a Divine might.” We are kept in God when God is kept in us.

    II. What are we kept through? Faith is the condition, but it is no more than the condition. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runneth into it,” and is safe. And so one of the Hebrew words which expresses “trust” or “faith,” literally rendered, means to flee to a refuge. That figure sets forth picturesquely the nature and effects of faith. We are in the shelter of the enclosing walls, when by faith we enter into them. When we “trust in the Lord” we “have a strong city,” and “salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.” Faith is conscious need. Faith is humble dependence. Faith is brave confidence. And if we go into our daily conflicts with the world and the flesh and the devil, wanting either of these three things, we want an indispensable link between our weakness and God’s strength, and therefore want a necessary condition for the influx of His power which brings the victory.

    III. What are we kept rob? It is salvation in its rudimentary state here, it is salvation in its loftiest development yonder. All the crystals of one mineral have precisely the same angles and the same facets and planes, whether they be so small that it takes a strong microscope to see them, or large as basalt pillars of a Giant’s Causeway. The little salvation here and the giant salvation of the heavens are one and the same thing, and the difference is wholly one of degree. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

    The security of the faithful

    Two persons may be in a lifeboat, and both being in the boat are therefore equally safe; yet one may be full of fear, because he understands neither the qualities of the boat nor the principles upon which it is constructed: he sees the waves rolling, and he fears he shall be drowned; while the other man, well acquainted with the principles of construction, and knowing also those laws by which it is governed, has peace because he is confident. So it is with regard to the character of the Lord Jesus. If you have been taught by the Spirit of God to know what Christ is-to know the preciousness of His blood-to know its saving power-to know its superiority even to Satan, then you may sit under His shadow with great delight, and perfect confidence and comfort. But, at the same time, if you are really trusting in Christ, although your faith be feeble, you are not less secure. The timid man is as safe in the boat as the courageous man, because they depend, not upon their frames and feelings, but their safety consists in the fact of their being in the boat. So all that are really trusting in the Lord Jesus are equally secure, although there may be great differences in the power of faith. (J. W. Reeve, M. A.)


    I. We are kept safe.

    1. God hides His people (Psalms 27:5; Colossians 3:3).

    2. God guards His people.

    II. We are kept up. A corpse might be kept safe, but it would only be preserved corruption. Let us remember that He who keeps our spiritual life secure from outward attack, also keeps it from internal decay. With perpetual preservation there is continual renovation.

    III. We are kept back. He who knows anything of the tendencies of his heart praises God as much for restraining as sustaining grace.

    IV. We are kept on. If ye are found still running with patience give glory to Him unto whom alone it belongs.

    V. We are kept through. There is as much need for us to be taught how to bear with equanimity, as how to serve with unceasing zeal. We are kept through faith’s trial as well as in faith’s service.

    VI. We are kept clean. We who are kept safe in our title are kept meet in our persons for the coming glory.

    VII. We are kept in order. The grace that saves places us in Christ’s school house for instruction.

    VIII. We are kept always. The keeping of the text extends unto “the last time.” We are kept “unto the end.” What is there before us? Well, there is sickness for sure. But the promise is, “He,” that is the Lord, “will make his bed in his sickness.” Beyond sickness stands grim death, but that has lost all power to sting. Beyond death there yawns an open grave. But here the Lord’s keeping shines forth most magnificently. Yes, kept for the resurrection morning. Kept by invincible might for reunion with the glorified spirit. Nothing short of eternal keeping becomes the ever-living God, or meets the requirements of our immortal souls.

    IX. We are kept for a public exhibition (Ephesians 2:7). (A. G. Brown.)

    The Divine keeping

    When God promises that we shall be “kept by the power of God,” He does not mean that we shall be kept from temptation, struggle, and trial. You know that in times of war a commander would throw his strong garrisons into those towns which would be attacked. We have not many soldiers in Islington, but at seaport towns like Dover and Portsmouth you will find large numbers, because they are towns more likely to be attacked. And so when I read in God’s Word that the Christian is “garrisoned by the power of God,” I learn that the Christian must expect to be attacked, must expect temptation, must expect to be in the midst of the battlefield. But it also implies this, that the commander considers that a most important point, and He throws a garrison into it, And not only because He expects it to be attacked, but because He means to keep it. (E. A. Stuart, M. A.)

    How God keeps His saints

    Those who wish to see the Scottish regalia, kept in Edinburgh, have to climb the hill to the castle, then pass guard after guard, and through room after room, until they come to a narrow, steep, winding stair. Ascending it they enter a room, and there before their eyes are the Scottish crown jewels. They are openly displayed, in full view; but while they are where every eye can see them, they are where no hand can touch them. Strong iron guards cover them, so close that, while they do not interfere with sight, no hand could go through. That is how God keeps His precious ones, His crown jewels, so that every eye can see them, but without His permission no hand can touch them. God fences them round so that no one may approach them to do them evil.

    God’s protecting agencies

    The traveller on the Highland railway can hardly fail to be struck, as he journeys north, with the unusual sight of a picturesque and well-kept flower garden blooming in the angle of ground formed at the junction of two rail way lines. The helpless flowers thrive there in spite of the terrible forces that come so near them on every side. If you were to put an untaught savage inside the garden hedge, and let him hear the screaming engines, and see the files of carriages, or the trucks laden with coal, timber, and iron, converging toward this fairy oasis, he would be ready to say, “These beautiful things will be torn to shreds in a moment.” But behind the garden fences there are lines of strong, faithful steel, keeping each engine and carriage and truck in its appointed place; and though the air vibrates with destructive forces, the pansy, primrose, and geranium live in a world of tremors, not a silken filament is snapped, and not a petal falls untimely to the earth. In the very angle of these forces the frailest life is unharmed. To all these possibilities of destruction the steel puts its bound. So with the fine spiritual husbandries that foster faith in the souls around us. That faith some times seems a thing of hair-spun filaments, a bundle of frailties, a fairy fabric of soft-hued gossamers trembling at every breath. The avalanche of nineteenth century atheism is poised over it. The air hurtles with fiery hostilities. The mechanisms of diabolic temptation encroach on every side upon our work. Public house, gaming club, ill-ordered home, threaten disasters, of which we do not like to think. The air quivers with the anger of demons. Yet the work is God’s, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. In the very angle of these demoniac forces the work shall thrive, for the hidden lines of His protecting power are round about it. (T. G. Selby.)

    Salvation ready to be revealed.-

    Salvation remedy

    I. A delightful theme.

    II. An interesting fact. “Ready to be revealed.” What is implied here?

    1. Concealment partial or entire for the present.

    2. Preparation.

    3. Completeness.

    III. An important crisis. “The last time.” (Essex Remembrancer.)

    Salvation ready for revelation

    The complete future salvation is both negative and positive. There is a grand indefiniteness which means comprehensiveness in the word. In its narrowest literal sense it means being made whole; in its wider signification it means being delivered from threatening perils, discomforts, and the like. On the positive side the word implies the bestowal of all true good. So what is ready to be revealed is, on the one hand, absolute emancipation from everything, be it sorrow, be it sin, be it ignorance, which is of the nature of darkness, and is to any part of the human sensibility a pain or evil. And on the other side, what waits to be revealed in us is the absolute fulness of all good of every sort which fits any part of a man’s nature, and makes it feel blessed and at rest. For heart, and mind, and will, and taste, and intellect, and imagination, and the desire for society, and the desire for love, and the desire for progress, and the desire for change, and the desire for enterprise, and the desire for service, and all else that makes up human nature, the full salvation of the heavens has a corresponding gift. And, says Peter, it is all lying just on the other side of the curtain there. A curtain is a very thin thing, very easy to push aside; a finger’s touch and it goes. And, as at some great civic pageant the preparations for tomorrow’s show are carried on behind some interposing thin veil of canvas or the like, where we can hear the hammers at work, and catch a light now and then that tells of preparing glories, so, on the other side of the thin partition, through which there come furtive gleams and sounds that tell what is going on, the inheritance is being prepared for the great unveiling. It is ready to be revealed, but the universe is not ready for the revelation. That unseen order of things has present existence. All that is “future” about it is its manifestation. Unseen, it lies around this little visible life. A touch, a crumb of bread in your windpipe, a clot of blood as big as a pin’s head on your brain, and the future, as we call it foolishly, proves itself the present, the all-encircling. There is but a thin veil between us and it. It is ready to be revealed when He puts out His hand and draws back the curtain for us one by one, as He will at the last for a universe. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

    The end of salvation ready to be revealed

    But is salvation not already revealed? No; the way of salvation is revealed, but the salvation itself is hid out of sight. If the road that leads to the city of God fills us with such wonderment and praise, what ecstasies will possess us once we find our feet on the golden pavements! Imagine not that you will have to spend eternity in mental indolence. No; when you shall have exhausted the revelation of the way, the revelation of the end will still remain; when you shall have gone through this Bible which teaches us how to attain salvation there will be another Bible, the Bible of eternity, to disclose to your wondering gaze the contents of that salvation. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

    The last revelation of salvation

    The finished work of Christ, the prepared home in heaven and the peace of God within a believer’s heart-these are both alike hidden, secret things. But these things are although they are not seen. They are all ready underneath the covering veil, and when that veil is removed every eye shall see them. When the Lord shall come again His coming will be like the morning. As the daylight reveals the green herbs and growing flowers which the veil of night had concealed, the coming of the Lord will expose to view a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. The flowers and forests, the hills and streams, were all there in the night though they were not seen. They needed not to be made in the morning. They were ready to be revealed. Suppose a creature with the intelligence of a man, but with the term of life allotted to some of the insects-a day. Suppose that creature’s life begins after sunset. At midnight and in the early morning watches he looks around, but sees nothing. He reasons, and loses himself in dark speculation. A voice from the abyss above reaches his ear, and tells him that a beautiful furnished world is ready to be revealed, and will be revealed in the morning. He believes and waits; the promise is fulfilled. The glory of the world when the sun is up surpasses all his expectation. Such a creature is redeemed man. All is ready. The inheritance needs only to be unveiled. The unveiling only remains for the last time. Now is the time for seeking and obtaining it; then it only remains that it should be fully displayed. (W. Arnot.)

    In the last time.-

    The last time

    I. God’s last works are his best works, which should teach us to imitate God, and never fear the forbearance of God; time cannot change Him, He will be never the worse for delay.

    II. If we mark what days these last days are we may also note that God doth His best works when men do their worst. For of these last days it is that the apostle speaks, that they should be wicked and perilous days, and this we should learn of God also, to let our piety and patience then shine most.

    III. There is a time when God will at once fully deliver and save His servants, and judge for them, and therefore we should no be weary of well-doing.

    IV. God’s servants must not think to be fully delivered till these last times, and therefore they must walk circumspectly, and always stand upon their guard.

    V. It is the will of God that the day of judgment should not be known to any man or angel for the moment of it, and therefore it is here described by ages, not by days and hours, which may confute curiosity, and teach us to watch at all times.

    VI. The world shall have an end, there is a last time, and therefore woe is to them that so greedily mind transitory things, and that place all their happiness in the things of this life. (N. Byfield.)

  • 1 Peter 1:6-9 open_in_new

    Wherein ye greatly rejoice.

    Joy and trial in the Christian’s life

    I. The Christian’s joy.

    1. It is present joy. God’s service is gladsome even now (1 Peter 1:8; Philippians 4:4). Nor is this joy for advanced believers only, but for all true-hearted seekers after God (Psalms 105:3).

    2. It is great joy (Psalms 68:3).

    3. There are many sources of the Christian’s great joy, but the particular one here mentioned is the present happiness afforded by a believing expectation of the joys laid up for him in eternity.

    4. There are important reasons why we all ought to be joyful Christians.

    (1) It is our privilege as Christians. When we may be so much happier than we are, what folly not to exercise our right!

    (2) Our influence for good over others depends greatly upon the apparent result which religion produces in our own case.

    (3) Very much of our own stability as Christians depends upon our joyfulness (Nehemiah 8:10).

    II. The Christian’s trial. There is nothing whatever unchequered here below-no joy without sorrow, no sunshine without shadow, no harmony unmixed with discord, Life is like an April day.

    1. “Ye are in heaviness”-pressed down, forced to the earth, as if under some cruel load. The Christian’s joy is from heaven, his grief from earth. These two are ever at war with one another.

    2. “Ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” Persecutions abounded. The devil aimed his fiery darts at them. The world spread its allurements for them.

    3. Yet this state of trial has its alleviations.

    (1) It is only “for a season,” whereas the Christian’s joy endures forever (Psalms 30:5; 2 Corinthians 4:17).

    (2) It is only “if need be”-if there is a necessity, if some good can be effected by it.

    III. The union of joy and trial in the Christian’s earthly lot. Does the text teach that times of trial are destroyers of the Christian’s joy, even for a season? On the contrary, St. Peter speaks of the “heaviness” only to give us a more exalted idea of the mighty power of the “joy.” “Ye greatly rejoice, though ye are in heaviness”; your hearts remain glad in spite of your trials. Clouds come, but the sun breaks through them and goes on shining still. Obstacles arise, but the bright river of the Christian’s peace flows past and over them, deep and glad as before. The one great peculiarity of the Christian’s joy is its comparative independence of outward circumstances-nay, its triumph over them. Worldly men can rejoice when all is prosperous. If, therefore, the Christian’s joy vanished at the approach of sorrow, men might well ask wherein the Christian differed from others? (J. Henry Burn, B. D.)

    The Christian’s joy and the Christian’s sufferings

    I. The Christian’s joy.

    1. Its greatness. “Wherein ye greatly rejoice.” There are only three things really great in the universe-God and the soul and eternity, and as religion has to do with them all its dealings have something superior in them all.

    2. Its ground.

    (1) The Christian’s joy is not unfounded.

    (2) The Christian’s joy is founded principally upon spiritual and eternal things.

    II. The Christian’s grief.

    1. The nature of the Christian’s sufferings.

    2. The number.

    3. Their influence.

    4. Their expediency.

    5. Their duration. (W. Jay.)

    The Christian’s heaviness and rejoicing

    I. His heaviness.

    1. If we were not in heaviness during our troubles we should not be like our Covenant Head-Christ Jesus.

    2. If we did not suffer heaviness we would begin to grow too proud, and become too great in our own esteem.

    3. In heaviness we often learn lessons that we never could attain elsewhere. “Ah!” said Luther, “affliction is the best book in my library,” and let me add the best leaf in the book of affliction is that blackest of all the leaves, the leaf called heaviness, when the spirit sinks within us, and we cannot endure as we could wish.

    4. This heaviness is of essential use to a Christian if he would do good to others. Who shall speak to those whose hearts are broken but those whose hearts have been broken also?

    II. His rejoicing. Mariners tell us that there are some parts of the sea where there is a strong current upon the surface going one way, but that down in the depths there is a strong current running the other way. Two seas do not meet and interfere with one another, but one stream of water on the surface is running in one direction, and another below in an opposite direction. Now the Christian is like that. On the surface there is a stream of heaviness rolling with dark waves, but down in the depths there is a strong undercurrent of great rejoicing that is always flowing there. The apostle is writing “to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus.”

    1. The first thing that he says to them is, that they are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God,” “wherein we greatly rejoice.” Ah! even when the Christian is most “in heaviness through manifold temptations,” what a mercy it is that he can know that he is still elect of God!

    2. The apostle says that we are “elect through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ”-“wherein we greatly rejoice.” Is the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ girt about my loins, to be my beauty; and is the blood of Jesus sprinkled upon me to take away all my guilt and all my sin, and shall I not in this greatly rejoice?

    3. But the great and cheering comfort of the apostle is, that we are elect unto an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us. And here is the grand comfort of the Christian.

    4. There is one more doctrine that will always cheer a Christian, this perhaps is the one chiefly intended here in the text. “Reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” This will be one of the greatest cordials to a Christian in heaviness, that he is not kept by his own power, but by the power of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

    The sweetest joys learned in trial

    Very many of the sweetest joys of Christian hearts are songs which have been learned in the bitter ness of trial. It is said of the canary bird that he will never learn to sing the song his master will have him sing while it is light in his cage. He learns a snatch of every song he hears, but will not learn a full separate melody of its own. And the master covers the cage and makes it dark all about the bird, and then he listens and learns the one song that is taught to him until his heart is full of it. Then, ever after, he sings the song in the light. With many of us it is as with the bird. The Master has a song He wants to teach to us, but we learn only a strain of it, a note here and there, while we catch up snatches of the world’s songs and sing them with it. Then He comes and makes it dark about us till we learn the sweet melody He would teach us. Many of the loveliest songs of peace and trust sung by God’s children in this world they have been taught in the darkened chamber of sorrow.

    Triumph of the soul over trial

    There are even many facts in our ordinary human experience that render quite conceivable this triumph of the soul over all surrounding tribulations and distresses. What cares the patient, toiling man of science for the incredulity and jeers of his neighbours, or the vexations of poverty, when first the obscurity and meanness of his lonely chamber are lighted up by the flash of some great discovery? How superior to threats and discouragements of every kind was the mighty heart of Columbus as he calmly forced his way through the veil of waters toward this unseen world! Nay, how often has the bitterness of death itself been overcome to the soldier on the battlefield and the patriot on the scaffold, by the silent anticipation of the freedom and glory which their agonies secured for the country they loved! And need we then wonder if the confessors of Jesus have gone singing to the stake, and their shout of victory has been stifled only by the flames into which they sank? (J. Lillie, D. D.)

    Joy in heaviness

    They say that springs of sweet fresh water well up amid the brine of salt seas; that the fairest Alpine flowers bloom in the wildest, ruggedest mountain passes; that the noblest psalms were the outcome of the profoundest agony of soul. Be it so. And thus amid manifold trials souls which love God will find reasons for bounding, leaping joy. Have you learnt this lesson yet? Not simply to endure God’s will, nor only to choose it, nor only to trust it, but to rejoice in it. Of such joy there are two sources: first, the understanding of the nature and meaning of trial; second, the soul’s love and faith in its unseen Lord. There is enough in these two for unsullied and transcendent joy; in fact, we may question whether we ever truly drink of Christ’s joy till all other sources of joy are eliminated by earthly sorrow, and we are driven to seek that joyous blessedness which no earthly sun can wither and no winter freeze (Habakkuk 3:17-19). (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

    Christian joy

    Greek, ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, Ye dance for joy, ye dance a galliard, or as children do about a bonfire: ye cannot but express your inward joy in your countenance, voice, and gesture. (J. Trapp.)

    Variableness of Christian moods

    The variableness of Christian moods is often a matter of great and unnecessary suffering; but Christian life does not follow the changes of feeling. Our feelings are but the torch; and our life is the man that carries it. The wind that flares the flame does not make the man waver. The flame may sway hither and thither, but he holds his course straight on. Thus oftentimes it is that our Christian hopes are carried, as one carries a lighted candle through the windy street, that seems never to be so nearly blown out as when we step through the open door, and, in a moment, we are safe within. Our wind-blown feelings rise and fall through all our life, and the draught of death threatens quite to extinguish them; but one moment more, and they shall rise and forever shine serenely in the unstormed air of heaven. (H. W. Beecher.)

    The needs be

    When our hearts grow a grain too light, God seeth it but needful to make us heavy through manifold temptations. (J. Trapp.)

    The duality of Christian life

    As there are two men in every true Christian, a new man and an old one, so heaviness in manifold temptation and rejoicing may readily co-exist. (J. P. Lunge.)

    In heaviness through manifold temptations.-

    Why the godly must undergo many troubles

    1. To drive them to repentance (2 Samuel 12:18; Genesis 42:21). They are as the shepherd’s dog, to fetch us out of the corn, to bring us into compass again (Psalms 32:4-5; Psalms 119:67; Psalms 119:71).

    2. To keep them from sin, being therefore compared to a hedge of thorns (Hosea 2:6; Job 33:17; 2 Chronicles 20:37).

    3. To humble them. We have a proud nature, and while in health we think our heads half touch the clouds; therefore God pulls us down by troubles.

    4. To make them more holy, to scourge off the rust, purge out some of the remnant of the old man, and renew the inner man (Isaiah 4:4; Hebrews 12:10; Isaiah 27:9).

    5. To wean them from the world, to which even the best are too much addicted, and to make them willing to die and to be gone hence, so setting them on work to look after and make sure of a better inheritance.

    6. To prove the devil a liar (Job 1:9).

    7. To keep them from hell and condemnation.

    8. To bring them to heaven. (John Rogers.)

    Heaven’s discipline of the good

    I. The disciplinary elements are very manifold.

    II. The disciplinary elements are very painful. “Ye are in heaviness.” Or, as Dr. Davidson renders it, “made sorrowful.” “Heaviness” is a relative term. What is heavy to one would be light to another. Paul gloried in tribulation.

    III. The disciplinary elements are only temporary. “Now for a season.”

    1. The trials of life are short compared with the enjoyments of life. They are exceptional.

    2. The trials of life are short compared with the blessedness of the future.

    IV. The disciplinary elements are very necessary. “If need be.” As storms in nature are necessary to purify the air, so trials are necessary to cleanse the atmosphere around the soul.

    V. The disciplinary elements are always beneficent. “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth.” Nothing is more important to man than that it should be genuine. (Homilist.)

    The uses of grief

    What! would you choose that you alone may fare better than all God’s saints? that God should strew carpets for your nice feet only, to walk into your heaven, and make that way smooth for you which all patriarchs, prophets, evangelists, confessors, Christ Himself, have found rugged! Away with this self-love, and come down, you ambitious sons of Zebedee, and, ere you think of sitting near the throne, be content to be called unto the cross. Now is your trial. Let your Saviour see how much of His bitter portion you can pledge. Then shall you see how much of His glory He can afford you. As snow is of itself cold, yet warms and refreshes the earth, so afflictions, though in themselves grievous, yet keep the soul of the Christian warm and make it fruitful. Let the most afflicted know and remember that it is better to be preserved in brine than to rot in honey. After a forest fire has raged furiously, it has been found that many pine cones have had their seeds released by the heat, which ordinarily would have remained unsown. The future forest sprang from the ashes of the former. Some Christian graces, such as humility, patience, sympathy, have been evolved frown the sufferings of the saints. The furnace has been used to fructify. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

    Needful afflictions

    Consider that all thy afflictions are needful, and work for thy good. Nothing is intolerable that is necessary. “If need be,” whilst we have diseased bodies, physic is as needful as food; whilst we have diseased souls, misery is as needful as outward mercies. The winter is as necessary to bring on harvest as the spring; affliction is as necessary to bring on the harvest of glory as any condition. (W. Swinnock.)

    Trials and glory

    Look upon a painted post or sign whose colour is laid in oil, how the rain beats upon it in stormy weather, that one would think all the colour would be washed off, yet how the water glides away and leaves it rather more beautiful than before. And thus it is with every child of God, being well garnished with graces of the Spirit, let the wind of persecution blow, and the floods of affliction lift up their voice, they shall never deface, but rather add unto their beauty; such is the condition of grace, that it shines the brighter for scouring, and is most glorious when it is most clouded. (J. Spencer.)

    The use of trials

    Suppose I made a very wonderful steam engine, and put it into a ship, to make it into a steam packet. It is all beautifully made, and complete, and I want to “try” whether it is all good; whether the machinery is right and works well. Where should I send it, into a smooth sea or a rough sea? I should send it “up the rapids”-up the river-against the stream, to see whether it would go up, I should. So God does with you. He furnishes you with everything you want-then puts you up “the rapids,” sends you on the rough water, just to “try” you, to see what you are made of.

    The trial of your faith.

    The trial of faith

    I. The Christian’s temptations.

    1. They are manifold in their nature. What a world of change and sorrow we live in t

    2. They are difficult to bear; for they cause heaviness or depression of mind (Hebrews 10:32). If you are in heaviness bear it manfully, but do not show it openly. Speak of your troubles to your bosom friend, but do not talk of them to men of this world. Above all, tell them to Jesus.

    3. They are temporary. The longest trials, and those which leave the deepest wounds, are but for a season.

    4. They are necessary. “If need be.” Oh, there is “a needs be” for every stroke, and though we do not now understand why this trial or the other falls upon us, yet we shall know hereafter.

    II. The end and aim of these temptations must be carefully observed. “They are for the trial of our faith.”

    1. The value of faith cannot be overestimated. Gold perishes, but faith lives-lives in death, and far beyond it (1 Corinthians 13:13).

    2. But it must be tried, and sometimes in a very severe furnace. It is proved, tested, or verified by trial, and the faith which cannot stand the ordeal is of little or no value (Job 23:10). There are many ways in which faith is tried.

    (1) It is tried by Divine commands. God gives His servants some difficult task to perform. True faith will surmount all difficulties.

    (2) Faith is often tried by doubts.

    (3) And faith is tried by fire-the fire of discipline, of persecution, of protracted bodily affliction.

    3. The ultimate design of the trial is that it may “be found,” nothing of it being lost, “unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (Thornley Smith.)

    The testing of religious faith

    I. The process of testing a man’s faith involves much pain. This we gather-

    1. From the use of the word that describes the process-“temptation.”

    2. From the fact that those who are being tested are often possessed with “heaviness,” “grief.”

    3. From the nature of the elements employed in the process.

    (1) No material element causes more pain than “fire.”

    (2) These elements are “manifold.” With those to whom Peter wrote it was Gentile scorn, slander, persecution, martyrdom.

    II. The process of testing a man’s faith is of such supreme worth as to compensate for all such pain.

    1. The testing is only temporary.

    2. The worth of the soul is tested.

    3. The purpose of the process.

    (1) To try the genuineness of faith.

    (2) To remove alloy.

    (3) To train for highest uses.

    (4) To lead to highest destiny. (U. R. Thomas.)

    Afflictions a test of faith

    1. To try whether we have any faith.

    2. To try whether our faith be as much as we take it to be or more; this, affliction will discover.

    3. To purge and purify that true faith which we have, and increase it. (John Rogers.)

    The trial of our faith

    The apostle here expresses his very cordial sympathy with his Christian brethren under the circumstances of trial to which they were exposed. “Ye greatly rejoice in that last time,” or, as the passage might be rendered, “Wherein ye shall greatly rejoice.” “Now for a season ye are in heaviness, but in the last time-the time of Christ’s appearing-the time of your entering upon the inheritance that is incorruptible, ye shall greatly rejoice.” But still the prospect of the great rejoicing in the last time gives some measure of rejoicing in the present. It is impossible for us to hope with anything like assurance for something that will make us very joyful without feeling in a measure joyful now. We can in a somewhat cheerful spirit bear the most dismal wintry weather, as we have the assurance of the spring and summer that are to follow. But this joy is mingled with sorrow. “Now for a season ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” And this brings us to the subject of our text-namely, the trial of our faith. Now your faith is your confidence in God. Your faith is your confidence in God’s being, and doing all that in His Word He is represented to be and to have done; your confidence in God as infinitely wise, and mighty, and righteous, and merciful; your confidence in Him as having provided a full and free redemption for mankind through the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ; your confidence in Him as certain to fulfil all the great promises that He has given to His people. That is your faith, your confidence in God. And concerning the trial of this the apostle here speaks. But, first, of this faith he says that it is more precious than gold. I think I can appeal to every Christian here, and say, “Now, you would be sorry to lose your property, no doubt?” Quite natural. But still, do not you as Christians feel that we would rather be beggared today than lose this precious faith of which the Apostle Peter speaks? Well, this faith, he tells us, is to be tried. That is to say, our faith is subjected to proof-put to the test. If we profess to be Christians, it is very important that the world and the Church and ourselves should have some proof of our Christianity that this profession of ours is a right, honest thing, and neither a piece of hypocrisy nor a piece of self-delusion. And so for our own sakes first of all, but also for the sake of the Church, which we have no right to deceive, and for the sake of the world, which also has a claim to know the genuineness of our religious profession-it is necessary that our faith should be proved. Now, unfortunately, we have in our religious phraseology nearly lost sight of this very common sense meaning of the word “trial.” When you talk about the trial of a steamship or the trial of a hundred-ton gun, well, we understand that it is putting these things to a proof. But in our religious phraseology, a trial, forsooth, is simply a calamity-some terrible thing. And that is almost the only light in which we regard it, with scarcely any recognition of God’s design, and of His design being the proof of character. But that is His design. Now here is an alleviation at once, and a very great alleviation of the trials that you and I may have to pass through. Here is a man who comes forward and professes to be a seaman. Well, it is a very reasonable thing that he should be required to prove his seamanship by having, sometimes at any rate, to navigate his vessel amid the perils of a storm. And here is another who professes to be a soldier. Well, no injustice is done, but very much the contrary, if this man be required to prove his courage and skill by being sent, occasionally at any rate, upon some exceedingly hazardous military duty. And here is one who professes to be a servant of God, and do not let him be surprised if God, like any other master, shall subject him to proof, and ascertain, by practical experiment, what he is worth and what he can do, and whether he really be what by his profession he ought to be. So our faith is tried. A reasonable and perfectly right thing that tried it ought to be, as I said just now, for our own sake, if for the sake of nobody else. And, as the apostle reminds us here, the trial of our faith is conducted through manifold temptations. Let us take the word “trials,” not “temptations,” for God does not tempt any man in this evil sense of the word “temptation.” We are tried through manifold trials. That is to say, our faith is subjected to more proofs than one; and so it ought to be. I suppose that when they try a ship they make her go through many manoeuvres; and when they try a horse there is more than one sort of test to which the creature is put. And when a student goes in for examination, success in which is to be crowned with some distinguished honour, he is subjected to a considerable number of trials in order that the height and breadth and length and depth of the man’s mind, if there be any height and length and depth and breadth in it, may be ascertained. And he is subjected to various manifold trials, because the very brilliant capacity in one direction may, unfortunately, be accompanied by miserable incapacity in another direction, and so the man is subjected to manifold trials. And faith, likewise, is subjected to more trials than one. We find that poverty tries our honesty. A sad reverse of circumstances, such as is very frequently witnessed, does certainly try the integrity of a man’s principles as a man of business. And then I need not say that unkindness, injustice, is a great trial of our charity; and persecution would be a severe trial of our courage. Insolence is a trial of our meekness. And there are trials of a peculiar character, not very peculiar either, for they are not uncommon. I mean the trials of our faith that are often experienced by men who really find it difficult to retain their confidence in the revelation of God’s will in His Word. And you must not at all suppose that because a man never knew what bad health is, and never knew anything of poverty, and never had the slightest reason to be anxious about a single secular concern, that that man’s faith is going untried. It may be being tried a great deal more than yours in the midst of sickness and of poverty. There may be a terrible war going on within that man’s mind and heart as he is endeavouring, with all earnestness, but often finds himself failing, endeavouring to retain his confidence in the great principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus our faith is tried, and severe is the trial sometimes, as the apostle indicates when he says, “Though it be tried with fire.” It has been in the most terribly literal sense tried with fire, for, as you know, for a long time burning to death was the method commonly resorted to in the persecution of those who stood faithful to the truth as it is in Christ. And so the faith of men like John Huss, and Jerome of Prague, and Bishop Latimer, and thousands upon thousands more in the noble army of martyrs, was in the most literal and severe sense tried with fire. But, of course, we can understand this expression “tried with fire,” in a metaphorical sense, as indicative of any peculiarly severe trial to which faith may be exposed, such as a long and wearisome and painful illness. And now to notice some of the alleviations that we have graciously granted to us in these trials of our faith. Do not let us give way to a hopeless sorrow over the matter, for God has mingled very much comfort with all this distress. In the first place, as the apostle reminds us, it is only for a season, or, as we might render his words, “Now for a little while ye are in heaviness through manifold temptation”-for a little while. It will not be long. It cannot be long. And then, again, there is a necessity for it. “If need be,” but not if need not be. Only “if need be,” and only in proportion as the need really is. And we really must allow God to be the judge and the only judge of this need. We leave it, of course, to the goldsmith to determine how he is to deal with the gold that he is to make up into an article of use or adornment; and we leave it to the lapidary to decide how to cut and to polish the jewels which he intends to set in this fashion or in that. It would be an impertinent thing for persons not skilled in such work even to venture an opinion, and an impertinent thing to venture opinions about the manner in which God Almighty should deal with and make up the gold and the gems whereof He is preparing a glorious crown for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. No, “if need be,” and only if need be. The sculptor, you know, would not on any account chip off a block of marble one atom more than in his judgment is necessary to the realisation of his idea in the statue. And no surgeon or physician of ordinary humanity will give his patient any more pain than is unavoidable in order to the healing of the wound or the curing of the disease. And we, as the children of God, are in very wise hands, in very tender hands, in very safe hands. And then there is a great object secured by these trials, that this faith thus tried is found to be unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. Unto whose praise and honour and glory? Not unto ours-at least, not unto ours in the first place, but unto our Lord’s, an Archbishop Leighton says, “God delights to bring out His strongest champions, that they might fight great battles for Him.” And although, certainly, it is sad to think of a good man being cast into prison, and sadder still to think of his being committed to the flame, yet I can imagine that God, not although He loves His people, but just because He loves them, rejoices over such a scene as that. I can imagine God rejoicing to see how His grace strengthens a poor, feeble, mortal man, and makes him firm and enduring unto the end. And at the last it will be found that this trial of their faith was ever unto the praise and honour and glory of their Lord, and to their own praise and honour and glory likewise. But, again, there is this alleviation in the trial of faith suggested in the words, “Whom having not seen ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing”-the love that we bear to our Lord Jesus Christ will greatly help us in the trial of our faith. You know that for a person whom you love you will do and suffer things that you would never think of doing or suffering for a person towards whom you felt no particular regard. How much a man will do, and how much he will suffer for his wife and for his children! And so, in proportion to the love we bear to Jesus Christ will be the lightness of the infliction involved in any trials to which our faith is subjected. Once more, there is this alleviation, that “believing in Christ we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls.” But some will say, “Have not we already received the salvation of our souls?” Now salvation is a great compound blessing, if I may so speak, and some of it we have received already, and some of it is in reserve. In fact, salvation is a blessing, of which a Christian is receiving something every day. I had so much salvation yesterday; I have got more today, and I shall have more tomorrow, if I am living the Christian life, that is to say. Now, in so far as salvation is the forgiveness of sins, salvation is ours now. (H. S. Brown.)


    Trials are of many kinds. Some are very slight; but often a little thing is more severely felt than one that is greater. There are all the little annoyances which happen every hour; things go contrary to our wishes; we have to give up our wills; we are disappointed of our hopes. There are pains of body and sickness; there is the sickness of our dear friends. Now trial is natural to us: it belongs to us as children of Adam. But to Christians trials come in a somewhat different way. They belong to us as members of Christ.

    I. The first thing to be thought when we have any trial, is that it comes from God. It is not a proof of any special wickedness in the person to whom it is sent, nor of God’s being specially angry with that person. Quite the contrary. God feels towards each of you the very same tender fatherly love that you feel to your dear boy; and so He corrects you as you correct that boy. And just as you take the trouble to prune and attend to the fruit tree which bears well, in the hope that it will bear still better, so God sends trouble to them who are doing good, in the hope that they will do still better. In all troubles, then, look to God-receive them from Him as the best things which your loving Father can send you.

    II. Think, next, what are they sent for? They are punishments for sins, that is true; but see the wonderful goodness of God: these punishments His love turns into mercies and blessings. What does He send them for?

    1. To remind us of our sins; to make us remember our sins, that through His mercy we may repent of them.

    2. To draw our thoughts towards Himself. “In their affliction they will seek Me early.”

    3. They are called trials-that means things which try. What do they try? They try us, whether we can trust God when matters seem to be going wrong.

    4. To make us patient. Patience is that great gift which most especially helps to make us perfect Christians. “Let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” When we quietly give up our way to others-when we are disappointed and do not fret-when we ourselves have sharp pains to bear and we do not repine-then we are learning to become more perfect Christians-then we are becoming holier-we are really growing into what God intends us to be.

    III. They lead us on to the crown. To conclude.

    1. Try to think in this way of all troubles whatsoever, of all the little vexations of life, as well as of the heavier afflictions which come more seldom.

    2. Look on continually to the end-the end of all things-heaven and eternity! This will encourage you to bear what now seems so painful. The hope of what is coming will cheer you up.

    3. And especially look continually to Jesus Christ, and the example He has set us. Look to Him continually, “lest you be weary and faint in your minds.” (W. H. Ridley, M. A.)


    These words are spoken to Christians, to persons called by the apostle “elect according to the foreknowledge of God,” and “begotten to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” How great a privilege to be chosen to eternal life I Well may the Christian be delighted with such thoughts, “wherein,” says St. Peter, “ye rejoice.” But before the enjoyment of these things there are many troubles to be encountered; we may be glad, yet may we perchance, when we look at intervening difficulties, “be in heaviness.” It is well known that the most devout Christians are sometimes “in heaviness.” Do not think it any strange thing for the Christian man to be “in heaviness,” even as to his salvation. The Lord often lays the severest trial, that is, this feeling of desertion, on the most perfect, as you would place the boldest soldier in the front of the battle. Hence, then, assurance is not necessary; the spiritual atmosphere is variable.

    1. Poverty is a great temptation-a temptation which throws many “into heaviness.”

    2. But again, the temptations of the rich lie in another direction.

    3. The heaviness which sometimes arises from the oppression and power of sin.

    4. And some persons are in heaviness-they themselves know not why. None are more to be sorrowed with. There seems to be no known cause-and yet they are in lowness of spirits, and weary of the world. (J. M. Chanter, M. A.)

    Trial as fire

    Trial is here compared to fire; that subtle element which is capable of inflicting such exquisite torture on our seared flesh; which cannot endure the least taint or remnant of impurity, but wraps its arms around objects committed to it with eager intensity to set them free and make them pure; which is careless of agony, if only its passionate yearning may be satisfied; which lays hold of things more material than itself, loosening their texture, snapping their fetters, and bearing them upwards in its heaven-leaping energy. What better emblem could there be for God, and for those trims which He permits or sends, and in the heart of which He is to be found?

    1. But this fire is a refiner’s fire (Malachi 3:3).

    (1) It is He who permits the trial. The evil thing may originate in the malignity of a Judas, but by the time it reaches us it has become the cup which our Father has given us to drink. The waster may purpose his own lawless and destructive work, but he cannot go an inch beyond the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. The very devil must ask permission ere he touches a hair of the patriarch’s head. The point up to which we may be tested is fixed by consummate wisdom. The weapon may hurt and the fire sting, but they are in the hands which redeemed us.

    (2) It is He who superintends the trial. No earthly friend may be near, but in every furnace there is One like the Son of Man.

    (3) It is He who watches the progress of the trial. No mother bending over her suffering child is more solicitous than He is. Suiting the trial to your strength.

    2. Trial is only for a season. “Now for a season ye are in heaviness.” The great Husbandman is net always threshing. The showers soon pass. Our light affliction is but for a moment.

    3. Trial is for a purpose. “If needs be.” There is utility in every trial. It is intended to reveal the secrets of our hearts, to humble and prove us, to winnow us as corn is shaken in a sieve, to detach us from the earthly and visible, to create in us an eager desire for the realities which can alone quench our cravings and endure forever. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

    The theology of sufferings

    I. Temptations or trials reveal faith.

    1. On the one hand, they show us the evil that is in us. More evil dwells in the heart than we have ever realised. “I never before could believe,” exclaims the afflicted man, “that so many hard thoughts of God were nestling in my brain, and so many rebellious passions lodging in my heart.” God sends trouble to bring out and make palpable that which is latent.

    2. Not only so, but afflictions further serve to evoke our good, to lead forth into visibility the faith, the hope, and the charity God in His loving kindness has infused into our souls. Certain things will not disclose what is in them save under pressure. Aromatic herbs will not diffuse their aroma till they are bruised.

    II. Temptations or trials strengthen faith.

    1. Bitters are the best tonic for the spiritual man as for the physical. All who are a little acquainted with gardening operations know how careful the gardener is to lop off all redundant growths which genial weather calls forth, growths which he significantly calls “suckers,” because they drain away the sap which would otherwise go to form fruit. On just the same principle the Divine Husbandman treats the “Trees of Righteousness” growing in His vineyard-He mercilessly lops off the worldly “suckers” which steal away the juice, the fatness, of your religion, and thereby drives the whole energy of your spirit back upon your faith.

    2. Sorrows further invigorate faith, because they call it into frequent, yea, constant exercise. And it is an universally admitted truth that all our natural faculties and spiritual graces grow in exercise. To be a robust Christian you must battle with difficulties.

    III. Temptations or trials purify faith.

    1. They release it from the impurities which attach to it. Religion in this world lives among pots, and, as might be expected, it does not quite escape “the corruption that is in the world through lust.” And God in His wisdom judges it expedient to cast it into the sea; but, as Leighton quaintly remarks, He does it “not to drown it, but to wash it.” But this process of separation is not an easy one, pleasant to flesh and blood; rather it requires the penetrating action of the flame.

    2. Adversity, moreover, throws faith more upon its own proper resources, making it draw its aliment and inspiration more directly from God as revealed in His Book.

    IV. Temptations or trials beautify faith.

    1. Trials evolve the latent beauty of faith. Faith is intrinsically a beautiful grace, but to disclose its beauty it must often undergo the severe operations of chisel and hammer.

    2. But it is also true that sorrows impart beauty to faith, a kind of weird-like fascination that makes it, in its struggle with obstacles, a “spectacle worthy of the gods.” God throws the Christian into “many-coloured” afflictions that he may be thereby adorned and made meet to enter the society of heaven. He makes His Church a coat of many colours to show His love to her and appreciation of her. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

    The trial of faith

    I. The value of faith

    1. Even considered intellectually, as a mere belief of revealed truth, faith is of the highest possible value, as the great instrument by which we obtain religious knowledge and wisdom.

    2. But its value-as it is not merely an intellectual exercise, but an act of trust, and thus a work of the heart-is shown by this, that it connects us immediately and personally with the merits of the great Atonement.

    3. The value of faith is seen in this, that it not only connects man, as guilty, with the meritorious atonement of the Saviour, but man, as weak and helpless, with the omnipotence of Divine grace.

    4. Another proof of the value of faith is found in that wonderful property which the Apostle Paul assigns to it, and which, indeed, we find by actual experience that it possesses-the property of fixing its eye on invisible and eternal realities, and keeping the soul continually under their influence.

    II. The trial of faith.

    1. In its lower sense-merely considered as belief of truth-faith will be tried. This may occur in many circumstances, and especially from infidel sophistry.

    2. But our faith will not only be tried by sophistry; it will be tried also by what may be termed practical unbelief. This is especially the ease in all temptations to sin.

    3. Faith, in that higher sense in which the word is used-as implying a simple trust in the atonement of the Saviour-will be tried by our proneness to self-dependence.

    4. Faith is also tried by afflictions and sorrows. In sorrows our faith has to repose entirely on the great doctrine that all that concerns us is in the hands of God, that here there is no chance, no oversight, no delegation of the Divine power to the creature.

    III. The final honours of faith. It has, indeed, its honours now, far greater than any of which unbelief can boast. Is it not that which brings man to God for the blessings of reconciliation and adoption? Is it not that which brings with it the mighty influence of that Holy Spirit which works in man the death unto sin and the new life unto righteousness? Is it not that which is the source of our spiritual victories, which gives us strength to do and strength to suffer? Is it not that which enables us to resist the temptations with which the present world continually surrounds us? And is it not that which extracts the sting of death? Such are the honours of faith here on earth. Where shall we look for those of formality and unbelief? But the apostle refers to its future honours, to the praise and glory in which our faith shall issue at the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then shall the faith which has received the mysteries of God be honoured. (R. Watson.)

    The trial of faith

    I. Faith is much more precious than gold.

    1. Gold is of an earthly, but faith of a heavenly origin.

    2. Faith has its object, as well as its origin, in God; whereas gold, unless placed in the hands of him who has the new nature, tends to the place whence it came, and is often also in the child of God the means of dragging hint too much to earth.

    3. Faith always enriches the possessor, but gold often impoverishes.

    II. This faith must be tried, and that with fire.

    1. The world is a great trial to faith.

    2. Satan is always attempting to try and to overstep the faith of God’s people.

    III. What is the great end and purpose for which faith is so tried? It is that it may be proved to be faith, just as the gold is tried in the fire. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

    The trial of your faith

    I. Your faith will be tried surely.

    1. Faith, in the very nature of it, implies a degree of trial. God never gave us faith to play with. It is a sword, but it was not made for presentation on a gala day, nor to be worn on state occasions only, nor to be exhibited on a parade ground. It is a sword, and he that has it girt about him may expect, between here and heaven, that he shall know what battle means. Faith is a sound sea-going vessel, and was not meant to lie in dock and perish of dry rot. To whom God has given faith, it is as though one gave a lantern to his friend because he expected it to be dark on his way home. The very gift of faith is a hint to you that you will want it, and that, at all points and in every place, you will really need it.

    2. Trial is the very element of faith. Faith is a salamander that lives in the fire, a star which moves in a lofty sphere, a diamond which bores its way through the rock. Faith without trial is like a diamond uncut, the brilliance of which has never been seen. Untried faith is such little faith that some have thought it no faith at all. What a fish would be without water or a bird without air, that would be faith without trial.

    3. It is the honour of faith to be tried. He that has tested God, and whom God has tested, is the man that shall have it said of him, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

    4. The trial of your faith is sent to prove its sincerity.

    5. It must also be tested to prove its strength.

    6. The trial of our faith is necessary to remove its dross. “Why, a week ago,” says one, “I used to sing, and think that I had the full assurance of faith; and now I can scarcely tell whether I am one of God’s people or not.” Now you know how much faith you really possess. You can now tell how much was solid and how much was sham; for had that which has failed you been real faith, it would not have been consumed by any trial through which it has passed. You have lost the froth from the top of the cup, but all that was really worth having is still there.

    II. Your faith will be tried variously.

    1. There are some whose faith is tried each day in their communion with God. That is, God in Christ, who is our God, is a consuming fire; and when His people live in Him, the very presence of God consumes in them their love of sin and all their pretentious graces and fictitious attainments, so that the false disappears and only the true survives. The presence of perfect holiness is killing to empty boastings and hollow pretences.

    2. God frequently tries us by the blessings which He sends us.

    (1) Riches.

    (2) Praise.

    3. Another trial of faith is exceedingly common and perilous nowadays, and that is heretical doctrine and false teaching.

    4. The trial of our faith usually comes in the form of affliction. I remember Mr. Rutherford, writing to a lady who had lost five children and her husband, says to her, “Oh, how Christ must love you! He would take every bit of your heart to Himself. He would not permit you to reserve any of your soul for any earthly thing.” Can we stand that test? Can we let all go for His sake? Do you answer that you can? Time will show.

    III. Your faith will be tried individually. It is an interesting subject, is it not, the trial of faith? It is not quite so pleasant to study alone the trial of your faith. It is stern work when it comes to be your trial, and the trial of your faith. Do not ask for trials. Children must not ask to be whipped, nor saints pray to be tested. The Lord Jesus Christ has been glorified by the trial of His people’s faith. He has to be glorified by the trial of your faith.

    IV. Your faith will be tried searchingly. The blows of the flail of tribulation are not given in sport, but in awful earnest. The Lord tries the very life of our faith-not its beauty and its strength alone, but its very existence. The iron enters into the soul; the man’s real self is made to endure the trial.

    V. Your faith will be tried for an abundantly useful purpose.

    1. The trial of your faith will increase, develop, deepen, and strengthen it. We may wisely rejoice in tribulation, because it worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; and by that way we are exceedingly enriched, and our faith grows strong.

    2. The trial of our faith is useful, because it leads to a discovery of our faith to ourselves. I notice an old Puritan using this illustration. He says, you shaft go into a wood when you please, but if you are very quiet, you will not know whether there is a partridge, or a pheasant, or a rabbit in it; but when you begin to move about or make a noise, you very soon see the living creatures. They rise or they run. So, when affliction comes into the soul, and makes a disturbance and breaks our peace, up rise our graces. Faith comes out of its hiding, and love leaps from its secret place.

    3. Besides, when faith is tried, it brings God glory. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

    The trial of faith precious

    It is not faith, but the trial of faith, that is here pronounced to be precious. Precisely because faith is the link by which the saved are bound to the Saviour, it is of unspeakable importance to have faith tested in time and proved to be true. Here the fire and the crucible are the most valuable of all things for the investor. These are his safeguards, In like manner, it is dangerous to venture our eternity on a fair weather profession; an assay in some form is essential to determine whether there is life or only a name that you live. The trial of faith by affliction is com pared to the testing and purifying of gold by fire. The greatest results will be seen within the veil. When Christ comes the second time to reign, the effect of these trials will appear to his praise. (W. Arnot.)

    The trial of faith

    This trial is made upon faith principally, rather than any other grace, because the trial of that is, in effect, the trial of all that is good in us. (M. Henry.)

    Trials are tests

    The surest way to know our gold is to look upon it and examine it in God’s furnace, where He tries it for that end, that we may see what it is. If we have a mind to know whether a building stands strong or no, we must look upon it when the wind blows. If we would know whether that which appears in the form of wheat has the real substance of wheat or be only chaff, we must observe it when it is winnowed. If we would know whether a staff be strong or a rotten, broken reed, we must observe it when it is leaned on and weight is borne upon it. If we would weigh ourselves justly, we must weigh ourselves in God’s scales that He makes use of to weigh us. (Jonathan Edwards.)

    Burnt in

    Yonder is a porcelain vase just fashioned; it is now in the decorator’s hands, who paints on it various pretty and delicate figures-here and there he paints a passage of Scripture. Presently he passes it into the hands of another who glazes it, who in his turn passes it on to a third. But what is the third doing? Why, he is putting the vase into a hot oven. “Sir,” we exclaim, “you will spoil your ware, and your labour will be in vain.” Smiling at our alarm, he placidly replies, “Gentlemen, I will take care that the vase suffers no injury. I put it into the oven to enhance its value, for I mean thus to burn in what has been painted on it, which would otherwise wash off. There-it is finished now,” he adds, “and you may wash that vase for twelve months without making any impression on the colours. They are burnt in, sirs, burnt in.” Similarly God burns in verses of the Bible into our experience. Having infused His grace into us in regeneration, and made wholesome impressions on the mind through the ministry of the Word, He consigns us to the furnace of affliction that they may be burnt into the very core of our being, so burnt that nothing will ever again erase them. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

    Much more precious than of gold that perisheth.-

    Tried faith more precious than gold

    1. Gold comes out of the earth; faith from heaven, whence every good and perfect gift is.

    2. Faith is more rare, termed therefore the faith of God’s elect, whereas most, even of the wicked, are not without gold.

    3. Faith cannot be purchased with all the gold in the world.

    4. It is hardly gotten and hardly kept, and has many and strong enemies-our own nature, the world and the devil are all against faith, but not against getting of gold.

    5. It apprehends salvation and life eternal, and so is the instrument of our happiness. So is not gold but the instrument of many a man’s damnation; by unconscionable getting, and covetous keeping the same, many cast away their souls.

    6. It will comfort a man with true comfort in his life, carry him strongly through troubles, and boldly through the gates of death.

    7. Gold perisheth, here canker and rust consume it; we may be taken from it, as it from us; but faith endureth till Christ’s appearing, to our full redemption, as the fruit thereof forever.


    1. To them that want gold, and yet have faith. Know that thou art richer than he that hath thousands of gold and hath not faith.

    2. To the rich. Rejoice not that thou art rich, but that thou hast faith. Again, think all your pains to become you well, and well bestowed in getting this precious faith.

    3. To those who have not faith. Poor souls, labour after it, that you may be made inwardly rich.

    4. To rich men who have toiled for gold. Seek this that is so much better. (John Rogers.)

    Genuine faith more precious than gold

    I. Gold cannot satisfy the soul. Genuine faith does. As a rule it will, perhaps, be found that he who has the most gold is the most discontented and restless in heart. Faith fills the soul with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

    II. Gold cannot strengthen the soul. Genuine faith does. In what does the strength of the soul consist? In force of sympathies generous and devout; force of determination to pursue the right; force to bear up with buoyant magnanimity under all the trials and sorrows of life. Gold cannot give this strength. How strong were the men mentioned in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews!

    III. Gold cannot ennoble the soul. But genuine faith ennobles the soul, enthrones it above the tide of passion and the force of circumstances. (Homilist.)

    Peter’s list of valuables

    Peter is very fond of this word “precious.” He uses it more frequently than all the other New Testament writers, with the exception of John in the Revelation, where, however, it is only employed in reference to things of material value, such as jewels and costly woods. Paul uses it only once, and in a similar connection, speaking about “gold, silver, and precious stones.” James employs it once in regard of the fruits of the earth; and all the other instances of its use are in Peter’s writings. Here are the cases in which he uses it. First, in my text, about the process by which Christian faith is tested; then about the blood of Jesus Christ; then, in a quotation from Isaiah, about Christ Himself as the cornerstone. These three are the instances in the first Epistle. In the second we find two, where he speaks of “like precious faith,” and of “exceeding great and precious promises.”

    I. That our true treasures are all contained in, and clustered round, the person and work of Jesus Christ. Now, in order to estimate the value of a thing, the first necessity is a correct standard. Now, if we are seeking for a standard of value, surely the following points are very plain. Our true treasure mast be such as helps us towards the highest ends for which we are fitted by our make. It must be such as satisfies our deepest needs; it must be such as meets our whole nature; and it must be such as cannot be wrenched from us. I do not want to undervalue lower and relative good of any kind, or to preach an overstrained contempt of material, transient, and partial blessing. Competence and wealth, gold and what gold buys, and what it keeps away, are good. High above them we rank the treasures of a cultivated mind, of a refined taste, of eyes that see the beauty of God’s fair creation. Above these we rank the priceless treasures of pure reciprocated human love. But none of them, nor all of them put together, meet our tests, simple and obvious as they are. They do not satisfy the whole, or the depths, of our natures. Only God can fill a soul. So Peter is right after all, when he points us in a wholly different direction for the true precious things. “Christ is precious.” Now, the word that he employs there is slightly different from that which occurs in the other verses. The speaker in the original words of the prophet is God Himself. It is the preciousness in God’s sight of the stone which He “lays in Zion” that is glanced at in the epithet. Let me suggest how the preciousness of His beloved Son, in the eyes of the Father who gave Him, enhances the preciousness of the gift to us. God obeys the law which He lays upon His servants; and He “will not give” to us “that which costs Him nothing.” But Christ is precious to us. Yes, if we know ourselves and what we want; if we know Him and what He gives. Do you want wisdom? He is the wisdom of God. Do you seek power? He is the power of God. Do you long for joy? He will give you His own. Do you weary for peace? “My peace I leave with you.” Do you hunger for righteousness? “He of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness.” Do you need fulness and abundance? “In Him dwells all the fulness of God; and of His fulness have all we received.” Whatever good any soul seeks, Christ is the highest good, and is all good. Let us turn our hearts away from false treasures and lay hold on Him who is the true riches. Further, Christ’s blood is precious. Peter believed in Christ’s atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, and of each single soul therein. If you strike that element out of the work of our Lord, what remains, precious as it is, does not seem to me to so completely satisfy human necessities as to make Him the one all-sufficient and single treasure and riches of men’s souls. And then there is the third precious thing, clustering round and flowing from Jesus Christ and His work-and that is, the “exceeding great and precious promises,” which are given to us “that by them we may be partakers of a Divine nature.” I presume that these promises referred to by the apostle are largely, if not exclusively, those which have reference to what we call the future state. And they are precious because they come straight to meet one of the deepest needs of humanity, often neglected, but always there-an ache, if not a conscious need. What about that dark, dim beyond? Is there any solid ground in it? Christ comes with the answer: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he that believeth on Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” Then it is not mist; then I can fling my grappling-iron into it and it will hold, and I can hold on to it.

    II. That which puts us in possession of the precious things is itself precious. So the apostle speaks, in his second Epistle, about “like precious faith,” using a compound word, which, however, is substantially identical with the simple expression in the other verses. The only preciousness of that faith which the New Testament magnifies so greatly is that it brings us into possession of the things that are intrinsically precious. Suppose a door, worth half a crown. Yes! but it is the door of a storehouse full of bullion. Here is a bit of lead pipe, worth twopence. Yes, but through it comes the water that keeps a besieged city alive. And so your faith, worth nothing in itself, is worth everything as the means by which you lay hold of the durable riches and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Therefore cherish it. A cultivated mind is a treasure, because it is the key to many treasures. Refined tastes are treasures because they bring us into possession of lofty gifts. AEsthetic sensibilities are precious because they make our own a pure and ennobling pleasure. And, for precisely the same reason, high above the cultivated understanding, and refined tastes, and the artistic sense, ay, and even above the loving heart that twines its tendrils round another heart as loving, we rank the faith which joins us to Christ.

    III. The process which strengthens that faith is precious. My nominal text speaks about “the trial of your faith” as being “much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire.” Peter meant that the process by which faith was tested, and, being tested, is purified and perfected, is a precious treasure. If Christ and what pertains to Him are our real wealth, and if our faith is the means of our coming into possession of our property, then everything that tightens our grasp upon Him, and increases our capacity of receiving Him, is valuable. Let us lay that to heart, and it changes all our estimates of this world’s mistaken ill and good. Let us lay that to heart, and it interprets much. We do not understand life until we have got rid of the prejudice that enjoyment, or any lower thing, is the object of it. Let us understand that the deepest meaning of all our experience here is discipline, and we have come within sight of the solution of most of our perplexities. Sorrow and joy, light and darkness, summer and winter, sunshine and storm, life and death, gain and loss, failures and successes-they all have the one end, that we may be partakers of the wealth of His holiness. Let us try to clear our minds of the delusions of this world, and to rectify our estimates of true good. A very perverted standard prevails, and we are too apt to fall in with it. Many of us are no wiser than savages that will exchange gold for trash, and barter away fertile lands for a stand of old muskets or a case of fiery rum. Listen to Jesus Christ counselling you to buy of Him gold tried in the fire. Turn away from the fairy gold, which by daylight will be seen to be but a heap of yellow fading leaves, and cling in faith, which is precious, to Him who is priceless, and in whom the poorest will find riches that cannot be corrupted nor lost forever. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

    Found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.-

    Perfect salvation

    These words have reminded me of a phrase which, twenty or thirty years ago, was constantly recurring in sermons of many of the younger and more ardent preachers of that time. They insisted that Christ had come to achieve for us what they described as a present salvation. There was a polemical element, too, in preaching of this kind, for the doctrine of a present salvation was asserted as though it were a part of the Christian gospel that had never been clearly apprehended; it was implied that most Christian people had thought of salvation as something future, something that could not be known on this side of death, while in fact we are to be saved, if saved at all, here and now. Those who preached a present salvation said in substance, “Many of you Christian people have missed the power and glory which Christ came to make yours in this life, because you are always thinking of heaven and the life to come; your religion is unpractical, you do not see that Christ came to make an infinite difference in the whole life of man in this world, as well as to make eternal blessedness our inheritance in the next.” There is no need to preach like that now. None of us, I imagine, are too much occupied with thoughts of heaven and the life to come. Richard Baxter, as some of you remember, tells us that in the afternoon, when it began to be too dark to go on with his reading and writing, and before the candles were brought in, he used to sit quietly in the twilight meditating on the saints’ everlasting rest. There are not many Christian people, I imagine, who spend much of their time in that way now. Whether we realise the present salvation more fully than our fathers did I cannot tell, but I imagine it is certain that we think very much less about any salvation that is still to come. There is a present salvation, there is also a salvation to be hoped for, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice.” Christ, not the earthly Christ but the ascended Christ, is the head of the new race. His larger, diviner, human life is ours, and the life which we have received from Him, and into the full possession of which He entered at His resurrection and ascension, that life has in its essence the hope and assurance of passing into the same glory into which Christ has entered. Having this life we are born, therefore, to “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” This inheritance is not here; it is not ours in possession yet; it is no part of the present salvation; it is reserved for us in heaven. And lest we should come to harm before we reach it, we are kept safely for the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the last time. In this it is that we Christian people are to rejoice. The present salvation is an incomplete salvation; the perfect salvation is to come. The future life of those who are to live forever in God-the complete salvation-transcends all thought as well as all hope; we cannot see the inheritance for the golden haze that surrounds it; it is too intensely bright for mortal vision; it belongs to another order than this; it cannot be revealed to knowledge until it is revealed in experience. But some elements of the present salvation will in the future salvation be perfect. Our sins, through the infinite mercy of God, are already forgiven, and we may have the full assurance that they are forgiven. But not until we are capable of a fuller knowledge of God shall we know the infinite blessedness of the discovery that He has blotted out our sins as a thick cloud which varnishes and leaves no stain on the blue of heaven. That blessedness is to come. There are times when we see the manifestations of the love of God for us-manifestations given to us in secret and wonderful ways by the power of the Spirit of God, making the heart tremble with a blended reverence and joy. We have no strength to bear them for long. If they remained glory would break upon glory, and we should anticipate the blessedness we hope for. What we hope for is a life that appears so enlarged, and with so Divine an environment that these manifestations of the personal love of the Eternal for us, and manifestations still more wonderful, will be with us always; that we shall move freely among them as we move in the common air and in the light of the common sun; they will never become dim, never be interrupted, but that in their tenderness and in their power they will increase through age after age of increasing wonder and joy. There is something in this great hope to give us courage and to renew the strength which too often faints and the resolution which too often falters. The joy of the Christian life would be immeasurably augmented if we dwelt more constantly on its eternal consummation in the Divine Presence, and the joy would give strength. We have great memories to sustain us, and, above all, the memory of the supreme manifestation of the Divine love in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But when hope is confederate with memory, and both are confirmed by the present consciousness that we have found God, every power of our better life receives new animation, and we see that all things are possible to us. Further, apart from a clear vision of the perfect salvation, faith is subject to an unnecessary strain. Forget too how large and free and blessed a life men are destined for in Christ in the next world, and it will sometimes seem as if there were disproportion between the great discoveries of the Christian gospel and what the gospel actually accomplishes. It is as if you were to judge of the labour which has been spent on the fields by the appearance of early spring, when the dark ground is hardly relieved by the faint green of the wheat which has just begun to shoot-it is so frail, apparently of so little value. Is this all that is to come of cleaning the ground and ploughing it and enriching it with the seed? Ah! you must wait-wait till the spring has expanded into the bright days of summer, and the summer into early autumn, and then the corn ripened, perfected, rising and falling in golden billows under the glowing sun, will reveal the end for which the farmer laboured. And Christ’s harvest home is not ended here, but in worlds unseen. Not until we know the perfect righteousness and the perfect blessedness of the saints in glory shall we see for what great ends the Son of God became man and rose again for our race. (R. W Dale, LL. D.)

    Whom having not seen, ye love.-

    Love to an unseen Saviour

    To produce in us a love to Christ it is not necessary that we should see Him with our bodily eyes. Those who actually saw Jesus and loved Him are comparatively few to those who love Him unseen.

    I. The properties of this love.

    1. It is sincere and hearty. We must not judge by one single act in life, but by the habitual frame and the general tenor in behaviour. A real concern of mind for offending a friend is a sign that we esteem him.

    2. It has respect unto Christ in all His characters and titles.

    3. This love is superlative. It exceeds the esteem which the soul has for all other things. Christ will accept of nothing less.

    4. This love is constant and everlasting. It is not like the esteem which we have for our fellow creatures, which frequently stops upon receiving an affront, and is often changed into resentment.

    II. The grounds and reasons why the Christian loves an unseen Jesus.

    1. The Christian loves an unseen Jesus because of the excellencies which He possesses, Whatever excellency is in the creature may be found in the highest perfection in Jesus Christ, for He inherits all true perfection: creatures’ glories are all imperfect.

    2. The Christian loves an unseen Saviour because of the relation which He stands in to him. The ties of nature and relation are strong inducements to affection; a mother must turn monster if she does not love her babe.

    3. The Christian is under the greatest obligations to Jesus for the wonders of His free and unmerited love: no wonder, then, that he loves Him, though unseen.

    III. The reasonableness of the Christian’s love to an unseen Saviour.

    1. Let us view the infinite glory of His person.

    2. The amazing greatness of His condescension for His people’s advantage.

    3. The blessings which He has conferred upon the Christian,

    4. The endearing titles He has given him.

    5. The care He continually takes of him, and the glory He has prepared and will secure for him.

    6. The freeness of this love. (S. Hayward.)

    Love to an unseen Saviour

    I. Believe, though we never saw. We should not count this a hardship, since we every day believe in places and peoples whom we have not seen. Thus, you all believe that there is such a city as Rome, although few of you may have seen it. You believe also that a Pontiff rules there. But in these days of widespread scepticism men object to believe, in the first place, because the events to which we ask their credence happened so long ago. But if you believe that Julius Caesar fell at Pompey’s pillar pierced by traitorous wounds, surely it is not more difficult to believe that about the same period in our world’s history the Lord Jesus Christ died on the Cross of Calvary for the sins of the world. It is objected, however, in the second place, that we ask faith in something supernatural concerning Jesus Christ, the like of which is not to be found in the history of Julius Caesar-namely, that He was raised from the dead, and that He ascended into the heavens. Quite true; but our God affords evidence correspondingly strong. But the faith that pleases God is not a mere conviction that the sacred oracles are true-it should include also a hearty acceptance of Christ as a Saviour for our own sinful souls. It is one thing for you to believe that a certain individual is the richest man in the city, and quite an additional thing if he, hearing of your straits, should write you to go to the bank and draw on him to any amount. And suppose you had really never seen the rich man, but had only heard of his goodness, as you found all your wants supplied at that bank, you would resemble these primitive Christians who were thus addressed. “Though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”

    II. Although these Christians had never seen Christ, they, nevertheless, loved him. It is possible to love those whom we have never seen. The experience is felt every day. For example-

    1. Men love unseen benefactors, and it becomes us to love the unseen Saviour-the greatest Benefactor of all. When the emancipation of the West Indian slaves became an accomplished fact, the liberated Negroes in their humble dwellings loved the men who had done so much for them, and suffered so much for them. They had never seen them, and yet they loved them.

    2. But let us introduce another element into the claims of the ascended Christ, and consider that He is also a brother unseen. It sometimes happens that an unseen benefactor is also an unseen brother. I knew a family in this city, the elder brother in which had gone out to an Indian appointment before the younger members of it were born. Their father died before he could be called an old man, leaving a widow and large family without great resources. But this elder brother did a father’s part. He sent home remittances quite regularly, which maintained, clothed, and educated the younger children, and, as the daughters grew up, and were, one after another, married, he sent them special presents for their marriage outfits. Oh, how they loved him, although they had never seen him! Does not my parable once more suit? Is not this Jesus whom we have never seen occupied in high heavenly administration?

    3. Further, the believer loves Christ, though he has never seen Him, on account of His beauty. We sometimes fall in love with the character of men whom we have never seen.

    III. Though believers never saw Christ, they rejoice in him with joy unspeakable and full of glory. A doubtsome faith, leaving a man uncertain as to whether he is saved or not, is not countenanced in the Word of God. Further, the New Testament does not discourage ecstasy in religious experience. It expects “joy unspeakable” in the heart of the Christian. And if we see men and women in tumultuous joy, making processions and waving banners in honour of Bruce and Wallace, Tell and Garibaldi, whom they never saw, have we not infinitely greater cause to rejoice in present salvation and the hope of future glory through an unseen Christ? When the foreman of the jury says “Not guilty,” the prisoner leaps up in the dock with joy unspeakable. When the physician, feeling the pulse, says to the anxious patient: “Your symptoms are much improved today; in fact, you are out of danger, and will henceforth progress to complete recovery,” his joy is unspeakable. Now, what is holiness but wholeness in health?-the great blessing which we receive at the Cross, the salvation of the soul, the pardon of sin and the accompanying indwelling and renewal of the Holy Ghost. But the best is coming yet; the joy is also “full of glory.” We are down in the valley; but the hilltops are already radiant with the rising orb of eternal day. Beyond these hills our Redeemer is preparing a place for us. In conclusion, let me speak first a word of caution, and then a word of encouragement.

    1. The word of caution I address to those who may be ready to proclaim their love to Christ and their assurance of salvation while yet their lives are unholy. Not only must Christ have the throne of our affections, but also the government of our wills freely and habitually surrendered-wills married to His and sweetly lost in His.

    2. Such is the word of caution; now for the word of encouragement. How many worthy people are there who, when we ask them whether they love the Lord, or not, are unable to answer in the affirmative. Restricted views of the extent of Divine grace keep some in darkness, while others are the victims of hypochondriacal spiritual or rather unspiritual melancholy. As to the first cause of fear I would simply say that there is no doubt of God’s love to you, and therefore you should love Him in return. As to your morbid anxieties, I would exhort you to dismiss them all. Do not go about constantly feeling your own spiritual pulse. The best proof of your love to God is that you keep His commandments. (F. Ferguson, D. D.)

    Love to Christ

    I. The nature and grounds of love to Christ. Love to Christ is not to be confounded with the raptures of a visionary enthusiasm. Its foundation must not be laid in those ideal representations of His person and character which a luxuriant fancy is apt to picture. It signifies simply that sincere esteem of His person and character, which is founded on what is revealed respecting Him in the records of inspiration.

    1. Love to the Redeemer is the first movement of the soul when illumined to discern the perfect excellencies of His Divine character. Is perfect holiness the proper object of delight and love? Are truth and faithfulness, combined with mercy and grace, the proper objects of moral approbation and delight? In Him “mercy and truth have met together.” He is justly entitled to our supreme regard, whose nature is infinitely excellent, and whose perfections are boundless.

    2. But the believer will not confine himself to the contemplation of his Lord in the attributes of His Divine character; he will consider Him in His human nature also, and, as such, the proper object of enlightened attachment. As a man He exhibited an example of perfect conformity to the whole will of God.

    3. The mediatorial character of Jesus justly entitles Him to our especial affection. From what Christ hath done, we learn what He is; and the glories of His character shine with peculiar lustre through the veil of His mediation, suffering, and death. And can we contemplate so much love without feeling some corresponding emotion of love in return?

    II. Christ, though unseen, is the object of a Christian’s love.

    1. Although Christ was never seen by us, yet we have been favoured with the most full and satisfactory information regarding Him. He is brought near to our view in the prophecies of the Old Testament, and in the varied writings of the New.

    2. Jesus, though we never saw Him, is ascertained to be unquestionably our best friend and nearest relation. He is our instructor to point the way; our high priest to redeem and intercede for us; our Captain and King to bring many sons and daughters to glory.

    3. He hath given us the most stupendous evidences of His disinterested love.

    4. This kind friend hath sent us many kind messages of love, and hath actually left us a legacy to perpetuate His remembrance.

    5. Though not personally present with us, He hath given us, as His representative, His Holy Spirit to abide with us forever, to enlighten our understandings, to purify our hearts from the power of corruption, to raise our affections to things spiritual and heavenly, to check in us the power of sin, and to guide us amid the snares and temptations of our pilgrimage through the world.

    6. Though we see not Christ now, we are assured that if we love Him truly we shall see Him afterwards.

    III. The manner in which love to Christ will practically express itself.

    1. Love to Christ will lead us to cultivate a more intimate acquaintance with Him.

    2. Love to Christ will lead us frequently to think and to speak of Him.

    3. Love to Christ will lead us to seek intercourse with Him in all His ordinances.

    4. If we love Christ, we will love His people and cause.

    5. Finally, “If ye love Me,” says Jesus, “keep My commandments.” This is the most substantial test of the sincerity of our love. (R. Burns, D. D.)

    Love to an unseen Saviour

    I. The general nature of love to Christ. There are four essential acts that form the perfect notion of love. First, there is esteem, which is as the groundwork of love. And on all accounts Christ deserves this in the highest degree. Again, there is inclination of goodwill to the party beloved. This is called a benevolential esteem, as the former is complacential. The former considers its object as fit to do us good or give us pleasure. The latter regards its object as worthy to receive good, whether absolutely or from us or others. Esteem and benevolence, then, are the two leading branches of love, and both find room enough in Christ. The two remaining, desire, fitly enough called love in motion, and delight or complacency, called love at rest, rank themselves under each of the former respectively; for it is of the nature of true love to desire and delight in the happiness of the object as really as its own proceeding from it.

    II. The object of the Christian’s love-the Lord Jesus Christ-with the grounds that are found with Him, of our loving Him. And here we might first observe how the many names, titles, and characters which Christ bears in Scripture, that convey various ideas of beauty, use, and pleasure, do of themselves recommend Him to our highest love. The particular grounds of love to Christ which His various names import and lead to.

    1. If the greatest personal excellencies and beauties imaginable.

    2. If the most intimate relation to God and His manifestative glory, joined with the highest interest in His favour and respect.

    3. If the most amazing love to us.

    4. If the most arduous and excellent works performed for our service and advantage.

    5. If the most numerous, valuable, benefits conferred on us or promised to us.

    III. The particular acts and expressions of a genuine love to Christ.

    1. In the first place, wherever love to Christ is found, it will certainly show itself in frequent thoughts, attended ever and anon with discourse of Him. And what thoughts are they which love to Christ will inspire? They are thoughts of a noble elevation and of a comprehensive reach-thoughts which dignify our understandings. Further, the thoughts influenced by the love of Christ will be with regard to ourselves, and other things viewed in comparison with Christ, humbling and disdaining. Again, the thoughts about Christ which love to Him prompts are the most chosen and pleasing thoughts of any that can employ the mind. Finally, the thoughts that love to Christ inspires are affectionate thoughts and influential into the heart from whence they are united.

    2. Love to Christ will express itself in desires towards Him accompanied with suitable endeavours, and these of two sorts, such as respect ourselves immediately, or Christ for ourselves, and such as respect Him for Himself.

    IV. The properties and characters of genuine love to Christ. True love to Christ is sincere and unfeigned, love incorrupt.

    2. True love to Christ is a judicious and rational affection. Though Christians love an unseen, they do not love an unknown Saviour.

    3. Love to Christ is free, as being the effect of rational choice; and yet more free still, as being a supernatural habit influenced by Divine grace.

    4. True love to Christ is of a very active and fruitful nature. There is a great deal of life, strength, and sprightliness in the affection of love.

    5. True love to Christ is entire and universal. He must be loved in His whole character, or He is not loved at all.

    6. It must be supreme.

    7. It is constant.

    8. This love to Christ is great, so as to become unspeakable and full of glory.

    V. How faith accounts for this love in want of sight, so that this should not in reason be any obstruction to, while yet it is a commendation of it.

    1. Let us see how faith contains a just reason for loving Christ, though never seen. Than which nothing will appear more manifest, if we only consider what faith is, in these two parts wherein the apostle sums it up (Hebrews 11:1).

    2. Want of seeing Christ, though no reasonable bar against loving Him, must be allowed to import some greater commendation of love under this circumstance than in the case of personal sight.

    VI. Improvement.

    1. How much should we be concerned to observe the too obvious want of love to Christ in the Christian world, and withal to inquire whether it be not wanting in our own hearts also!

    2. Suffer the word of exhortation, to give to Christ all the love we are capable of, suitable to His glorious dignity, and the obligations He has laid on us, heartily and bitterly lamenting withal our sin and folly in having withheld from Him so long and so much what has been His due. (J. Hubbard.)

    The highest Christian experience

    I. Love for the unseen. This is an axiom with all true affection.

    1. It appears difficult theoretically.

    2. It is common in experience. The absent, the dead are loved.

    3. It is an element in the highest form of love. The non-sensuous.

    4. It is a very blessed emotion. The band of love brings the distant near, makes the remote easily discerned.

    II. Trust in the loved. Love Christ more, and you will trust Him more. You will believe what He says about-

    1. Salvation.

    2. Duty.

    3. Trial.

    4. Sacrifice.

    III. Joy in the loved and trusted.

    1. The joy of rest.

    2. The joy of communion. (U. R. Thomas.)

    The reign of Christ in Christendom

    In the first place, think how wonderful a phenomenon the very existence of Christendom is. It is so in three particulars. In the first place, when we turn to the page of history, the existence of Christendom is wonderful when we consider the opposition which it had to overcome. And then, above all, the establishment of Christendom is wonderful when we consider the character of the doctrine which determined it. The gospel flattered no pride, it gave quarter to no passion. Now I wish further to direct your attention to the present reign of Christ in this present Christendom. And here I observe, in the first place, that our blessed Lord reigns over the intellect of Christendom by His authority. Human thinkers do not really govern thought. There has been no one-man government in the realm of intellect since Aristotle was deposed in the middle ages. These apparent governors of human thought rule a party, or a school, or a clique. Even there they are not really taken at their own word. The thing is not believed to be true just because they say it is true. Now, our blessed Lord, beyond all question, does not propose for the acceptance of His people a self-evident doctrine. You must make an act of faith in it, and that act of faith is an inclusive act. You cannot parcel it off into two separate divisions or compartments, and say: “Here is the sentiment, supremely beautiful, and there is the dogma, of which we cannot say quite so much.” We must believe the dogma of Christ’s authority, or we do not fully receive Christ. But then it may be said to the Christian, “What is thy beloved, more than another beloved?” There are other teachers who receive the adoration of thousands of souls: the Buddha reigns over as many souls as Christ does, and possibly a good many more. Yes, but not over as many sorts of souls. Jesus reigns over varied races. At all events, all nations who renounce Him, lose, or begin to lose, their place amongst the nations of mankind; and the fact of their denial is written upon their bodily and material organisations. Now, I mention further that Christ reigns over the hearts of men by love. Consider for a moment man’s relation after death to the affections of those who survive him. The place which any of us can keep in the affections of those who survive is a narrow one indeed. Forgetfulness, in a very short time, must grow over us like the grass. And now, with this, contrast Christ after His death as an object of human affection. This love is illimitable in extent as well as in time. Every minute some dying man or woman invokes that name with a light of love upon the dying face. “I am a judge of men, and I tell you that this Man with His power of awakening and perpetuating love was more than man.” Jesus reigns as God by love in Christendom. Here is the strange fact of the spiritual world-this intense personal love towards One whom we have not seen. As St. Bernard says: “When I name Jesus I name a Man, strong, gentle, pure, holy, sympathising, who is also the true and the Eternal God.” And the image of the beauty is the best proof to the heart of the reality of the object which it represents-something in the same way as when we are walking along in meditation by a clear river that runs into the sea, the reflection of the white sea bird in the stream, even when we are not able to look up, is a proof to us that the bird is really sailing overhead. There is no fear of disappointment in that love toward Christ. There was a wife once who was all in all to a husband who had been blind from very early childhood, and when the question came about an operation being performed, she was troubled. She confessed she was troubled lest when sight was restored to her husband, whom she had loved and tended, he should be disappointed in the features of which he had thought so tenderly. Yes! but as spiritual sight is given to us, as we start up in the light of the Resurrection morning, there will be no disappointment; when we wake up after His likeness we shall be satisfied with Him, with the likeness of Him, whom not having seen, we love. (Bp. Alexander.)

    Love to the unseen Christ

    We are apt to suppose that, had we lived in the days of Christ, our faith and love would have been very much nearer perfection than they ever can be now. Witnessing the expression of His countenance would have given so much fuller a comprehension of His character, that our strongest affections would necessarily have been moved towards Him. There are persons who need the perceptions of the senses to help out the operations of the understanding, before they can realise facts with sufficient distinctness for their feelings to be excited. But this is not true of most earnest minds-of some, it is the very reverse of the truth. It is the same with regard to both Christ’s teaching and His moral qualities, as with regard to all other things in life-the mind comprehends only what it is prepared to receive. Things affect us, not only according to their nature, but according to our own. What we see depends, not only upon what there is to be seen, but also upon our capacity for seeing. Goodness and purity immeasurably above us will only affect us in that degree in which we are able to take them in. Hence, those Jewish disciples standing around our Saviour, gazing into His eyes, would only be moved by His character, in proportion as their own goodness, purity, and inner spiritual beauty enabled them to enter into sympathy with Him. Then, too, there is another consideration greatly in our favour: the love which rests upon the idealisation of a character must, necessarily, be more refined and spiritual than that which is derived through the sensuous perceptions. For the senses lend influences of their own, which, mingling with the spiritual elements, prevent the pure and simple operation of the latter, and oftentimes distort their proper impressions, Hence, a man’s character is frequently better understood by those unacquainted with his person than by those round about him. And, still more frequently, it is only when distance of space or time removes the sensuous presence that the spiritual qualities of a man become thoroughly understood. And, upon this principle, too, it is that a friend removed from us by death, soon loses, in our imagination, his distinctive physical characteristics, whilst his moral and spiritual qualities Stand out more and more clearly defined. To this objection it may possibly be replied, why should our love for Christ be different from the love called forth by our living companions and friends? Why since He was in all points like unto us, should not the sensuous mingle with the spiritual? I answer, first, because it is unnatural; seeing He is removed from our sight, we can truly only follow the natural law of our minds and draw an ideal representation of Him. But, secondly, and most of all, because the whole spiritualising influence of the love depends upon its spiritual character. For the power of the love of Christ to elevate us depends upon two elements, First, although it is love for a son of man, it is a son of man who is not standing before us in hard forms of sense, but whose very humanity becomes to us as a spiritual essence, who eludes us when we attempt to grasp him, but who takes all the brightest lines our purified fancies project upon him. And this impalpableness of the sensuous image leads us, more and more, to enter into the second element upon which the power depends, namely, the spiritual and moral qualities of his nature. By dwelling almost exclusively upon these, the mind becomes, as it were, saturated with their influences, and is brought into closer and closer sympathy with them. The ideal it thus forms of the Christ is continually rising higher and higher; brighter and more candescent with Divine holiness, truth, goodness, spiritual beauty, the wondrous image glows-no wonder that the adoring, quickened soul enthusiastically exclaims, “Whom having net seen we love.” And the qualities upon which this love for Christ rests, are the qualities upon which all true love ever rests. For love is the going forth of spirit to spirit, of soul to soul-the giving of one’s own inward spiritual life to another. When the soul thus discerns Him, all its deepest life is awakened; admiration, delight, and ineffable joy harmonise as melodious chords of holy music within its inmost being; it yields itself in love to Him whom thus it knows. And it is worth our while to note the qualities which the soul thus discerns in Christ which so call forth its love.

    1. First of all, there is the Divine truthfulness. I mean the inward harmony of the thought and feeling with God’s law, with God’s idea, with eternal and unchangeable facts. Stronger, by reason of this truthfulness, than the granite rock, more immovable than the mountains of Lebanon, He stands forth for God, and for God’s law of right within Him.

    2. But, then, this truthfulness led to purity; for purity is truth reduced to life; it is the embodying of what is right in one’s own character. And you know how the Saviour did this. You know how He followed the right through evil and good report. There may, however, be all this, but in hard forms like the granite rock, glittering in the sun and standing out with its sharply defined, hard lines against the sky, exciting our wonder and admiration, but touching no chord of love in the heart.

    3. And therefore there must be love-the gentleness and tenderness of a loving nature added on to and rising out of these. Annihilating self, it seeks to lavish the resources of its own life and blessedness on the world around. And I need not dwell upon the manifold forms in which this gentle and tender love manifested itself in Him who did not cry nor cause His voice to be heard in the streets-who brake not the bruised reed nor quenched the smoking flax. But then, I take it, that it is neither the truthfulness, the purity, nor the love which in itself and alone calls forth our love. But these qualities constitute, when existing together in their proper proportions, that wonderful thing which we call spiritual beauty-a thing we all recognise, according to our culture, when we meet with it, but which is so subtle as to defy our definition. Whilst theologians have been constructing their theories and doctrines about the Divine nature, and rival sects have been fighting for their individual shibboleths, the simple, loving souls of all churches have, out of the brief narratives of the Gospels, been idealising to themselves the Christ, and before the overpowering spiritual beauty which thus they have discerned in His character, have yielded their heart’s strongest love and purest devotion. (James Cranbrook.)

    The believer’s joyful love

    There have been those who, by plausible arguments, have attempted to prove that love to an unseen Saviour is impossible. Sight is not of itself the foundation or cause of any affection to be dignified by the name of love. It was not by sight that you learned the character of your friend so as to esteem him for its excellence. And do we not know our blessed Saviour? From the delineations of the rapt Isaiah and the simple stories of the gospel, we know Him as He walked On earth, as far as men need know. And besides this blessed book, we have other sources of knowledge. The works of nature are ever telling of His wisdom, power, and goodness; are ever exciting to His love. The history of the Church, which is the body of Christ, is another continuous revelation of His character, more perfect now than in any former age. Just as you learn the temper of your friend by marking the methods which he uses in governing his household, you may read the heart of our Saviour by interpreting His dealings with the Church. But our most intimate and personal knowledge of the Redeemer is obtained by personal experience and by the revelation of the Holy Ghost to our hearts. But our text speaks of joy as well as love: “In whom though now you see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” They always exist together. Who ever thinks of a love which does not convey satisfaction and delight? And who ever imagines that genuine happiness can be enjoyed where the pure affections of the heart have no exercise? Wherever there exists true faith and love to Christ, there must be, to some extent, happiness and delight in Him. And this is just in proportion to the purity and simplicity of our confidence and affection. (N. C. Locke, D. D.)

    Love of Christ

    Affections are evoked, not created, educed from within, not implanted from without. The quality of the object determines indeed the kind and quality of the affection. Perfect love is perfect joy only where the loving and the loved are alike good, holy, and true. Love again may be evoked in one of two ways-by instinct and nature, or by reason and spirit. If a man loves his son simply because the boy happens to be his, or a woman her daughter simply because the girl chances to be hers, and for no other and higher reason, the love is only blind impulse; it has no regard to actual or possible spiritual qualities, or any high moral end. But love awakened through the reason and in the spirit is spiritual love. The qualities admired belong to the spirit, the eye that sees is the spirit’s, and the admiration excited lives in the spirit. Instinctive affection is blind and arbitrary, but spiritual is not. Many a man would perceive and despise in another boy the moral qualities he scarcely observes in his own son. The first is due to a relation, natural or arbitrary, but the second to worth, personal, inherent, moral, real. Instinctive affection may be blind and impure, but spiritual must be altogether lovely and true. Perhaps it may now be superfluous to remark that the Christian’s love to Christ must be of the latter kind. The sight is spiritual and the affection the same. The love may lack the passion and intensity of instinct, but it has the calmness and the power of spirit. The claims of Christ have not appealed to eye and ear, but to heart and mind. We love Him, not for His beautiful face, or fine voice, or winsome ways, but for His mercy, and grace, the righteousness and truth that blend so perfectly in His character. The moral excellencies of Jesus, and these alone, can be inexhaustible sources of spiritual love. This distinction may enable us to deal with a too common difficulty. Many a devout soul has said, “I cannot love my Saviour as I love my child. I do not, I cannot, love God more than I love my husband. There is an intensity in my affection for my family and friends entirely wanting in my affection for Divine things. I need to be reconverted. I must be altogether wrong.” But the error lies in confounding things that differ. Man’s affection for man must be more or less instinctive. Man’s love for Christ must be altogether spiritual. Our love for Christ, then, while wanting the warmth of our love for man, has more depth and root in our being; while its form is less fervent, its essence is more real. The one seems to be, but the other in reality is the greater. Indeed, it cannot be rightly compared to our love for the living. It resembles much more closely our love for the dead. Death at once sanctifies and spiritualises our affection. It is, then, no hardship to have an invisible Saviour. We can love Him the better that He is unseen. Were God localised, He would seem to our thought much less awful and majestic than when He is conceived as everywhere, like the air we breathe, the element in which all beings live. It is, perhaps, not too much to say that the disciples never loved Christ aright till He became invisible. Their love had much of the intensity of passion, co-existed with much self-seeking. But when Jesus ascended all this was changed. Their affections were enlarged and clarified. Note, now, how this invisibility enables the mind to glorify, to idealise Jesus, as the object of its love. The senses are very prosaic and tyrannical. They see but a little way into a man, and retain only what of him is superficial and transient. The image of Christ that haunted the disciples would be very unequal, one of blended power and weakness, glory and shame. He would rise in their memories now as a weary man, sitting on Jacob’s well, or asleep in the hinder part of the ship, and again as a mighty God, feeding the hungry multitude, or stilling the tempest. Now, He would be seen amid the glories of the transfiguration. But in our ease there is no such hindrance. We enjoy the privilege of never having seen Jesus. The Saviour, we know, is one whose griefs are past, whose glories have come, “whom having not seen we love.” Imagination should often come to the help of love. Does not the loved, lost mother appear adorned with every grace, and the father apparelled in every virtue? Does not boyhood, too, gleam to the old man, when he recalls the meadows on which he played with a light such as the sun never threw from its burning face? And since imagination can lend a brilliance of hue, a splendour of colour to the objects of time, calling forth deeper and tenderer love, why not to the Object at once of sacred memory and eternal hope-the invisible Saviour? The love of the invisible Jesus may thus be developed in us like any other normal affection, and our growth in grace will be commensurate with this development. Here we may note God’s wisdom and goodness in thus enlisting our natural capacities on the side of our own eternal interests. But can we define this love? What are its constituent elements? Love, like light, seems simple, but is in truth compound. In a simple beam of white light there are varied colours. Pass the beam through a prism and it breaks into those bright and dark hues that blend so beautifully in the rainbow. The beam is one, yet several, each constituent colour being necessary to its very existence. So love has its essential elements, each complementary to the other, and all combining to give it real and ample being-goodwill, approbation, delight, desire, and trust. Where any of these is not, love cannot be. O Thou Christ of the living God, teach us to love Thee, not simply as a short and easy method of deliverance, not as a convenient way of escaping the terrible pains of hell; but as our Brother, our Fellow, our Friend, our one Supreme Good, in whom alone everlasting happiness and peace can be found I And now, consider what a privilege, what an honour thou hast in being permitted to love the invisible Jesus. Pencil cannot delineate His perfection; colour cannot express His beauty. The human form must be transfigured and transformed into the Divine, ere it can tell the glory and the grace of the indwelling Christ. We would not then, O Christ, wish Thee to become visible-One we could see with our fleshly eyes, and handle with our fleshly hands. Remain Thou within the veil; there Thou art worthier to be loved; and while here we abide we shall enjoy the blessedness of those who, because they have not seen, have only the more believed and the better loved. (A. M. Fairbairn, D. D.)

    Seeing is not believing, but believing is seeing

    I. How come we into contact with Jesus? The uppermost point of contact, the most apparent in the believer’s life, is love. “Whom not having seen ye love.” But the text tells of another point of contact, “In Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing.” We are again reminded here that we do not see, but we are assured of the possibility of believing in Him without sight. Ah, have I not by faith made real to myself the Saviour on the Cross? In Christ you have believed, and you know that your sin is forgiven, that His righteousness is imputed to you, and that you stand accepted in the Beloved. This is not to you a matter of hope; it is a matter of firm conviction. You have not seen, but you have believed. As to His resurrection also. You did not see him when He rose early in the morning from the tomb and the watchmen in terror fled far away, but you have believed in Him as risen. I believe that because He lives I shall live also, and it is possible to believe this as firmly as though we saw it. Christ is in heaven pleading for us. We cannot see the ephod and the breastplate, but we believe that He intercedes successfully there for us. We choose Him to be our advocate in every case of sore distress, in every case of grievous sin; we believe that He is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by Him, and we leave our suit with Him in perfect confidence. Still the point is, that carnal people will imagine that if there could be something to touch or smell they should get on, but mere believing and loving are too hard for them. Yet such thought is not reasonable. An illiterate man cannot see that mental work is work at all, but he who is capable of mental labour soon feels the reality of it. Just transfer that thought. Coming into contact with Christ by touch looks to most people to be most real, that is because their animal nature is uppermost; coming into contact with Jesus by the spirit seems to them to be unreal, only because they know nothing of spiritual things. Thoughtless persons think that mental pain is nothing. Mere animal men will often say, “I can understand the headache, I can understand the pain of having a leg cut off”; but the pain of injured affection, or of receiving ingratitude from a trusted friend, this by the rough mind is thought to be no pain at all. “Oh,” says he, “I could put up with that.” But I ask you who have minds, Is there any pain more real than mental pain? Just so the mental operation-for it is a mental operation-of coming into contact with Christ by loving Him and trusting Him is the most real thing in all the world, and no one will think it unreal who has once exercised it.

    II. What virtue is this which flows from him?

    1. The first result of trusting and loving Christ is joy, and joy of a most remarkable kind. It is far above all common joy. It is spoken of as “joy unspeakable.” Now earth-born joys can be told to the full. But spirit-born joys cannot be told because we have not yet received a spiritual language. I have seen men’s faces lit up with heaven’s sunlight when the joy of the Lord has been shed abroad in their hearts. The very people who a day ago looked dull and heavy look as if they could dance for mirth because they have found the Saviour, and their soul is at peace through Him. The apostle adds that it is “full of glory.” Many sensual joys are full of shame-a man with a conscience dares not tell them to his fellows. The joy of making money is hot full of glory, nor is the joy of killing one’s fellows in battle. There is no joy like that of the Christian, for he dares to speak of it everywhere, in every company.

    2. The apostle mentions another blessing received by loving and trusting Christ. He says, “receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” Every man who trusts and loves Christ is saved. When we trusted Jesus, though we used no forms and ceremonies, we received the salvation of our souls.

    III. What follows then from the whole of this?

    1. It follows, in the first place, that a state of joy and salvation is the fitting and expected condition of every believer in Christ.

    2. There is another inference to be drawn from my subject, and that is for the seeking soul. If you want comfort go to Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

    Love a way to faith

    You notice that in the apostle’s words love comes before belief. This is certainly not what we should have expected. How can we love before we believe? Must we not first feel convinced of the reality of Christ and the genuineness of His claims? And yet, if we take the case of one who saw Christ, is it not clear that love to Him must have preceded faith? Would not love spring up at once in witnessing some act of Christ or listening to some of His words? And yet faith may have involved more difficulty. It was impossible not to love; but how was it possible to believe, in spite of all the difficulties lying in their expectations regarding the Messiah? Nay; do we not see the love of the disciples to their Master actually struggling to attain to faith in the face of their old beliefs? Love took no heed of these obstacles. For it, in view of Christ, there was no obstruction. It went straight to its object. But faith could not avoid the encounter. It had to grapple with its enemies. Is the case different with men now? Do not men in general learn to love Christ before they ever ask the question of His reality and the genuineness of His claims? And here the first thing that strikes us is the adaptation of the Gospels especially, and also, but not so markedly, of the Epistles to awaken love above all. The appeal is not made mainly and directly to the understanding and reason. Men are not argued with. There is no elaborate demonstration presented. There is no shutting up of men by inexorable logic. On the contrary, there is a picture presented of a great and marvellous life and a death of outward ignominy but transcendent moral glory. Observe how insinuating this appeal to love is. It works itself into your heart before you are aware. You are surprised into admiration and into love. The life of Jesus is so exquisitively human, so full of little touches that mean nothing to the bare intellect, but are mighty with the heart. The great qualities of Christ have the effect of rousing some answering feelings in the souls of men. Every truly elevated life has such an influence; but that of Christ in an altogether transcendent manner, Men, in this way, by a personal attachment to Christ, or admiration of Him, or enthusiasm for Him, according as their particular bent may be, grow into a love of all things noble and pure. And then another result appears. Keeping pace with this love of righteousness, penitence shows itself. A sense of sin, and a bitter shame on account of it, grows on the man who earnestly admires Christ. What takes place when this stage is reached? The man is now in a position to appreciate the rich and tender things which Christ utters about forgiveness. And now he comes to understand that Christ is a Saviour. Whenever sin is felt to be a burden, a deeper insight is gained into Christ. And now faith in Christ has been reached. The needs of the soul, combining with love to Christ, have called out faith. They have made Christ real. When faith in Christ begins to work, then love becomes both wider and more earnest. Then love feels obligation. It feels that it has got a task to fulfil and a debt to discharge. Faith becomes henceforward the great feeder and tributary of love, bringing down supplies to it from all the mountains of truth and showers of grace. Let us notice one or two inferences from this line of thought. We see how love to an unseen Christ operates in keeping Him near to the soul in spite of the lapse of centuries. There are humble, earnest souls today in myriads that feel Christ more real and nearer than many who had seen Him in the flesh. How finely the natural and the spiritual blend in love to Christ! There are those who never seem to get beyond the natural. They love Christ as they love any great benefactor of the world. And who can tell just precisely when his love to Christ rose out of this sphere, and became spiritual; or when any such love becomes spiritual, aspiring, and active? Is not all true love to good and right at bottom and ultimately a love to God, if only it knew itself? Must we not speak of it as both an inspiration and an instrument of the Spirit of God who besets men everywhere and broods over them? Is not the manifestation of Christ the one grand means by which this latent love of goodness is kindled and lifted up, and recognises its centre and home? Is not the immense power that Christ has over the natural admiration of men one of His own greatest weapons and one of the things which the Spirit of God most uses? And is not this one of the main adaptations of the gospel to the whole world? And if a man attempts no tour round the world, but simply seeks what medicine he can apply to human hearts, what antidote he can find for sin and woe, how he can touch souls, and win them out of despondency and darkness, hardness and sloth and shame into light and love and joy; if he is only intent on sweetening and ennobling human life, he will find there is but one simple, ready, efficacious universal means, the story of that marvellous life and death-love to the unseen Christ (J. Leckie, D. D.)

    Christ, though invisible, the object of devout affection

    It is familiar to all experience and observation how much the action of our spiritual nature is dependent on the senses, especially how much the power of objects to interest the affections depends on their being objects of sight. The objects we can see give a more positive and direct impression of reality; there can be no dubious surmise whether they exist or not. The sense of their presence is more absolute. Again, the good or evil, pleasure or grievance, which the visible objects cause to us, are often immediate; they are now; without any anticipation I am pleased, benefited-or perhaps distressed. Whereas the objects of faith can be regarded as to have their effect upon us in futurity. Visible objects, when they have been seen, can be clearly kept in mind in absence-during long periods-at the greatest distance. But the great objects of faith having never been seen, the mind has no express type to revert to. With visible objects (speaking of intelligent beings) we can have a sensible and definite communication. Invisible beings do not afford us this perfect sense of communication. With visible beings (that is, with human beings) we have the sense of equality, of one kind; we are of the same nature and economy; in the same general condition of humanity and mortality. But as to the unseen existences we are altogether out of their order. With the visible beings, again, we can have a certain sense of appropriation; can obtain an interest in them which they will acknowledge. But the invisible beings! they have a high relationship of their own! They stand aloof, and far outside of the circle within which we could comprehend what we can call ours. Such are some of the advantages of converse with objects that are seen over that with the invisible. And, in view of this, taken exclusively, it was a high privilege that was enjoyed by those who saw and conversed with our Lord on earth. But this is only one side of the subject. Look a moment at the other. And we need not fear to assert-that, on the whole, it is a high advantage not to have seen Jesus Christ; an advantage in favour of the affections claimed to be devoted to Him. We need not dwell on the possibility of feeling a great interest in objects we have never beheld, Recollect what a measure of sentiment, of affection in its various modes, has been given to the illustrious heroes, deliverers of their country, avengers of oppression, and men of transcendent intellectual power. But there is a nobler manifestation of this possibility. Think of all the affection of human hearts that has been given to the Saviour of the world since He withdrew His visible presence from it! And we still assert that it is to the advantage of the affection of His disciples toward Him that they see Him not. “Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.” But, more than this; revert in thought to the personal manifestation of our Lord on earth, and consider how it would act on the believing spectator’s mind. Sublime greatness would, must, by an inevitable law of human feeling, be reduced, shaded, diminished, as to its impression on the mind, by being shrouded and presented in a mere human form. Consider also that, in beholding a glorious and Divine nature in such a manifestation, the affection of those devoted to hint would fix very much, often chiefly, on the mere human quality of the being before them, and therefore would be familiarised, shall we say vulgarised, down to that proportion; it might be most warm and cordial, but not elevated and awful. Consider besides that, under the full direct impression of sight, there would be a great restriction on faith, acting in the way of imagination. The mind does not know how to expand into splendid ideal conception upon an object presented close and plain and familiar to sight. Should not such considerations make it evident that to see the Messiah in His personal manifestation was a mode of contemplating Him very inferior, for the excitement of the sublimer kind of affection, to that which we have to exercise by faith? The text may suggest to us an additional idea, which it could not to those to whom the apostle wrote. We not only have not seen Him, but we live very long after the time in which He could be seen; we, therefore, in endeavouring to form a sublime conception of Him, can add, and accumulate upon the idea, all the glory that has arisen to Him from the progress of His cause in the world ever since. (J. Foster.)

    Gratitude to Christ

    I. Gratitude naturally begets an affectionate attachment to its object. We ought not only to guard against an error too prevalent in our own times, namely, the excluding the affections altogether from religion, and imputing the signs of them in others to the impulse of a heated imagination, but we ought to cherish their influence as a becoming expression of our love to Jesus Christ, and a pleasing symptom of our sincerity, when we make a public profession of it.

    II. It is a natural effect of gratitude to keep the object of it much in our thoughts. Do the privileges and benefits of the gospel interest our affections. Do our hearts burn within us when we contemplate His doctrine, His character, His astonishing humility and benevolence?

    III. Another effect of gratitude is to proceed to outward expressions of those thankful sentiments which inspire our hearts. When we either love or hate, or grieve or rejoice in an intense degree we are sensibly gratified by the verbal expression of these affections. Words not only flow from the affections, but react upon them, and add to their vivacity and strength.

    IV. Gratitude naturally disposes us to do everything in our power agreeable to our benefactor, or that tends to promote his interest. To pretend to love Jesus Christ while we love our sins and hold them fast is not less absurd than it would be for a man to avow allegiance to his prince while leagued with those rebellious subjects who have conspired against his person and government. When overtaken in a fault are we affected with sorrow, not only from the fear of danger, but from the consciousness of ingratitude?

    V. Gratitude naturally leads us to glory in our connection with our benefactors. Jesus, a man of sorrows while He tabernacled on earth, is now exalted to the right hand of the throne of God. Our gratitude cannot add to His glory, nor can our ingratitude detract from it. But His Church, or kingdom on earth, like the kingdoms of this world, is not exempted from the vicissitudes of prosperous and adverse fates. How many alarming symptoms of the declining credit and influence of the Christian religion are exhibited in the age and country in which we live! (T. Somerville, D. D.)

    In whom … believing, ye rejoice.-

    The duty and discipline of Christian joy

    I. The grand possibilities of Christian joy-unspeakable and full of glory. It is quite possible to be beset all about with cares and troubles and yet to feel a pure fountain of celestial gladness welling up in our inmost hearts, sweet amidst bitter waters. There may be life beneath the snow. There may be fire burning, like the old Greek fire, below the water. A man has this power if he have two objects of contemplation, to one or other of which he may turn his mind-he can choose which of the two he will turn to. Like a railway signalman, you may either flash the light through the pure white glass or the darkly coloured one. You may either choose to look at everything through the medium of the sorrows that belong to time, or through the medium of the joys that flow from eternity. The question is, which of the two do we choose shall be uppermost in our hearts and give the colour to our experience. And then the text reminds us that the gladness which thus belongs to the Christian life is silent and a transfigured “joy unspeakable and glorified,” as the word might be rendered. “He is a poor man who can count his flock,” said the old Latin proverb. Those joys are on the surface that can be spoken. The deep river goes silently, with equable flow, to the great ocean; it is the little shallow brook that chatters amongst the pebbles. The true Christian joy is glorified, says Peter. The glory of heaven shines upon it and transfigures it. It is suffused and filled with the glory for which the Christian hopes, like Stephen when “God’s glory smote him on the face” and made it shine as an angel’s.

    II. The one great act by which this possibility of gladness is turned into a reality. “In Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing ye rejoice.” The act of faith is the condition of joy. Joy springs from the contemplation or experience of something calculated to excite it, and the more real, permanent, and all-sufficient that object the fuller and surer the joy. But where can we find such an object as Him with Whom we are brought into union by our faith? Jesus Christ is all-sufficient, full of pity, full of beauty and righteousness, all that we can desire-and all this forever. But mark, the language of our text shows that our gladness will be accurately contemporaneous with our trust. As long as we are exercising faith, so long shall we experience joy-not one instant longer. It is like a piano, whose note ceases the moment you lift your finger from the key-not like an organ, in which the sound persists for a time after.

    III. The gift which enhances joy. The exercise of faith is itself joy, apart from what faith secures. We stretch out our hands to Christ, and the act is blessedness. Faith is the condition of joy, and the salvation of our souls, which we receive as its end, is the great reason for joy. Salvation is past, present, and future. Here it is clearly regarded as present. That present salvation will be a source of pure and noble joy. If my heart is humbly and even tremulously resting upon Him, I have got, in the measure of my faith, the real germ of all salvation. What are the elements of which salvation consists? The fact and the sense of forgiveness to begin with. Well, I have that, have I not, if I trust Christ? A growing possession of pure desires, heaven-wrought tastes, of all that is called in the Bible “the new man”-well! I have that, surely, if I trust Him. Such progressive salvation is given to me if I am trusting in Him, “Whom, having not seen, I love.” All these will tend to joy. The present salvation points onwards to its own completion, and in that way becomes further a source of joy. In its depths we see reflected a blue heaven with many a star. The salvation here touches the soul alone, but salvation in its perfect form touches the body, soul, and spirit, and transforms all the outward nature to correspond to these and makes a worthy dwelling for perfected men. That prospect brings joy beyond the reach of aught else to afford. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

    Christian joy

    I. Its source.

    1. Belief in the unseen Christ is present joy because it creates harmony in the soul.

    2. Because it tills the heart with the deepest love.

    II. Its nature.

    1. It is inexpressible from the depth of its emotion.

    2. It is the earnest of the future heaven. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

    Believers rejoicing

    I. The Christian’s rejoicing. Joy belongs to them, and it belongs to them only in this lower world. Joy is their duty, their privilege; joy is commanded, promised, insured: their joy is begun.

    II. The source of this joy. There is enough in Christ to relieve every want, to fulfil every hope, to surpass every wish.

    III. The medium of this joy.

    1. Faith is the only medium of an acquaintance with Him.

    2. Faith is the medium of all our intercourse with Him.

    IV. The inexpressibleness of this joy. Who can describe its sweetness, its efficiency?

    V. The excellency of this joy. (W. Jay.)

    Rejoicing indicates strength

    Oh, that we might have such joy as that which inspired the men at the battle of Leuthen! They were singing a Christian song as they went into battle. A general said to the king, “Shall I stop those people singing? No,” said the king. “Men that can sing like that can fight.” (T. De Witt Talmage.)

    Joy unspeakable

    It were a poor thing if he that hath it could tell it all out. (T. Leighton.)

    Deep joys

    It is with joys as they say of cares and griefs, the deepest waters run stillest. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

    Heart joys

    True joy is a solid, grave thing, dwells more in the heart than in the face; whereas base and false joys are but superficial, skin deep (as we say); they are all in the face. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

    Glorified joys

    Glorified already-a piece of God’s kingdom and heaven’s happiness aforehand. (J. Trapp.)

    Glorious enjoyment

    When Mr. Simeon, of Cambridge, was dying, a friend sitting by his bedside asked of what he was particularly thinking. “I don’t think now,” he replied, with great animation. “I am enjoying.” (Tinlings Illustrations.)

    Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your soul.-

    The godly, by faith, do even here enjoy salvation

    The servants of God, by faith, do even here enjoy salvation and eternal life, even presently we have glory, though not in its fulness.

    1. Because we are as sure of it as if we had it, as having God’s hand for it, even His word, His seal, His sacrament.

    2. Because even here we have the earnest of it, which is His Spirit. When earnest is given between honest men there is no going back, and shall God say and not do it?

    3. Because by faith we are already entered into the first degree of it; being knit to Christ, and so perfectly justified, we are come to the suburbs of our glory, and are, as it were, at the gate, lacking nothing but to be let in by death. (John Rogers.)

    Your personal salvation

    (Psalms 119:41):-I shall aim at commending the salvation of God to those of you who possess it, that you may be the more grateful for your choice inheritance; and still more shall I labour to commend it to those who possess it not, that having some idea of the greatness of its value they may be stirred up to seek it for themselves.

    I. I shall try to commend the salvation or God by opening up what Peter has said in the verses before us.

    1. Let me urge you to give earnest heed to the salvation of God, because it is a salvation of grace (1 Peter 1:10). The Lord proposes to save you because you are miserable and He is merciful; because you are necessitous and He is bountiful.

    2. Again, your closest attention may well be asked to the salvation of God when you are told in the text that it is by faith. “Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” “All that believe are justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.” “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” “He that believeth in Him is not condemned.” “He that believeth on Him hath everlasting life.”

    3. The gospel of salvation ought to be regarded by you, for it has engrossed the thoughts of prophets. “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you.” If men that had the Holy Ghost, and were called “seers,” nevertheless searched into the meaning of the Word which they themselves spoke, what ought such poor things as we are to do in order to understand the gospel? It should be our delight to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the doctrines of grace. Furthermore, when prophecy had ceased, the Holy Spirit came upon another set of men of whom our text speaks. Peter says of these things, that they “are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.”

    4. The apostles followed the prophets in testifying to this salvation, and with the apostles there was an honourable fellowship of earnest evangelists and preachers. These noble bearers of glad tidings continued to report this salvation till they had finished their missions and their lives, and therefore I feel that for us in these times to trifle with God’s Word, and give a deaf ear to the invitations of the gospel, is an insult to their honoured memories. You martyr them a second time by contemptuously neglecting what they died to hand to you. From the dead they bear witness against you, and when they rise again they will sit with their Lord to judge you.

    5. Nor have we merely prophets and apostles looking on with wonder, but our text says, “Which things the angels desire to look into.” They take such an interest in us, their fellow creatures, that they have an intense wish to know all the mysteries of our salvation. We have already gone a long way with this text, rising step by step. We now behold another wonder: we rise to the angels’ Master.

    6. Christ is the substance of this salvation. For what saith the text? The prophets spake “beforehand of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.” Ah, there is the point. To save men Jesus suffered. One other step remains. It cannot be higher; it is on the same level. It is this.

    7. The Holy Ghost is the witness to all this. It was the Holy Ghost that spake in the prophets; it was the Holy Ghost who was with those who reported the gospel at the first; it is the same Holy Spirit who every day bears witness to Christ.

    II. So far have I commended my Lord’s salvation, and now I would desire you, with all this in your own minds, to turn to the prayer in the one hundred and nineteenth Psalm: “Let Thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even Thy salvation according to Thy word.” Use the prayer with this intent: Lord, I have been hearing what prophets and apostles and angels think of Thy salvation, what Thy Son and what Thy Spirit think of it; now let me humbly say what! think of it: Oh, that it were mine! Oh, that it would come to me!

    II. Thus, then, I would recommend the prayer of the psalmist.

    1. I will say about it, that it is in itself a very gracious prayer, for it is offered on right grounds.

    (1) There is no mention of merit or desert. His entreaty is for mercy only.

    (2) It is a gracious prayer, because it asks for the right thing: “even Thy salvation,” not a salvation of my own invention. God’s salvation is one in which His Divine sovereignty is revealed, and that sovereignty must be accepted and adored.

    (3) You see that the prayer is put in the right form, for it is added, “Even Thy salvation according to Thy Word.” He wishes to be saved in the manner which the Lord has appointed. Lord, if Thy Word says I must repent, give me Thy salvation, and cause me to repent; if Thy Word says that I must confess my sin, give me Thy salvation in the confession of sin; if Thou sayest I must trust to Christ, Lord, help me now to trust Him; only grant me Thy salvation according to Thy Word.

    (4) Observe that the whole prayer is conceived and uttered in a humble spirit. It is, “Let Thy salvation come also unto me.” He owns his helplessness. He cannot get at the mercy, he wants it to come to him. He is so wounded and so sick that he cannot put on the plaister nor reach the medicine, and therefore he asks the Lord to bring it to him.

    2. In the second place this prayer may be supported by gracious arguments. I will suppose some poor heart painfully longing to use this prayer. Here are arguments for you. Pray like this. Say, “Lord, let Thy mercy come to me, for I need mercy.” Next plead this; “Lord, Thou knowest, and Thou hast made me to know somewhat of what will become of me if Thy mercy does not come to me: I must perish, I must perish miserably.” Then plead, “If Thy mercy shall come to me it will be a great wonder, Lord. I have not the confidence to do more than faintly hope it may come; but, oh, if Thou dost ever blot out my sin I will tell the world of it; through eternity I will sing Thy praises, and claim to be of all the saved ones the most remarkable instance of what Thy sovereign grace can do.” Then you can put this to the good Saviour. Tell Him if He will give you His salvation, He will not be impoverished by the gift. “Lord, I am a thirsty soul; but Thou art such a river that if I drink from Thee there will be no fear of my exhausting Thy boundless supply.” There is another plea implied in the prayer, and a very sweet argument it is-“Let Thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord.” It means: “It has come to so many before, therefore let it come also unto me. Lord, if I were the only one, and Thou hadst never saved a sinner before, yet would I venture upon Thy word and promise. Especially I would come and trust the blood of Jesus: but, Lord, I am not the first by many millions. I beseech Thee, then, of Thy great love, let Thy salvation come unto me.”

    3. I will close by assuring you that this blessedly gracious prayer, which I have helped to back up with arguments, will be answered by our gracious God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

    Salvation the end of faith

    I. Consider the article saved-the soul, the deathless spirit by which we are distinguished from the beasts that perish.

    1. Its origin. “The Lord God breathed into man the breath of life.” The body was composed of what existed before; but the soul that animated it came immediately from God.

    2. Its immortality. Earthly possessions are estimated according to their duration. These bodies of ours must soon go to the dust; but the soul shall exist through endless duration. What, then, can be of so much importance as the salvation of the soul?

    II. What does this salvation include?

    1. Redemption from the curse of the law. This is the first step in the way to heaven.

    2. This salvation includes personal meetness. We must be renewed in the spirit of our minds.

    III. Observe the connection between faith and salvation. When the Christian dies he receives the end of his faith. How is this to be understood? In the verse before the text the apostle mentions “believing” as the cause of joy. The whole end and object of faith is the salvation of the soul. The Scriptures place this principle in a most prominent position (John 3:18-36). (American National Preacher.)

    Salvation-its subjective elements

    I. Faith. “In whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing.”

    1. Faith is the first Christian grace. Without it you are no Christian at all.

    2. This faith is a personal trust in a personal Saviour. It is more than intellectual assent, even heart-reliance.

    3. This faith was, moreover, a faith in an invisible Saviour. “In whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing.”

    II. Love. “Whom, having not seen, ye love.”

    1. Love is one essential element of the Christian religion. This it is indeed which distinguishes the Christian religion from the other religions of the world.

    2. Our supreme love. His place in our affection is unique-He enjoys a love deeper, profounder, more lasting, than that of father or mother, of brother or sister.

    3. These strangers of the Dispersion evinced their supreme love of the Saviour by suffering themselves to be despoiled of all their possessions rather than deny Him. Their love was sorely tested.

    III. Joy. “Ye rejoice,” etc.

    1. Joy is an essential element in the religion of Jesus Christ; not joy to the exclusion of sorrow, lint joy in the midst thereof.

    2. This joy not only defies philosophy to explain it, but language to express it-“joy unspeakable,” that cannot be told out.

    (1) The innermost joy of the Christian’s heart is too Divine a thing, of too delicate a texture, to be exposed to the curious, unhallowed view of worldlings. And we all know of experiences too sacred, too precious and sweet, to be exposed to every gazer’s eyes.

    (2) The joy which wells up in the Christian’s heart cannot be conveyed in language, being too subtle and volatile a thing, evaporating in the very attempt to pour it from the heart into the bottles of grammatical construction.

    3. This joy is “full of glory,” or already glorified.

    (1) The inner centre of this joy is already white and glowing.

    (2) This joy has the evidence in itself of its ultimate glorification in the world to come. The process has been begun here, it will be perfected yonder. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

    Soul salvation

    I. The great worth of soul salvation. This is seen from-

    1. The illustrious beings interested in it.

    (1) Prophets.

    (2) Angels.

    (3) Apostles.

    (4) The Spirit of Christ in them all.

    2. The Saviour Himself by whom salvation comes.

    (1) His sufferings.

    (2) His following glories.

    II. The gradual development of the revelation for soul salvation.

    1. Predicted by the prophets.

    (1) Gradually and partially.

    (2) Unconsciously.

    (3) By Divine illumination.

    2. Fully declared, announced, and reported.

    III. The simple means of attaining soul salvation.

    1. Salvation is-

    (1) The thing for which we believe.

    (2) The end to which belief leads.

    2. This faith is-

    (1) Assent of the mind.

    (2) Consent of the heart.

    (3) Response of the will. (U. R. Thomas.)

    Salvation as it is now received

    I. What of salvation is received here?

    1. The whole of it by the grip of faith and the grace of hope.

    2. The absolute and final pardon of sin is ours at this moment.

    3. Deliverance from slavish bondage, and from a sense of awful distance from God is a present relief. Peace, reconciliation, contentment, fellowship with God, and delight in God, we enjoy at this hour.

    4. Rescue from the condemning power of sin is now complete.

    5. Release from its dominion is ours. It can no longer command us at its will, nor lull us to sleep by its soothing strains.

    6. Conquest over evil is given to us in great measure at once. Sins are conquerable. Holy living is possible. Some have reached a high degree of it.

    7. Joy may become permanent in the midst of sorrow.

    II. How is it received?

    1. Entirely from Jesus, as a gift of Divine grace.

    2. By faith, not by sight or feeling.

    3. By fervent love to God. This excites to revenge against sin, and so gives present purification. This also nerves us for consecrated living, and thus produces holiness.

    4. By joy in the Lord. This causes us to receive peace unspeakable, not to be exaggerated, nor even uttered.

    III. Have you received it, and how much?

    1. You have heard of salvation, but hearing will not do.

    2. You profess to know it, but mere profession will not do.

    3. Have you received pardon? Are you sure of it?

    4. Have you been made holy? Are you daily cleansed in your walk?

    5. Have you obtained rest by faith and hope and love? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

    The greatness of salvation

    A German writer illustrates the greatness of our salvation after this manner. A gentleman, after the most exemplary life, died. The gate of heaven was opened, and he was welcomed as an heir of glory. One of the glorious ones was commissioned to be his conductor and teacher. First he took him to a point where he could see the most fearful representation of sin in its fruits of misery. The objects of horror made him shudder. Then his guide bade him look farther and farther down in the dismal vault, and he saw the most hideous and terrible of beings, the fruit of sin. “That,” said his guide, “is what in ages of eternity you would have been had you gone on in sin.” His guide next took him to a point from which could be seen the glories of the redeemed. He saw rank after rank of angels, seraphim, and cherubim, dwelling in ineffable glory. He bade him look beyond these; and in the far distance he beheld a being transcendently more radiant and glorious, around whom floated the soft music of unspeakable sweetness and joy. “That,” said the guide, “is yourself many ages hence. Behold the glory and bliss to which the salvation of Jesus will bring you.”

  • 1 Peter 1:10-12 open_in_new

    Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently.

    Salvation-the central subject of sturdy

    I. The prophets as examples to us in the study of salvation.

    1. The intensity of their study. The word here translated “searched” is used by classic authors to describe hounds scouring the country to discover their prey. We read the Bible more from idle frivolous curiosity than from a sincere deep-rooted wish to catch a view of the blessed Messiah moving in Divine stateliness through its histories and doctrines. Another striking similitude is suggested-that of anxious miners excavating for gold. Two young men catch the gold fever; despite the tearful entreaties of parents, they resolve to emigrate to Australia. The first morning after their arrival they rise earlier and with less difficulty than they ever did at home, shoulder their tools, and start eagerly for the much-coveted quarries. They dig, loosen a portion of the rock, pick up the stones. Observe how carefully they examine them to see if there be perceptible a slight golden tinge, just enough to feed hope; and if they discover a grain or two of gold, how the discovery cheers their hearts, nerves their arms, and transfigures their countenances! Similarly the holy men of the Jewish Church dug into the fields of Divine revelation, scanned verse after verse, dissected the sacrifices and analysed the prophecies, in order to possess a few grains of truth, a little refined gold.

    2. The subject of their study-salvation. Not “after which salvation,” but “of which, concerning which.” This is one difference between heathen philosophers and Jewish prophets: the former inquired after salvation without finding it, whereas the latter possessed salvation to start with, and possessing it they had no need to search after it, but concerning it and into it. And our first concern should be to possess salvation, to be in a state of personal safety through faith in the Redeemer. Then we may at our leisure institute investigations concerning it and into it.

    3. The noble spirit of resignation they evinced in presence of intellectual difficulties which they were not able to surmount. They inquired diligently; but they understood but little.

    II. The apostles as examples to us in the proclamation of the gospel.

    1. The subject matter of their ministry. “The things now reported unto you”-what things? “The sufferings of Christ and the glory which should follow.” These are the only things worthy of a Christian pulpit.

    2. The manner of their preaching. “The things reported.” The things invented, devised, imagined? Oh no; the apostles were not inventors, but reporters; not poets, but historians; not philosophers, but witnesses. They were simply reporters, narrating, each one in his own way, the memorable events of that wonderful biography. And do they not furnish us with a much needed example?

    3. The power which accompanied their preaching-“with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.” Just as much electricity exists latent in the air on a serene, tranquil day as on a day of tempest when thunders roar and lightnings flash. What, then, is the difference? Not in the amount of electricity, but in the fact that in certain conditions of the atmosphere the electricity flashes into visibility, the latent fire bursts forth into flame. Similarly the Holy Spirit is as truly present in the Church today as in seasons of remarkable revivals, now as in the days of Whitfield, Wesley, and Rowlands. What is wanted is-for the Spirit to make His presence felt, for the Divine electricity to flash forth into lightnings. Pray for His manifestation; and then the weakest preacher among the tribes will be as the house of David, and the house of David as the angel of God.

    III. The angels an example to us in the wonder and adoration that should fill our minds in the contemplation of this salvation.

    1. What are the things here referred to? The answer is obvious-the same things which the prophets predicted and the apostles proclaimed. The burden of the study as of the song of these celestial beings is-“the Lamb that was slain.” And if redemption in its various phases receives the attention and homage of angels, is it not deserving of our devout and worshipful meditation?

    2. Into these things the angels desire to look. The word, it is said, might be rendered a little differently “into which things the angels desire to look,” to look askance, to look one side as it were over the shoulder. What, then, is the idea? That salvation fronts not the angels, who consequently have to stretch the neck and look aside, as it were round the corners, to catch a glimpse of its glory. But so enraptured are they with the beauty they behold that they strive to see more and more, crowding into the churches to learn what they may of the “manifold”-many-coloured-“wisdom of God.” No; salvation does not front the angels, but it fairly and fully fronts the children of men. Shall we front it? What is our attitude towards it today? Have we our backs or our faces towards this salvation? His face is towards us; are our faces towards Him? (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

    The gospel meridian

    St. Peter here exalts the nature of that glorious reward which is to be the end of tried and purified faith-the salvation of the soul.

    I. Unfulfilled desires. This is a world of desire. We all crave for something we have not got. We crave for possessions and we crave for knowledge.

    1. Noblest desires are often unattained. It is not every one who seeks for selfish pleasure. What could have been a more noble aspiration than that of the prophets of old to realise the salvation of which they prophesied? They proclaimed a blessedness which, after diligent search, they discovered was not for themselves to enjoy. How often does God put a limit even to our highest aspirations! One has sought to gain a high knowledge of gospel truth; but his health has broken down. A missionary, in the full possession of manhood and strength, is murdered, and his work apparently crushed. It is the Lord’s doing, but it seems strange in our eyes.

    2. Legitimate curiosity, when exerted, affords scant satisfaction. It might be in accordance with human nature to inquire particularly into the plans and purposes of God; but the prophets of old expended their curiosity in vain. There is little purpose in investigating too closely the hidden purposes of God. God expects us to do His work, and not to inquire very minutely into the motives or ends of that work.

    II. Unenlightened instrumentalities. The prophets had to inquire respecting the salvation. We have here brought before us one of the mysteries connected with Divine work.

    1. God’s instrumentalities are not perfect, it is not necessary that they should be so. The world expects the ministers of the gospel to explain all God’s purposes, all the Divine plans, and to lay bare the whole current of future events. But even the prophets of old were not altogether wise.

    2. God’s instrumentalities do not always possess that which they announce to others.

    III. Unappreciated attainment. It is evident that the apostle introduces the desire of the prophets and the desire of the angels to realise the mysteries of revelation, not out of mere aimless illustration, but to remind his people of the little interest they felt, and at the same time to arouse in them a spirit of emulation. But how do we act with regard to them? Do we sell all that we have in order to make them ours? Do we sacrifice every thing else to enjoy them? Alas! the characters, and energy, and desire, and love of those who only had a shadow of good things to come ought to cause us to lie low with shame, and to pray for the stirring influence of the Holy Spirit to prick our thankless and unappreciative souls. (J. J. S. Bird.)

    The value of the Old Testament

    1. Let me caution you against the ignorant frivolity which, professing to reverence the Scriptures of the New Testament, speaks slightingly of those of the Old. As well may you sever the light of the meridian from its dawn; or, cutting a sunbeam in two, retain only the nearer portion.

    2. Another popular conceit of our day is, that there is but little use in studying the prophetic Word of God, or, at least, beyond what lies on the surface. This, you perceive, was not the temper of the prophets: They “diligently inquired and searched.” Into these things “angels long to gaze.”

    3. If such be the interest felt by all that is wisest and holiest in earth and heaven, in whatever concerns the redemption of man, alas for those to whom this great salvation itself is offered, and who yet choose to live and die in the neglect of it!

    4. Let the afflicted children of God take comfort from the consideration of what was foretold, and has been fulfilled, in regard to God’s own Well-Beloved, the Author and Finisher of their faith, to whose image it is God’s purpose, and the dearest ambition of their hearts, that they shall be in all things conformed. (J. Lillie, D. D.)

    The Bible as a grand moral painting

    I. The extraordinary subject. What is the subject? “The sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.” Open this Book, spread out its pages, and what have you? A wide-spread canvas, on which is displayed this one great subject in every hue and form. This picture is divided into two parts. At one end you have “the sufferings of Christ”; at the other end “the glory arising out of these sufferings.” The side on which the sufferings are depicted is full of incident, yet in dark shade. There you see the Babe. In one part, you see Him lying in a manger; in another, in the temple undergoing the painful rite of circumcision; and in another, in the arms of His affrighted mother fleeing into Egypt. But on the other end of the picture you have a striking contrast. Here is “the glory that follows.” Here you see Him rising from the grave as the conqueror of death, the Prince of Life, and ascending to heaven amidst the rapturous shouts of an exulting creation. What glory will rise out of these sufferings! What new manifestations of God! What new motives to virtue! What new thrills of joy! Amongst the lessons which this extraordinary picture suggests we may mention three:-

    1. The malignant animus of sin. What produced these sufferings of Christ that you see depicted here? Sin.

    2. The benign tendency of the Divine government. Glory comes out of these sufferings; good is educed from evil. This is God’s work. As out of sin comes suffering, out of suffering shall come glory.

    3. The issue of suffering virtue. The sufferings of Christ were the sufferings of virtue; and they issued in glory. And so it will ever be. Goodness, however persecuted and afflicted, shall yet ascend the throne.

    II. The distinguished artists. Who are the men that drew this wonderful picture? The text speaks of two classes; The prophets who prophesied of the “grace that should come unto you”; and the apostles who “reported.” The prophets drew the dim and shadowy outline. The other class of artists are the apostles. “The things” concerning Christ which the prophets “did minister,” the apostles “reported”; they “reported” them when they preached the gospel “with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.” The apostles, as artists, had an advantage over the prophets: they had those outlines of our Saviour’s history which the old prophets had drawn. And they had in connection with this, the living subject, Christ. He had appeared amongst them, they had seen Him, and talked with Him. They therefore tilled up the outlines of the picture which the old prophets had drawn.

    III. The inspiring genius. All real art implies genius. Genius to conceive the true and to embody it-creative and executive genius. Who was the inspiring genius of this painting? Peter tells us that in the prophets’ case it was “the Spirit of Christ that was in them”; and in the apostles’ case, “the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.” This appears clear from the very nature of the work. Before a being can draw a correct picture of another he must have two things-a correct image of the subject in his own mind, and the proper skill correctly to transfer that image to the canvas.

    1. The character of the subject. How did the prophets and apostles get a conception of Him whom they here depict?-a character so thoroughly unique, so entirely adverse to a priori impression and observation too! The highest virtue associated with the greatest suffering; the most despised man in personal connection with God. Things so contrary meeting in the same one life, render the idea of man creating such a history out of his own imagination all but absurd. The “Spirit of Christ,” within them, gave them an image of some strange personage, but they knew not of whom.

    2. The method of execution. A man may form a correct image of a person, and yet lack the artistic skill to transfer it to the canvas. The execution of the subject is, indeed, as unique as the conception. All mere human art is labour; effort is seen in every touch. But these men, in a few simple words about what they saw and heard, present the hero life-like in every point. The “Spirit of Christ” that was in them, not only drew to their imagination the manifold aspect of His own being, but guided their pencil in every line, to portray the same. In human productions, both in literature and art, the author generally appears, and some times is offensively prominent. But not so here.

    IV. The illustrious spectators. “Into which things the angels desire to look.” But why should they be so interested in it?

    1. Because it is suited to excite their intellectual natures. Anything extraordinary has a power to rouse the inquiring faculty.

    2. Because it is suited to excite their religious natures. To a devout spirit nothing is more interesting or attractive than a manifestation of God.

    3. Because it is suited to excite their benevolent natures.

    V. The glorious purpose.

    1. Look at the universality of the purpose. “Not for themselves,” but “unto us they did minister these things.”

    2. Look at the blessedness of the purpose. “Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” (D. Thomas, D. D.)

    The study of salvation

    I. First, that the doctrine of salvation of God’s people is a subject able to fill the contemplation of the divinest and wisest men. The prophets have a subject able to fill them; yea, more than they are able to conceive of to the full, which may serve for two uses. First, for humiliation, that we should be so barren-hearted and able to conceive so little of so Divine a subject. Secondly, for singular consolation to the godly. For by this it appeareth that they have an admirable portion in that such worthy men so much admire it.

    II. Secondly, that as any have more grace, so they are more heartily affected with the estimation and desire after the salvation of God’s elect. Certainly, so long as we can admire anything more than the grace of God to His people, our hearts are void of grace.

    III. Thirdly, that when we go about anything that concerns salvation, especially our own salvation, we should here learn of the prophets to do it with all diligence. There are three sorts of men Satan doth in the Church bewitch.

    1. The first are they that will take no pains at all, nor trouble themselves to study about their religion and what belongs to their souls.

    2. The second are they that, though they will study diligently, yet it is in by-studies, as matters of controversy, or the general knowledge of religion, or matter that may fit them for discourse, or the like.

    3. Now a third sort there are that will not be drawn aside from the needfulest studies, as repentance, assurance, order of life, etc., but their fault is that they study not these diligently. For they soon give over and finish not their works either of mortification, or sanctification, or illumination, or preparation for salvation. (N. Byfield.)

    Salvation explored

    I. The party of explorers.

    1. Who they were-“the prophets.”

    2. Divinely commissioned. “The Lord of Hosts hath spoken it.”

    3. Divinely guided. “What manner of time the Spirit of Christ, which was in them, did signify.”

    II. The ground explored. “Salvation.”

    1. The limits of the field. “So great salvation.” “Eternal salvation.”

    2. The nature and object of their labours. “Who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you.”

    III. The spirit in which the exploration was conducted.

    1. A longing to discover salvation.

    2. Mental activity. “Searched,” etc.

    3. The work was continuous. “Diligently.”

    4. Scrutiny. “Searching what, and what manner of time,” etc.

    IV. The meritorious centre of this explored salvation. “The sufferings of Christ.”

    1. It centres itself in a person.

    2. In a Divine person.

    3. In a suffering person.

    V. Their explorations carried the prophets to the grand reward of Christ’s sufferings. “And the glory that should follow.” (John Edwards.)

    The Scriptures sufficient for salvation

    A worthy sufferer of the name of Hawkes was under examination before one of Bonner’s chaplains, of whom he ventured to inquire, “Is not the Scripture sufficient for my salvation?” “Yes,” replied the chaplain; “it is sufficient for our salvation, but not for our instruction.” “Well, then,” rejoined the honest but quaint martyr, “God send me salvation, and take you the instruction.”

    Searching what … the Spirit of Christ … did signify-

    The Spirit of Christ and the prophets

    The testimony of the Spirit in the prophets was-

    I. To Christ Jesus. While the world sinned and slept, Infinite Love prepared its Saviour.

    II. To the sufferings of Christ. The theme of all Spirit-taught ministers.

    III. To the glory that should follow (R.V., glories). Christ’s glories are-

    1. The well-earned reward of His griefs.

    2. The majestic and fitting con summation of His mediatorial course; incomparable in its humiliation; peerless in its purity; and merging into the splendour of the final glory.

    3. They mark the full approbation and delight in Him of the Eternal Father, sealing redemption with sublime approval.

    4. They are the consolation of God, angels, and men. We never could have forgiven the Cross if the crown had not followed.

    5. The Illuminated Gateway of the saints’ eternity. “With Me where I am, that they may behold My glory.”

    6. A blessed counterpart to His sorrows. Sufferings balanced with glories. For “sin” and “curse,” mediatorial holiness upon essential holiness.

    7. They “followed” and forever follow. When Calvary shall be seen far back like a distant ruddy star, the glory shall still spread around and onward, a measure less sea of brightness. (W. B. Haynes.)

    Testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ.

    The sufferings of Christ

    I. The sufferings of Christ.

    1. The person that suffered was God, and also man.

    2. The nature and extent of His sufferings. Corporeal and mental.

    3. The persons for whom the sufferings of Christ were endured.

    4. The design for which Christ suffered. That He might finish transgression, and make an end of sin.

    II. The glory that should follow. (The Congregational Pulpit.)

    The glory that should follow.-

    Three degrees of Christ’s glory

    1. His resurrection.

    2. His ascension.

    3. He shall one day come unto judgment, and bring all His servants to His glory. (John Rogers.)

    Through afflictions believers come to glory

    But how shall we come to glory? Even by the same way that our Head hath gone before us, by sufferings. It follows-

    1. That afflictions or persecutions are no ill sign, but rather of the way to heaven and glory; it should encourage us to suffer, seeing glory follows; and a great reward ensues thereupon.

    2. That those who will suffer no affliction nor persecution for Christ and the gospel, but shifting themselves therefrom, aim at the glory of the world, are not in the way to glory, but shame hereafter will be their portion. (John Rogers.)

    Not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister.-

    Unselfish ministry

    Such is the Divine interpretation of the prophet’s work. Their ministry was not for themselves, but for a later age. They must bear the burden of perplexity and disappointment, of hope deferred and doubts unresolved, in the sure confidence that others would enter into their labours. And, indeed, such confidence brings all the light which we need for courageous endurance. The crown of service is to know that the service, barren, perhaps, for the moment, will bear fruit in after time. Thus the words of the apostle are a voice of encouragement to all who catch a distant and interrupted vision of the later fulfilment of God’s will. “Not unto themselves, but unto you” this is the judgment which history addresses to us in recording the toils and aims of those to whom we owe our splendid inheritance in our national Church. They gave their best in thought and deed to the cause of God, and left the using to His wisdom. Now I wish to speak of our debt to the future. For, as we contemplate our gathered treasures, we cannot but ask to what use we shall put them, and so we pass on to the wider question of the office which we are called to fulfil for our children. The progress of human life imposes the duty of large forethought on each such succeeding generation with ever-increasing force. Thought advances with accelerated motion. We may check or we may further the expression of the vital energy. We may, by wilful and impatient self-assertion, delay the end which even in our ignorance we desire; or we may by wise humility become in perfect devotion fellow workers with God. Under this aspect the work of the Church is prophetic. Its ministers are set to provide that under every change of circumstances the Divine idea of life shall be presented in confortuity with the circumstances under which it must be realised; to watch with dispassionate regard the currents of popular thought that they may prepare a natural welcome for fresh voices of the spirit; to guard, to develop that which in the Divine order will be the ruling idea of the next generation.

    1. There is, I say, already among us a final perception of the unity of creation which it will be the health of our children to realise-a unity in Christ. Many of us have watched from the beginning the progress of the physical conceptions of the conservation and transformation of energy. We have apprehended with increasing clearness that nothing in the universe is isolated, and that we ourselves enter into all of which we are conscious.

    2. There is again among us a growing acknowledgment of the unity of society which it will be the strength of our children to realise-a unity in Christ. Every one speaks of the present tendency towards democracy. The idea of democracy is not, if we look below the surface, so much a form of government as a confession of human brotherhood. It is the confession of common duties, common aims, common responsibilities.

    3. There is yet more among us a feeling after a unity of humanity, a vaster, fuller, enduring human life, which it will be the joy of our children to realise-a unity in Christ. Such thoughts as these of an unrealised unity felt to be attainable, felt to correspond with the idea of creation given back to us in redemption, answer to the spirit of the age. They are in the air. They foreshow, that is, the truths which in the fulfilment of the Divine order are offered to us by the Holy Spirit. It is for the Church in the fulfilment of its prophetic office, even with imperfect and troubled knowledge, to welcome them, to give them shape, and to transmit them to the next age for the guidance and inspiration of its work. The truths lie, as I have said, in the gospel of the Incarnation. The urgent problems, the very dangers which rise before us, disclose in the central fact of all life-the Word became flesh-new depths of wisdom and consolation. We do not yet know the end-we have no power to know it-but we know the way-even Christ, who is able to subdue all things unto Himself. In that Presence we confess that the world is not a factory, or a warehouse, or a paradise of delights, but a sanctuary in which God’s glory can be recognised and His voice still heard. But in spite of every burden of toil, of ignorance, of weariness, of suffering laid on sinful man, it is a sanctuary, full of the glory of God, in which each believer offers the worship of life and the sacrifice of his whole being. This light, this larger significance of things, this heavenly splendour of earth, this sense of opportunity, is even now borne in upon us on many sides, and it is the prophetic office of the Church to discern the signs of the fresh dayspring from on high, and prepare her sons to use the lessons of the new order. (Bp. Westcott.)

    Living for future generations

    Sometimes in worldly things this thought of living for a future generation comes with startling effect upon a worldly man. “What am I toiling and moiling for? I shall soon be dead and gone, and these houses, lands, estates, debentures, shares, what not, will be for others!” Even in this there may be some far off touch of the Divine; for such men sometimes live in this respect unselfish lives-not for them the enjoyment of those soft luxuries they are gathering about them, but for their children and children’s children. Not to themselves they minister-and so far we say there may be some soul of good even in this; only let us all remember that the best heritage we can ever leave to our children is that of a wise, pious, charitable example. (T. C. Finlayson.)

    Unselfish ministries self-remunerative

    The true preachers of the gospel, though their ministerial gifts are for the use of others, yet that salvation they preach they lay hold on and partake of themselves, as your boxes wherein perfumes are kept for garments and other uses, are themselves perfumed by keeping them! (T. Leighton.)

    Which things the angels desire to look into.-

    The doctrine of salvation, the study of angels

    I. The nature of the truth affirmed.

    1. The object of inquiry is-salvation and its concomitants: a salvation which consists in deliverance from condemnation, from the love and power of sin, and in restoration to peace and happiness; a salvation revealed in the Scriptures; a salvation the subject of prophecy; a salvation which, both in respect to its nature and the time of its accomplishment, engaged the most serious attention of the prophets; a salvation which rests, not on the merit or power of many, but on the grace of God; a salvation effected by the sufferings, death, and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    2. The persons engaged in this inquiry. The angels do not partake of body, nor organic eye, nor ear, nor other sense, yet they have powers equivalent to these faculties, even increased and extended; for they are represented as knowing the interior as well as the surface of things. They are as powerful as they are wise. They have been corrupted by no apostasy from God. They are true, just, benevolent, devout, they glorify God, and thereby completely answer the ends of their creation. They are, at the same time, as happy as they are good; they feel no pain, know no want; their perceptions are all pleasant, thoughts all elevated, employments all dignified.

    3. The manner in which they conduct this inquiry. They “desire to look into” them. Looking is a species or modification of seeing. It implies seeing, but it includes more. In seeing, the mind is often in a considerable degree passive; an object is brought before the eye, and it must be seen, although it may not be considered or attended to. In looking, the mind is not only active, but it puts forth all its powers with energy. The object is not brought to it, but it is sought for; and when it is found the eye is directed towards it, and kept fixed upon it, to the exclusion of other objects. When we speak of seeing, as applied to the mind, it means apprehension or discovery. Nothing is so laborious and fatiguing to the mind as fixed, intense thought; and very great must be the importance or charms of an object which can engage it. But such is the importance and such are the charms of the things of salvation to angels, that they not only bend their capacious minds to this subject, and prosecute it with fixed, intense, and eager thought, but they consider it as an object of pleasure; for they not only look, but they desire to look into the things which pertain to salvation.

    II. The credibility of this truth. It naturally excites surprise when we are told that angels, who have no immediate connection with salvation, should leave their native employments to investigate it with so much earnestness and solicitude. This, however, upon reflection, will be found to be a fact as reasonable as it is true.

    1. The things which pertain to salvation form an object the contemplation of which is peculiarly adapted to the capacities of angels. In the salvation of Christ there is a new revelation of God; a new display of Divine character and attributes; not to be discovered in any other thing or in any other way within the whole compass of the universe of God. An object so completely adapted to the talents and to the duties of angels imposes obligations upon them to inquire into its nature and properties, which without blame, they could not neglect.

    2. The things which pertain to salvation form an object which is peculiarly calculated to attract the notice of angels. They, in visiting, age after age, the utmost bounds of the creation of God, must have seen mighty wonders unknown to man; yet, after all, there is something, if I may so express myself, in the nature and texture, in the magnitude and utility of salvation, which has not its equal in the whole universe of God. It is this, therefore, that justly attracts their notice, and leads them to bend their mighty minds to the investigation of a subject so singularly astonishing.

    3. The things which pertain to salvation form an object the knowledge of which will be highly beneficial to angels. It reveals to them new attributes, and discovers new glories in the Divine character; it increases their piety and devotion; it will afford them new employments, and add to their usefulness; it will enable them to discharge better the duties of their high office of ministering to the heirs of salvation; and it will give them a sweeter voice and a loftier tone in performing the heavenly song, which ascribes blessing and power and dominion to Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever.

    4. The things which pertain unto salvation form an object in attending to which angels serve God. When angels trace in salvation evidences of wisdom, power, and glory, far superior to those which appear in the other works of God; when they admire the wonderful events of the incarnation, atonement, and redemption, these new things which have happened in the earth, their reverence and love towards the Divine Being are thereby increased; they render homage to the Son of God; and, in so doing, they obey the commandment which God hath given; for when He brought His First Begotten into the world, He said, “Let all the angels of God worship Him”; and thus they serve Him with increasing diligence and zeal.

    III. The utility of this truth.

    1. It is calculated to rescue the doctrine of salvation from unworthy treatment, Yes! angels are captivated by the doctrines of salvation which men presume to neglect.

    2. It should give the doctrine of salvation dignity in the eyes of men.

    3. It indicates the manner in which the doctrine of salvation should be studied.

    4. It should encourage perseverance in endeavouring to attain the knowledge of the doctrine of salvation.

    5. The greatness of the privileges of those to whom the knowledge of salvation is offered. Jesus Christ is emphatically styled in the Scriptures the unspeakable gift of God; and surely to attain the knowledge of salvation through Him, must be the most important privilege that possibly can be enjoyed. (J. C. Jones. D. D.)

    Redemption, a study to the angels

    It cannot but be deemed remarkable that we should be so isolated from the rest of the universe. Here are millions of orbs brought within the range of our vision by the telescope. We cannot doubt that they are the abodes of rational creatures. Yet of the races that tenant these countless worlds we know absolutely nothing. One race only besides our own is introduced to us: and of that, the notices are quite too meagre to satisfy us. We see just enough of the angels to wish to see a great deal more. We “desire to look” into their affairs, as they into ours. We are on safe ground in ascribing to them superior intelligence and ample knowledge. But the knowledge of a creature, whatever his rank, must necessarily be progressive. The angels, like ourselves, must learn things by the event-excepting when God may have been pleased to reveal His purposes to them. But, except through some special revelation, of which we have no hint, it was impossible they should foresee the extraordinary transactions which were to distinguish this orb from all the others scattered through the wide fields of space. From the very first, however, the Divine procedure on this planet would arrest their attention. How would it astonish them to witness the temptation. They had seen Satan and his fellow apostates cast down to hell: and yet he is now permitted to come to this newborn world, and to appropriate one of the lower animals to the atrocious purpose of seducing the happy pair from their allegiance. Is it fanciful to imagine that this event would fill the angels with amazement? that they would say one to another, “How can these things be?” But something no less inexplicable would now inflame their curiosity. They had heard the threatening, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” It came from lips which could not lie. And yet Adam and Eve do not “die,”-i.e., they do not, on their transgression, “return to the dust,” nor are they banished into outer darkness. Whether this was intelligible to them we do not know. The fall occurred before the birth of Cain. We are not certain that the angels had ever seen an infant. Among their own race we may with confidence affirm they had not. The difference between our race and their own, in this particular, could not fail to interest them. They were all created in the full maturity of their powers. In some way the seed of this woman is to bruise the serpent’s head. Obscure as this intimation must have been, as well to the angels as to the guilty pair, it would unveil to them a new attribute of the Godhead. Up to this period, it would seem, they had known nothing of the Divine mercy. Its absence could be no defect in their eyes, for the idea of mercy was not yet born into the universe of creatures. What a discovery was this which now broke upon them! Truth, justice, goodness, holiness-with these attributes they were familiar. But of mercy they had never heard. Enfolded in the depths of His own infinitude, she had been from eternity awaiting the appointed day of her epiphany, her glorious manifestation to heaven and earth get even now that the period has come, she does not rise full-orbed upon the world, but mild and gentle, like the dawn, as befits the quality of mercy. But this shall suffice for angelic eyes. Though mercy never spake before, she needs no interpreter. These occurrences could not fail to stimulate the curiosity of the angels. They would watch with deep solicitude the course of the Divine administration towards our world. They would treasure every fresh intimation of the future deliverance to be effected by the seed of the woman. The presumption is, that during those forty centuries it was a perpetual study to them; and that as the beneficent scheme was gradually developed, it only increased their desire to look into its unfathomable mysteries.

    1. The first and chief of these is, to quote St. Pear’s own words, “the sufferings of Christ”: by which we may understand His entire work of humiliation from Bethlehem to Calvary. We must believe that the angels knew, long before the advent, that the Second Person of the Trinity was to be the Redeemer of the world. But it is not certain that they had any distinct conception of the Incarnation. “Great is the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh.” How could they have penetrated this mystery beforehand? There was neither precedent nor analogy to aid them in resolving it. Accustomed as they were to render co-equal honours to the Trinity, and especially to adore the Son in “the possession of the glory which He had with the Father before the world was,” how could they think of Him as stooping to be “born of a woman,” as coming into this revolted world as an infant, blending His Divinity and our humanity in an indissoluble unity? Imagine what a season of suspense those thirty years must have been to them which Jesus passed at Nazareth. How often would they visit the favoured village. In what vast encampments would they spread around it. As He emerged from His seclusion to enter upon His public ministry, their interest would become deeper and deeper still, until it found its culmination in the Cross.

    2. Not only would the angels desire to look into the “sufferings of Christ,” but into the application of redemption also. They were familiar with two types of character, perfect holiness and unmitigated depravity; and with two conditions of being, unalloyed happiness and absolute misery. Neither their own history nor, so far as we are informed, the annals of any other sphere supplied them with any example of a character in which these elements were commingled, or afforded any hint of a possible transition from one state to the other. They knew nothing of forgiveness, nothing of renewal. The sacrifice on Calvary now opens to them a new world, on earth as well as in heaven. They had, indeed, seen something of this before, for the efficacy of the great expiation reached backward to the fall. But its triumph was reserved for the new dispensation. And here they see His miracles of mercy-not less marvellous in their effects upon the souls of men than had been those of the Messiah upon their bodies. There must be much in the history of individual believers to awaken their sympathies, but still more in the general welfare of the Church. We may be sure that things have not always gone as they expected: that events have constantly occurred which were well nigh as inexplicable to them as to us. Must it not be a marvel to them that the Church, the purchase of Christ’s blood, should have made its way so slowly and so painfully in the world? that at one time it should be poisoned With error; at another, frozen with formalism; at a third, debauched with secularity; at a fourth, fissured and rent with internal strife?

    3. Here, in fact, is another of the themes which stimulate the curiosity of the angels, “the glories which should follow.” They have seen the “sufferings of Christ”: they would fain see His glory. They have seen-they see now-the sufferings of His Church: they would see its glory. They can, no doubt, frame a better conception of them than we can. And this very circumstance must increase their solicitude to witness the final result. They saw the first faint lineament of the august plan in Eden. They see also the preparation for it which is going on in heaven. No wonder that they long for its sublime consummation. If we inquire whence this curiosity on their part, we may easily conjecture some of the motives which prompt it.

    (1) Without dwelling upon that simple craving after knowledge which pertains to every created intelligence, we may refer to the aid which the angels derive from redemption in their study of the character and government of God. To any creature the knowledge of the Creator is the most important of all knowledge. To holy beings, no study can be so attractive. The angels, as already observed, have signal advantages for this study. But there is no volume open to them which yields so much information concerning God as redemption. Heaven cannot lack for evidences of the Divine wisdom; but if it would see this attribute in its glory, it must come down to earth. Its grand achievement is redemption. And what we affirm of His wisdom we claim also for His other moral attributes. Here “mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other.” Nowhere else has the Deity made so full, so august, so grateful, a revelation of Himself.

    (2) A second reason is to be found in their personal concern in the results of redemption. It is an opinion sanctioned by many eminent names in theology, that the good angels owe their confirmation in holiness in some way to the mediation of Christ. We read, e.g., of “the elect angels.” We are told that God “gathers together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him.” And that “all power is given Him in heaven and in earth.” There is another respect in which they are interested in this work. In the revolt of their associates, they become no less their enemies than the enemies of God. In all the plots and counterplots, the assaults and repulses, the victories and defeats, of this war of centuries, they have taken a conspicuous part. Their immediate personal concern in it, then, is a cogent reason why they should desire to look into the mystery which infolds it.

    (3) And this imports that their own happiness is involved in the issue. Merely to glance at this point, the benevolence of the angels must attract them to the study of redemption. They know what the happiness of heaven is. Here is a race whose destiny is undecided, the only race which is in this anomalous condition. Whatever the issue, it must be irreversible. The fate of millions of souls hangs upon the trembling balance. Is it for an angel to look upon such a scene with indifference?


    1. Let us borrow from this scripture a single ray of light to set forth the quality of that scepticism which men of cultivated minds sometimes cherish respecting Christianity. Now, as of old, the gospel is “to the Jew a stumbling block and to the Greek foolishness.” You stigmatise it as not only oppressive in its demands, but even irrational in its principles. Go to the angels for a lesson of humility.

    2. There is a keen rebuke in this scripture for those who are living in the neglect of the gospel. (H. A. Boardman, D. D.)

    Salvation-mysterious and glorious

    I. Mysterious, and therefore a subject of angelic study.

    1. From its novelty.

    2. From the moral character of the race to be redeemed.

    3. From the manner of its accomplishment.

    4. From the mode of its promulgation.

    5. From the manner in which the tidings of this salvation, even when preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, are received by the children of men.

    II. Infinitely glorious.

    1. In its exhibition of the Divine character.

    2. In its transforming efficacy.

    3. In its diffusive nature.

    4. In the freeness with which its blessings are offered.

    (1) To all indiscriminately.

    (2) In perfect sincerity.

    (3) On terms easy, and within the reach of every individual.

    5. In the perpetuity and fulness of its blessings. (James Floy, M. A.)

    The angels’ attitude towards the redemptive plan

    I. Close attention.

    II. Deep amazement.

    III. Warm admiration.

    IV. High delight. (A. Roberts, M. A.)

    Redemption the subject of admiration to the angels

    I. First, we are to mention those circumstances in the mystery of redemption which are probably the subject of adoring inquiry, or perhaps holy astonishment, to the angels of God.

    1. The first thing I shall mention is the Incarnation of the Son of God; the union of the Divine and human nature, by the Word’s being made flesh. It is probable that this discovery was made to the angels gradually, as it was to men. There is one circumstance in the Incarnation itself, which is certainly as astonishing as any, That He was not only made flesh, but sent “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” What so opposite to the nature of God as sin? And what so surprising, as that the Son of God, though without sin, yet should in all respects outwardly be like to sinners? that He should be taken for a sinner, treated as a sinner, and at last crucified as more than ordinary sinner?

    2. Another circumstance which must afford matter for adoring inquiry to the celestial spirits, is the substitution of an innocent person in the room of the guilty, and His suffering from the hand of God. The angels had always hitherto seen innocence and holiness attended with peace and felicity, and they had seen the apostate spirits laid under an irreversible sentence of condemnation. What astonishment, then, must it have given them, what new views of the boundless sovereignty and unsearchable wisdom of the Most High must it have opened to them, when they heard Him saying, “Deliver him from going down into the pit, I have found a ransom!” How often must they have been put to a stand, what to think of the severity and persecution, the contempt and opposition which Christ met with from those very sinners whom He came to save! But above all, how must they have been at a loss to comprehend His being exposed, not only to the contempt of man, but to the wrath of God! For “it pleased the Lord to bruise Him, He hath put Him to grief.”

    3. Another circumstance in the plan of redemption through Christ, which will afford matter of wonder to the celestial spirits, is the free justification of sinners, and their acceptance with God, through the imputed righteousness of Christ. Must not this appear a new and extraordinary plan to the angels, who, by personal and perfect obedience, retain the favour of their Creator, and who had been hitherto strangers to the influence and intercession of a mediator? who had seen no such thing take place when their brethren sinned (Hebrews 2:16). The holy angels will rather say, “Let us step aside and see this great sight.” They will then see that there is no way more proper for maintaining the dignity of the Divine Government; nay, that it is the only way by which those who have been sinners can be received into favour. They will see and confess that there is no circumstance whatever that tends more to level the pride of the sinner’s heart, and bring him to universal submission, and absolute subjection to the sovereignty of God.

    4. Another circumstance in the mystery of the gospel which will be matter of wonder to the angels, is the application of redemption, or the manner and means of translating sinners “from darkness to light,” and “from the power of Satan unto God.”

    II. Practical improvement.

    1. What you have heard will contribute, I hope, to show the guilt of those who despise the gospel, and serve to remove the offence of the Cross.

    2. You may learn from what has been said the encouragement that is given to sinners to return to God through Christ.

    3. From what hath been said upon this subject, you may examine your title to partake of the holy ordinance of the Lord’s Supper; or, in other words, your right to the favour of God and to eternal life. No disposition more suitable, none more necessary at a communion table than a grateful and admiring sense of redeeming love;

    4. From what has been said, learn what is your most proper employment at the Lord’s table. Adore and contemplate the riches of redeeming grace, that great theme which “the angels desire to look into.” (J. Witherspoon, D. D.)

    Angels, students in the mysteries of redemption

    I. What those things are which the angels look into. They must of necessity be the things which the apostle had been speaking of, especially in the three preceding verses: the things of Christ.

    1. The Incarnation of Christ, or His coming into this world (1 Timothy 3:16)

    2. The life of Christ. That perfect pattern of all that was excellent is often before their eyes.

    3. The death of Christ. The love of it, in His dying for sinful man, must be to them subject of perpetual wonder and praise.

    4. The doctrines of Christ. His admirable lessons of piety and virtue; His wise precepts and instructions; His wonderful revelations of the Divine will must be highly entertaining to them (Revelation 14:6).

    5. The promises of Christ.

    II. The manner in which the angels look into these things.

    1. With wonder.

    2. With the closest attention.

    3. With reverence.

    4. With delight.

    5. With praise.

    III. The proof or reason of their doing so.

    1. The angels being employed so much about these things, seems to show that they desire to look into them.

    2. These things concern angels as well as men. God is their Father as well as ours, and the portion of both.

    3. God is glorified in and by these things. Their work is to glorify Him (Revelation 7:11; Psalms 148:2).

    4. They are for the highest good of man, and therefore the angels desire to look into them. They have a generous concern for our welfare.

    5. The subject matter of these things is such, as that the angels must needs desire to look into them. Never were greater things than those which Christ has revealed to us.


    1. Since the angels look into these things, do you look more into them?

    2. Since the angels look into these things, do you put a higher value upon them?

    3. Since the angels look into these things, see that you have a saving interest in them, otherwise the angels that look into them will witness against you. (T. Hannam.)

    The angelic sturdy of redemption

    In order to ascertain what Peter means by the phrase “which things,” we must look back to the antecedent context. It is plain, therefore, that the matters of angelic solicitude here referred to, are just the same as those of prophetic study; that is to say, the salvation of the gospel; or, as it is more minutely described in the eleventh verse, “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” The text farther declares in what manner the angels study these subjects. In the holy of holies, the most secret shrine of the Jewish temple, stood the ark of the covenant, an apparatus in whose interior was deposited the canon of the Mosaic law, the blessings and the curses, the promises and the threatenings, of God’s most holy word. Over the top of this ark was laid a covering or lid of massive gold, which was denominated the Mercy seat. It was a symbol of our Saviour’s propitiation. Now, above the mercy seat were figures of cherubim, whose expanded wings overshadowed its circumferences, and whose many faces were all bent down in silent gaze upon the emblems underneath. They looked down, in the attitude of eager gladness and adoring wonder, upon the interposing medium which annihilated the presence and the power of the law. These cherubim, as the prophecies clearly show, represent the heavenly angels; and therefore we have here found, in the typical emblems of the Jewish economy, a literal picture of the doctrine of the apostle, that the pure spirits of the upper world bend down, in the attitude of learners, to explore “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” But once more our text indicates not merely the posture but the spirit with which the angels engage in this contemplation. They desire to look into it. They are anxious, warm, eager, ardent in the matter. Their hearts, as well as their eyes, are bent on it; and, with intent, assiduous, and persevering zeal, they devote themselves to scrutinise it in all its depth, though it is unfathomable, and in all its extent, though it is limitless.

    I. We remark that the angels desire to look into “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that shall follow,” not by any means in consequence of ignorance in reference to the grand facts of the scheme of redemption. When Adam was expelled from Paradise, and an angel stationed at its gate to deter the guilty rebel from ever approaching the place whose sanctity he had profaned, we may imagine that that angel was aware of the hopes and consolations sealed up in the great promise, and knew man was not accursed forever. Angels visited in his tent the Father of the faithful, and knew that unto his off spring God had promised eternal blessings. Choirs of angels welcomed the incarnation of the Lord with strains of heavenly music. Doubtless, these blessed spirits knew the subject of which they sang so sweetly. Heaven’s heralds knew they were greeting the human nature of Heaven’s eternal King. However, it is proper to take notice of a text, which, at first sight, will rather appear to demonstrate that the angels are not deeply versed in the matters of fact connected with the redemption of Christ (Ephesians 3:9-10). But this passage by no means implies that it is the Church alone which enlightens the heavenly host in the glorious dispensation of the Gospel of Christ. The assertion of the passage is not that the heavenly host were in ignorance of that subject till the Church instructed them, but that they never learned the subject through the Church till the Church received, and professed, and obeyed the truth. The angels knew the mystery of redemption before the apostles went forth on the theatre of the world to preach salvation to every creature. But it was not till, from their lofty dwelling place in heaven, they saw the Gentile and the Jew alike being gathered into one fold of the one great Shepherd, that they knew, by the Church, the manifold wisdom of God.

    II. We remark that the angels desire to look into the sufferings and glory of Christ, because there they obtain the brightest display of the divine perfections.

    III. The angels desire to look into “the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow,” because the eternal interests of mankind depend on these things, and because these eternal interests are at stake. When we analyse the motive which impels the angels to look into the mystery of redemption, it resolves itself not only into a reverential desire of studying the Divine perfections, but also into an anxious concern for the salvation of sinners. This concern is itself twofold, depending partly on the desire of the angels to see Christ glorified in the salvation of sinners, and partly on the benevolent affection of the angels to these sinners, whom they see in such imminent danger of everlasting destruction.

    IV. The angels desire to look into “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow,” in other words, into the progress of the work of redemption, because the issue of that work will be the elevation of the church triumphant over the angelic race, in dignity, glory, and power. What strange and striking thoughts it must suggest to an angelic being to look upon a human creature, depraved, condemned, absorbed in the pleasures of sin, and at last falling a prey to death, who yet, in virtue of a previous union to Christ by faith, shall rise above the fetters of mortality, shall be elevated to the holiness and happiness of heaven. (Alex. Nisbet.)

    The angels’ desire to look into salvation

    It is thought to be a sign of weakness to bow down before the Cross. The context teaches a different lesson. The prophets, who were men of great mental gifts, were deeply interested in this “salvation.” The apostle goes a step beyond. He declares that the angels desired to look into these sublime truths.

    I. The nature of these angels. The Scriptures have revealed but little about them. The Bible was not given us to reveal their nature, but to make known to us the plan of salvation. Yet there is something about the nature of angels which we may know by the study of ourselves.

    1. We have memory. History has a meaning to us. Our memories, at best, are very imperfect, but there are some things we never forget. Now, the memory of any one thing implies the possibility of a memory that will never forget. Now, angels, no doubt, have memories far more tenacious than ours. How this will add to their knowledge.

    2. Then we have the power of connecting cause and effect, and the power of pure reason; and we have that still more marvellous power, imagination. Whither cannot imagination go? How much better are angels fitted by powers far more perfect than these to gather knowledge.

    3. Then, again, we are hindered by our bodies-one-third of our time is taken up in eating and sleeping. Angels are free from all this.

    4. Then consider how much more we know than we did fifty years ago. Yet the angels witnessed the birth of the worlds and systems of worlds. All history lays open before them. They know of God’s providence. How much then these angels must know of God; I had almost said what do they not know of Him?

    II. Consider, that notwithstanding all this knowledge the angels were not satisfied because they did not understand the plan of salvation. They heard of this plan and were deeply interested. They “desire to look into it.” With all their powers of investigation, with all their vast knowledge, here was a matter that they had not fathomed, and that they greatly desired to know. Yet scientists sometimes feel that they are so busy as to have no time to study this salvation. They are busy at studying the structures of crystals. Why angels know all about them. They saw the particles taking their positions. These men are busy in investigating the strata of the rocks. Why, the angels saw the upheaval of the rooks which so diversified and distorted the strata. They were there at the formation of the earth and have witnessed all the changes. All these things, which so deeply concern these scientists, are plain as A B C to these angels, who nevertheless, so desire to see into the plan of salvation, that subject which the scientists deem of so little importance.

    III. It is not revealed to us how angels sought to understand this matter. The visions concerning it came to the prophets, doubtless, as pictures. They did not fully understand all they saw. Moses, when he desired to see God, was told that no one could see the face of God and live. Another prophet saw a different picture, he saw Christ as a lamb led to the slaughter. Others saw still different pictures. Now I imagine that the angels, as the prophets traced the pictures they saw, would look over their shoulders to study this marvellous salvation. That word which is translated in the text, “look into,” is a wonderful word. It means to look down into. It implies eagerness to see the bottom. (Bishop Simpson.)

    Angels studying redemption

    I. The things which the angels contemplate.

    1. Salvation.

    2. The grace of the gospel.

    3. The sufferings of Christ.

    4. The glory that should follow.

    II. The manner in which the angels contemplate these things.

    1. Attentively.

    2. Humbly and reverentially.

    3. With eager and prevailing desire.

    III. The instructions and admonitions which their contemplation of these things affords to us. The desire which angels manifest to look into these things, teaches-

    1. The dignity and the glory of the Son of God, who has furnished them with such subjects of contemplation,

    2. The magnitude and importance of the work of redemption.

    3. The means which we must use, in order to be influenced by them ourselves. We must “look” into them-we must make them the subject of devout and studious contemplation.

    4. The propriety and the duty of making them known to all mankind.

    5. The criminality of those persons who treat the same things with indifference and neglect. (J. Alexander.)

  • 1 Peter 1:13-16 open_in_new

    Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind.

    Tighten the belt

    “Wherefore,” for this reason, that your salvation was so great an object of interest to prophets and to angels, it becomes you to maintain your faith, your courage, and expectation to the end. “Wherefore, girding up the loins of your mind.” The allusion is to the long loose garments worn by the Asiatics.

    I. The meaning then, is, be thoroughly courageous, genuine, sincere. Make your life compact by the girdle of truth. Avoid loose, unsubstantial convictions regarding spiritual and eternal things, Remember, however little the word of revealed truth is to you, it is God’s greatest and best thought: that it is the divine record concerning yourself and His dear Son ought to make it of infinite importance to you. Therefore, “gird up the loins of your mind.” Tighten the belt. You can do better work, run a better race, or be better ready for fight. Then shall you be fitted for the best service the King demands. Settled convictions of divine truth are of great value; they give stability, contentment, and influence. The girdle compact, and everything is made available for comfort and usefulness, you are stable and helpful when others are weak and vacillating.

    II. This, also, will induce sobriety, gravity, thoughtfulness. And, impressed with the magnitude and sustained by the certainty of divine truth, you will “set your hope perfectly on the grace, or favour, that is to be brought unto you when Jesus shall come again,” to give eternal honour to His people. Stop, then; think, tighten your belt. Many are not ready for the sudden revelation of Jesus Christ. Are you? O, the supreme importance of being ready now, and each moment!

    III. “Tell us how we shall do this girding.” Peter wrote these words in the shadow of the greatest truths: the Cross, and the possibility of your salvation. Think often of the Cross and its mystery of grace; it will fill your life with the mightiest motives. Think of the end of your faith, the salvation of your soul. Think; you are in possession of God’s revelation, His best thought, the sunlight of your present joy and your future hope. Think; you are in fellow ship with Jesus Christ. Do it by much prayer. (J. Parker.)

    A seasonable exhortation

    1. How full of their Lord were the minds of these holy writers!

    2. How ardently these men expected the coming of the Lord!

    3. It is equally noticeable that while apostolic men looked for the coming of Christ, they looked for it with no idea of dread, but, on the contrary, with the utmost joy.

    4. Observe also, how constantly they were urging this as a motive! Peter never holds it out as a mere matter of speculation, nor exclusively as a ground of comfort; but as the grand motive for action, for holiness, for watchfulness. The teaching necessary for today is this: “Gird up the loins of your mind,” brace yourselves up; be firm, compact, consistent, determined. Do not be like quicksilver, which keeps on dissolving and running into fractions; do not fritter away life upon trifles, but live to purpose, with undivided heart, and decided resolution. These are equally days in which it is necessary to say “be sober.” We are always having some new fad or another brought out to infatuate the unstable. “Be sober,” and judge for yourselves. Nor is the third exhortation unnecessary: “Hope to the end.” Be so hopeful as to be “calm mid the bewildering cry, confident of victory.”

    I. An argument. “Wherefore.” True religion is not unreasonable; it is common sense set to heavenly music. The apostle begins by saying, “Elect according to foreknowledge,” etc. Shall the elect of God be timorous? Shall those who are chosen of the Most High give way to despair? God forbid! There is an argument, then, in the first and second verses, forcibly supporting the precepts of the text. It well behoves the elect of God to choose His service resolutely, to abide in it steadfastly, and hope for its reward with supreme confidence. But next, Peter declares that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has “begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” O ye begotten of God, see that ye live as such! You are twice-born men; live not the low life of the merely natural man. You are descended from the King of kings; degrade not your descent! Your election and your regeneration call you to holy living. Further, the apostle goes on to say that you are heirs of “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” Courage, then, if this be your destiny: do not be cast down by the aboundings of sin, nor even by your own personal temptations. Then he goes on to say that you are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” If the power of God keeps me, shall I be hopeless? Shall I speak like one that has no hereafter to rejoice in? Further, the apostle goes on to say that we may be passing through needful trial, but it is only for a little while. Come, then, if this fire is to be passed through, let us gird up our loins to dash through it. Let us hope to be sustained, and sanctified as the result, and let no unbelieving fear cast a cloud over our sky. Is not this good argument? Nor is this all. He tells us that even while we are in trial we are still full of joy. Once more: the apostle goes on to say that the gospel which we believe, and for which we are ready to suffer, is a gospel that comes to us with the sanction of the prophets. It seems to me that with such men as Moses and David, Isaiah and Jeremiah, to support our faith, we need not be ashamed of our company, nor tremble at the criticisms of the moderns.

    II. The exhortation.

    1. “Gird up the loins of your mind.”

    (1) That certainly teaches us earnestness. We brace ourselves for a supreme effort; and the Christian life is always such.

    (2) Does it not also mean preparedness? A true believer should be ready for suffering or service-ready, indeed, for anything.

    (3) It means determination and hearty resolution. By conflict throughout a whole life we come to our rest; and there is no other way. You cannot go round to a back door, and enter into heaven by stealth. You must fight if you would reign. Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind.

    (4) Once more, the figure teaches us that our life must be concentrated. “Gird up the loins of your mind.” We have no strength to spare; we cannot afford to let part of our force leak away. We need to bring all our faculties to bear on one point, and exert them all to one end.

    2. “Be sober.”

    (1) This means moderation in all things. Do not be so excited with joy as to become childish. Do not grow intoxicated with worldly gain or honour. On the other hand, do not be too much depressed with passing troubles.

    (2) Keep the middle way; hold to the golden mean. Make sure of your footing when you stand; make doubly sure of it before you shift.

    (3) Be clear headed. Ask that the grace of God may so rule in your heart that you may be peaceful, and not troubled with idle fear on one side or with foolish hope on the other. “Be sober,” says the apostle. You know the word translated “be sober” sometimes means “be watchful”; and indeed there is a great kinship between the two things. Live with your eyes open; do not go about the world half asleep.

    3. “Hope to the end.” Be strong in holy confidence in God’s Word, and be sure that His cause will live and prosper. Hope to the end; go right through with it; if the worst comes to the worst, hope still. Hope as much as ever a man can hope; for when your hope is in God you cannot hope too much. But let your hope be all in grace. Do not hope in yourself or in your works; but “hope in the grace”; for so the text may be read. Hope, moreover, in the grace which you have not yet received, in “the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Bless God for the grace that you have not yet obtained, for He has it in store for you; yea, He hath put it on the road, and it is coming to you.

    III. Expectation. What you have got to hope for is more grace. God will never deal with you upon the ground of merit; He has begun with you in grace, and He will go on with you in grace, therefore “hope to the end for the grace.” The grace you are to hope for is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. He has been revealed once, at His first advent; hence the grace you have. He is to be revealed very soon in His second advent; hence the grace that is a-coming to you. “My ship is coming home,” says the child. So is mine: Jesus is coming, and that means all things to me. But what can this grace be that will be received at His coming? Justification? No, we have that already by His resurrection. Sanctification? No; we have that already, by being made partakers of His life. What is the grace that is to be revealed at His coming? Just look at the chapter, anal you will read in the fifth verse, “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.”

    1. Perfect salvation is one part of the grace which is to be brought in the last time when Christ comes. When He comes there will be perfection for our souls and salvation for our bodies.

    2. The second grace that Christ will bring with Him when He comes is the perfect vindication of our faith: “that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” Today they sneer at our faith, but they will not do so when Jesus comes; today we ourselves tremble for the ark of the Lord, but we shall not do so when He comes. Then shall all men say that believers were wise, prudent, philosophical. Those who believe in Jesus may be called fools today, but men will think otherwise when they see them shine forth as the sun in the Father’s kingdom. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

    Christian morality

    The great privileges we enjoy are here urged upon us as a reason why we should live like regenerate persons.

    I. The essentials of Christian character. They are-diligence, sobriety, and hope.

    1. Diligence. This virtue is here exemplified by a very striking figure. Christians are not to be like pompous peacocks, mere objects of beauty, strutting about over the green fields of earth. They are not to be languid and effeminate dreamers. They are to engage in the activities of manhood, and for this purpose must brace themselves with vigour. There is much to be accomplished. There is much to be learnt. There is much to be obtained. There is much to be endured. But the apostle is particular to remind us of the spiritual nature of this work - “Gird up the loins of your mind.” The Christian life is not an outward thing. The mind is the battlefield. Here the battles are lost or won. How much does the mind require bracing up! It soon sinks into indifference and sluggishness, especially under trials or difficulties. A healthy soul results from moral discipline. We are to brace up our thoughts by wholesome restraint, our desires by a strong curb, our sentiments by calm deliberation. This requires patient and persevering diligence.

    2. Sobriety. “Be sober.” This does not refer to what we call temperance. It is that calm, quiet dignity which so well befits a Christian man, and which raises him above the flighty, giddy, thoughtless throng of worldly people. There is something noble in his character.

    3. Patient hope. Here is a rebuke to the restless uneasiness at the trials of life which was the cause of writing this Epistle.

    II. The great Christian motive. “The grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” And is it not worth hoping for?

    1. Consider its greatness. It is not an earthly blessing-temporary, passing, and mingled with what is evil, sinful, and transitory. It is-

    (1) An eternal state. All our chief sorrows here are caused by change.

    (2) A perfect state. Life will be perfect; here most men only half live. Health will be perfect. Taste will be perfect. Employment will be perfect. And all the surroundings of this state will be perfect also.

    2. Consider its fulness. There is no stint in the eternal life which is provided. The vastness of heaven is one of the mysteries we have to contemplate, but at present cannot understand.

    III. The great end of Christian development-holiness. All discipline has one object to carry out.

    1. Under the aspect of dutiful children. “As obedient children,” etc. Here is a grand motive-the motive of love.

    2. Under the aspect of similitude. We desire to be like those whom we love. Holiness, then, makes us like God. Without it we cannot be conformed to Him. Without it we cannot associate with Him.

    3. Under the aspect of universality. “In all manner of conversation,” i.e., in all your behaviour. Holiness is to pervade all things. (J. J. S. Bird.)

    The right influence of a Christian creed

    I. Mental activity. “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind.” First: That man has a mind. He has a thinking, conscious, undying spirit. This fact is attested both by philosophy and the Bible. Secondly: That this mind has a great work. There are some minds that are very inactive. Other minds are active, but it is the activity of children playing with toys. What is the real work of the mind? Rightly to culture self, to bless society, and to honour God. The figure implies-Thirdly: That the present condition of the mind is unfavourable to this work. What are those entangling robes? Wrong thoughts, earthly sympathies, carnal tendencies, moral indifferences, etc. “Gird up the loins,” etc.

    II. Moral sobriety. “Be sober.” It may include three things. First: Moral judiciousness. Judiciousness in our opinions, our affections, our expectations, and speech. Souls are often intoxicated with wild and extravagant sentiments. Second: Moral steadfastness. The soul should not reel to and fro like a drunken man; it should be steadfast. “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free.” Thirdly: Moral seriousness. Christian seriousness stands in sublime contrast both to gloom on the one hand and to levity on the other.

    III. Permanent hope. “Hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This language implies three things. First: That the perfection of our being is to be looked for in the future. Secondly: That our future perfection is to be obtained in connection with grace. “Hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you.” Thirdly: That the grace that is to ensure our perfection will be fully manifested at the appearance of ,Jesus Christ. “The grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (D. Thomas, D. D.)

    Wise counsel

    I. The preparation. “Gird up,” etc.

    1. Righteousness.

    2. Faithfulness.

    3. Truth.

    II. The consideration. “Be sober.” There is such a thing, of course, as being drunk mentally or spiritually. A drunken man is very foolish, yet conceited; and he is quarrelsome, and hazardous, and he would lie down and go to sleep anywhere.

    III. The decision. “Hope to the end.” Your hope is to be in the perfect work of Christ. “Be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.”

    IV. The prospect. “For the grace,” etc. (James Wells.)

    The place of mind in religion

    One thing is presupposed-St. Peter counted it self-evident-the mind has place in the things of God. Orthodoxy has too often warned off reason from the things of God. It has made it sacrilege to touch the Bible. What St. Peter rebukes is the slovenly, the untidy, the dissolute mind. He does not fear the practised, the disciplined, the intense intellect. The “mind” of which he wrote was the rock-hewn element of thinking, equally available, for its highest processes and purposes, in palace and cottage, in philosopher and peasant. It needs not education in man’s sense, classical or scientific, to gird its loins for the enterprise St. Peter has in view. That enterprise is the knowledge of a Father, in a Saviour, and in a Spirit. The enterprise is a personal knowledge, the girding up of the loins for it is a personal exertion. Shall we try to sketch one or two of the particulars of that girding?

    1. “Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty.” In reference to all knowledge, what is the chief hindrance? Is it not vanity? Is it not the “saying, We see?” Gird up the loins of your mind by a deep humility. “Thou art near, they tell, me, O Lord: but I am so far off-so ignorant, so stupid, so sin bound-O quicken me.”

    2. But next to it I would place its sister grace-which is patience. Patience; perhaps above all, for the reconciliation of apparently contradictory principles, and the harmonising of certain parts of Revelation with the character of God Himself the Revealer. Be willing to wait. Not indolently, not in indifference, but in a submissive waiting.

    3. Hope. “Hope to the end,” St. Peter says-“Hope perfectly” are his very words-meaning doubtless, perseveringly and amidst all obstacles. And St. Peter makes hope very definite when he adds, “for the grace that is being brought to us.” It cannot be that this scene of confusion should be forever. As God is true, as God is holy, as God is merciful, it shall not. We see not as yet how it shall be. But, where explanation fails, where reason fails, where revelation itself fails, hope fails not. (Dean Vaughan.)

    Be sober.


    Sobriety is a virtue that keeps us not only from things unlawful, but moderates us in the use of things lawful, that we exceed not our bounds therein. These may be referred to two heads, pleasures and profits, which we are most subject to abuse.

    I. For the former, which is pleasure, thereto may be referred meat, drink, apparel, recreation, etc. All which we must use soberly to the glory of the Giver, our own good, and the good also of others.

    1. For our meat and drink, we must neither be excessive nor over-curious, as Dives who fared deliciously every day, making his belly his god. We must eat to live, and thereby be more fit for duty.

    2. For our apparel, we must not exceed for the matter of it, nor for the fashion. God hath given it for necessity, comeliness, and decency.

    3. For recreation, it must be sparing in time, place, measure, to make us more fit for our duty; for God hath not set us here to pamper the flesh, but to mortify the lusts thereof: not to play, but to do His work.

    II. For the latter, namely, profits, we must also be sober, both in getting and keeping them. We must not only use no unlawful means to get the world, but use the lawful means moderately, not filling ourselves with too many businesses, and following the same too eagerly, lest we neglect good duties, or be hindered from doing them as we should. (John Rogers.)

    Hope to the end.-

    The duty and discipline of Christian hope

    “Girding up the loins of your mind, being sober, hope” is the accurate reproduction of the form of the original. “Hope” is the principal exhortation, arid it is to be fulfilled by bracing up the mind and by sobriety. The Revised Version, which has partially shown this construction in its rendering, has given the more accurate “perfectly,” instead of “to the end.” It is a question, first, of the quality, and only after that of the duration of the hope. If our hope be perfect it will take care of itself in another respect, and be permanent.

    I. The object on which this Christian hopefulness is to fasten, like a limpet on a rock. “The grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Here “grace” means the sum of the felicities of a future life. That is clear from two considerations-that this grace is the object of our hope all through life, which only an object beyond the grave can be, and also that its advent is contemporaneous with the revelation of Jesus Christ. The expression, though unusual, is valuable because it brings out two things. It reminds us that whatever of blessedness we may possess in the future it is all a gratuitous, unmerited gift of that loving God to whom we owe everything. And then there is another thought suggested by this word, namely, the substantial identity of the Christian life here and hereafter. Grace is glory in the bud, glory is grace in the flower; and all which we hope for in the future is but the evolving of that which is planted in our hearts today, if we love Him, though it may have to fight with much antagonism to itself both without us and within. The inheritance is a hope, but the earnest of the inheritance, which is of the same stuff as the inheritance, is a present possession. Further, this grace is on its way to us. It is “being brought,” as the margin of the Revised Version has it; or “a-bringing,” as Leighton translates it. It is on its road as if some band of strong-winged angels had already left the throne, and, like them who bore the Holy Grail, were steadily flying nearer and nearer to us. With all the power of strong winds and waves lifting it on, it is bearing down upon us as a ship at sea. By all the passions and convulsions of earth the day of the Lord is hastened on its course. Further, this grace, which is on its way to us, is wrapped up in the revelation of Jesus Christ. It is brought to us encased in that revelation, like a fair jewel in a golden setting. When He who “is our life shall be manifested,” says another apostle, then shall we also “be manifested with Him in glory.” As in an old picture you will sometimes see a saint represented as standing near the Master with a glory encompassing him, that rays from the Christ, so our glory in the future is all to be hut the effluence and the reflection of His glory. Why should we let our hopes go trailing along the ground, like some poor creeping plant that the gardener has forgotten to put a stick to, when they might lift themselves to the heavens? Why should you ever feed your hopes upon the bread that perishes, and sometimes upon husks, when you may feed them on angels’ food? Why should you confine your hope within the limits of this world when it might expand to the width of that great eternity that lies there before you through which you may let your hope wander at will? Set your hope there, and then it will never be ashamed or confounded.

    II. The perfect hope which grasps the perfect object. “Hope perfectly” would be the true rendering, it being a question not at all of duration but of “quality.” There are all degrees of hope from the most doubtful “peradventure” up to almost certainty. But there is always a kind of doubt and dread mingling with hope. A certain wistful look as of one who knows not what may be drawing on is ever in Hope’s blue eyes; and “hopes, and fears that kindle hope” are an indistinguishable throng. That is necessarily so, because here our hopes are fixed on contingent, external things, and are mostly born of our wishes rather than of reasonable probabilities. Therefore, this exhortation here, in effect, bids us lift our hopes higher, and set them on God that they may be sure. Are we letting our hearts lead our hopes astray after the will-o’-the-wisps of earth, instead of ordering their march by the pole star of God’s faithful promise? Does our hope leap up to lay hold on that cord let down from heaven, and by it to climb above the level of mutation and disappointment?

    III. The self-discipline by which the perfect hope is maintained. Girding up the loins of the mind and being “sober” are the two great means to that end. The first of them enjoins concentration of mind and will, a determined effort to realise the future and persistently to hope in the teeth of all discouragement. Travellers, servants, soldiers have to brace up their robes and buckle them tight with their girdles. So we have to gather up our thoughts and cultivate the habit of fixed attention to unseen things. The loosely braced mind will be unable to cherish a lively hope; a man with his robes flapping about his feet cannot run. They hinder his stride, catch in the briars, get trodden on by rivals. There are many difficulties in the way of our Christian hope. It is hard to keep its light burning through the darkness of the night and the howling of the storm. Why, a man cannot have earthly hopes bright unless he concentrates his thoughts upon them. And how can our hope of heaven be clear, triumphant, unless we coerce our vagrant imaginations and loose flowing affections and by a dead lift and effort set our hopes in God? Wherefore, brace up the loins of your minds and hope. “Be sober.” Rigid self-control and repression are needed for such a hope. The clear eye of hope cannot see the land that is very far off through the fogs that rise from the undrained marshes of our animal nature. In this sense, too, the flesh lusts against the spirit. But not only must bodily appetites be held well in hand, all desires that go out towards the present must be subdued. Hope follows desire. The vigour of our hopes is affected by the warmth of our desires. The warmth of our desires towards the future depends largely on the turning away of our desires from the present. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)


    As we read this Epistle and drink in its spirit we become aware of something that lifts and enkindles; it is as if we were inhaling sea air, were basking in the glow of a genial warmth. The Peter of the Gospels was of an eager, sanguine disposition, and his hopefulness, while it was yet unchastened, repeatedly outran his real strength. The Pentecostal fire descends upon him, and he continues to be the same man, with the same basis and structure of character; but there has passed over him a refining and invigorating touch. He has become more truly a Peter; he has drawn strength from the Rock of Ages. He is “the apostle of hope.” To speak of hope at all is to speak of what we instinctively recognise as a condition of fruitful effort, of anything like success or satisfaction, even in the affairs of ordinary life. To take hope from a man is to paralyse him morally; if he lives on in so dreary a condition we think of him as surviving himself. The teaching of Scripture may help us to distinguish and appreciate three characteristics of that hope which apostles would recognise as true.

    1. First, then, Christian hope, as St. Peter tells us, is seated “in God”; it is, as it has been called, one of the triad of virtues specially “theological”; it takes its stand on Divine revelation, it looks on to the attainment of Divine promises. It draws its life-blood from no mere surmise as to what is possible for humanity, in the race at large or in the individual, but from the manifestation of Divine truth and goodness in the Incarnate, whom St. Paul calls “our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1), because our hope is grounded on Him and centred in Him. St. Paul, indeed, cannot think of hope without thinking of Christ; it is characteristic of him that the object of his “earnest expectation and hope” should be the glorification of Christ in his body, whether by life or by death. So he elsewhere speaks of Christians as having been “called in one hope” which grows out “of their calling,” which derives all its force and charm from the act of grace that brought them into that sacred and supernatural fellowship. Christian hope, being rooted in faith, is, like faith, vivid, positive, and definite; it is, as St. Peter calls it, “living,” because it is a fruit of the resurrection life of Jesus; it gazes with calm, trustful eyes, onward and still onward, into a future literally boundless, as illuminated by the person and the work of the one everlasting Redeemer; it is a “hope of eternal life,” as based on Him.

    2. A hope which is thus essentially religious, thus Christian from the root upwards, and impossible except on the terms of Christian belief, is strong enough to face all facts, even such as are unwelcome or austere. Certainly there will be temptations to unhopefulness; there must be the discipline of hopes deferred, of success marred, of apparent defeats and disappointments, of much that might tempt impatience to despair. A hope thus trained, while resting on august realities, is strong because it is not fanciful; it has realised the conditions of Christian life as an uphill march; it can afford to take full account of the gravest requirements of His service, who bids no one follow save where He Himself has trod; it does not dream of being exempt from anxieties, but it “casts” the whole weight of them on “the strong hand” of that good Father who has proved so well how much He “careth for us.”

    3. True hope is a great instrument of moral and spiritual discipline. When St. Peter is about to say, “make your hope perfect,” he prefaces it with a call to sustained effort; we are to “gird up the loins of our mind.” It is remarkable also that St. Paul does not merely exhort us to cherish hope, but to see that our hope is of the right kind, that it is such as is secured through endurance, and endurance as fortified by the encouragement, the quickening impulse to Christian exertion, which the pages of Scripture will supply (Romans 15:4). It is as if he had said, “The further you advance in the spiritual life, the more will you need of strength to resist temptation, or to bear outward trials bravely, brightly, and patiently; and the more you can do this, the more of true hope will you acquire.” Thus we see that the hope which maketh not ashamed is always humble and always active. (W. Bright, D. D.)

    How and for what to hope

    The word “wherefore” bases the exhortation upon all that has preceded, not merely upon the sentence immediately before it.

    I. The discipline needed for Christian hope. “Girding up the loins of your mind, be sober.” Here are two practical injunctions, given as means towards a vigorous Christian hope. The first of these is too familiar to require many words. Girding up the loose garments was instinctively done before any kind of vigorous effort, whether it was pilgrimage, labour, or conflict. Elijah girded up his loins when he ran before Ahab’s chariot. The soldier tightens his belt by another hole before the great struggle comes. The symbol, then, stands definitely here as expressing effort and concentration. There must be both, as Peter thinks, if there is to be any pulse of vitality throbbing under a Christian man’s hope. And, says the apostle, thus making a concentrated effort to secure the vigour and clearness of hope, do another thing, “Be sober.” Of course if I let my tastes, inclinations, desires, appetites, passions, run wild anywhere, there will be very little strength left me with which to hope for anything beyond. A man’s mind is only capable of a given quantity of desire and expectation: and if he fritter it all away on the things seen and temporal, of course there will not be any left over for the things that are unseen. Every gardener knows that if he wants a tree to grow high he must pull off the side shoots, but if he likes to clip it at the top and take away the leader, it will grow nice and bushy down below. A man’s mind obeys the same law.

    II. The characteristics and qualities of this Christian hope. As you are aware, our A.V. gives one translation of part of this verse, and the R.V. gives another. “Hope to the end,” says the older. “Hope perfectly,” says the newer and the better rendering. What are the imperfections that attach to men’s hopes?

    1. The first glaring one which attaches to the world’s idea of hope is that it is something short of, less reliable than, certainty. We have not sufficiently concentrated our effort, nor have we sufficiently washed our hands of earthly follies and filths, so long as there is one shade of difference between the certitude with which we know today and the confidence with which, trusting to Christ, we expect the remotest eternity in the most glorious heavens.

    2. Then there is another imperfection from which it is our duty and our joy to be able to clear our Christian hope, and that is that men’s hopes fluctuate according to their moods and their circumstances. But the Christian man’s hope should have this for the very signature of its perfection, that it is altogether independent of the changes of external circumstances. Nay! rather it should be like the pillar of fire that was only a thin film of smoke while the sunshine blazed, but kindled at its heart as darkness fell, and in the murkiest night was brightest and most blessed.

    3. Then there is another imperfection which the Christian hope is permitted to put away from it; and that is that most of our hopes have no ennobling, no staying, no stimulating effect upon our lives. What a man hopes for he waits for with patience, and the perfection of the Christian hope is measured roughly by this, the extent to which it is fruitful of all lowly, persistent adherence the most uncongenial, common place, and smallest duties.

    III. The object that is here proposes for hope. The apostle tells us to “hope for the grace,” etc. There are three things we have to note here.

    1. The loftiest hope of the furthest eternity is the hope of grace. We usually keep that word in contradistinction to glory as expressive of the gifts of God which we receive here upon earth in our pilgrimage. But the apostle here goes even deeper than that, and says, “Ah! it is all of a piece from the beginning to the end. The first gifts that a believing soul receives, whilst it is struggling here with darkness and light, are of the same sort as the eternal gifts that it receives when it stands before the throne, after millenniums of assimilation to the brightness and blessedness of Jesus Christ.” They are all grace; the gifts of earth and heaven are one in their source and one in their nature.

    2. Further, says the apostle, this grace is “being brought to you.” The light that set out from the sun centuries ago has not reached some of the stars yet, but it is on the road. And the grace that is to be given to us has started from the throne, and it will be here presently. We are like men standing in the crowded streets of some royal city through which the king’s procession has to pass. If we listened we have heard the guns fire that told that He had left the palace; and He will sweep in front of us and sweep us up into His train before very long. The grace is “being brought to us.”

    3. And it is being brought not merely at, but “in the revelation of Jesus Christ.” “When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall we also be manifested together with Him in glory.” The Christ in me will be manifested when Christ is manifested on His throne, and that will be my glory. If you can fancy a planet away out on the edge of our system, such as that one that welters in the fields of space, I know not how far from the central sun, and gets but a little portion of his light and warmth, and moves slowly in a torpid round; and imagine it laid hold of and borne right into the orbit of the planet next the sun, what a difference in its temperature, what a difference in the lustre and the light, what a difference in the swiftness of its motion there would be! We here are moving round a half-veiled Christ, and we get but little, and oh! we give less, of His light and glory. But the day comes when we shall be swept nearer the throne, and all the light that is manifested to us shall be incorporated within us. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

    Christian hope

    I. Hope in its preliminary but indispensable conditions.

    II. Hope in its operation.

    1. Hope is natural to the human mind, nothing more natural. It is a sweet-scented flower growing in every poor man’s garden; a perennial flower, never blooming so exquisitely as in the midwinter of adversity.

    2. “Hope perfectly.” By this St. Peter probably means the same as St. Paul when the latter speaks of “the full assurance of hope,” an unfaltering persuasion in the mind that we have a personal interest in the “inheritance reserved in heaven,” “the salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” “When I live,” wrote Latimer to Ridley, “in a settled and steadfast assurance about the state of my soul, methinks I am as bold as a lion; I can laugh at all trouble; no affliction daunts me; but when I am eclipsed in my comforts I am of so fearful a spirit that I could run into a very mouse hole.” Now, how to attain this perfection of hope, this full assurance? Evidently by constantly but legitimately exercising this grace according to the Divine word and testimony, for, like other things, it grows bright in use.

    3. “Hope unto the end.” Persevere in the face of difficulties, however colossal, “for he that continueth to the end shall be saved.” Turn your face to the Sun, pitch your hope fixedly on the inheritance reserved for you up yonder, and the shadows will all fall behind you.

    III. Hope in its immutable foundation.

    1. Our hope of salvation is based on Divine grace as brought to us in the past at the first revelation of Jesus Christ.

    2. But not only has grace been brought to us in the past, but fresh supplies are being brought to us in the present. “The grace that is a-bringing, that is being brought to you, as the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Grace came to the world in the person and work of Jesus Christ; it is still coming, a very present help in trouble, to God’s people, whether that trouble be in the shape of sufferings or temptations. John Bunyan in his immortal dream beheld a fire which burnt on brightly notwithstanding all efforts to extinguish it. What was the explanation of this persistence? Oh, a man stood the other side of the wall continually pouring oil into it. “Hope perfectly, unto the end,” for the gospel treasury of grace will never fail you.

    3. But this hope looks forward to the future, to the final triumph of grace “at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Much grace has already been revealed; but eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered the heart of man the things God hath in store for His people. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

    Hope as a power in moulding character

    I. The power of hope in human character. What makes the difference between human beings and beasts? Very largely, the presence of hope as a factor in character. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests.” So much the worse for them. Man is distinguished from the animals by the fact that you cannot so easily satisfy him. He may begin by living in the hole in the ground, or by lodging in the branches; but, by and by, that hole is not good enough. Something in man demands improvement. Hope is therefore one of the foremost elements in human character; distinguishing man as man, giving him a higher rank than all the rest of the animal creation. And as it is a necessary factor in character, so it is in human progress. Any conditions in human society which tend to repress hope are abnormal and unnatural, and hostile to man’s well-being. Who is today at the bottom of society may, under the encouragement, of our republican institutions and freedom, rise until he occupies the highest position that the people can bestow. Hope presents a perpetual incentive to progress:-not an ignis fatuus, a will-o’-the-wisp, beguiling us into mire and marsh, but impelling us continually onward to things higher and better. The hopes of boyhood do not satisfy manhood, and the hopes even of manhood do not satisfy maturer years; and so that which once beckoned you forward, as you reach up and move up toward it, keeps still ahead of you, and becomes a perpetual inspiration, urging you ever onward and upward. If hope, therefore, could be quenched or crushed, we could make no more advancement. Because hope is so important an element in character, and so essential to human development and progress, the Word of God lays such heavy stress on this essential element of all true manhood. No other grace seems more vital to a true Christian life than hope. Then see how hope helps us to bear trials. It surrounds us with a kind of “elastic medium,” so that when the terrible afflictions of this life beat against us, they rebound from us. There is a power in hope that prevents the severity of their blows from utterly crushing us.

    II. What, now, are the objects set before the Christian hope? “The grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Few of us ever think of this. When we speak of the grace that is revealed we think of what is already manifested, of Golgotha with its Cross, of Gethsemane with its agony. Peter is speaking of something future, not grace already manifested. “The grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ’s Incarnation was not a revelation. His divinity was rather hidden within the veil of His humanity: only now and then the glory of that divinity shone forth. When Jesus was here He was in disguise. God was only feebly and faintly manifested in the flesh, which obscured the glory. But when Christ conies a second time, no longer to make a sin offering, but to bring full salvation unto His people, then will be the revelation of Jesus Christ. He will come like the King in His glory. All the grace that comes to you from the hour of your regeneration to the hour of your complete sanctification is nothing in comparison with the grace that is to be revealed to you by Christ in the day when you are presented, faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.

    III. In view of the glorious hopes that the Bible inspires.” Girding up the loins of your mind, be sober, hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Let us mark these subordinate phrases: “Girding up the loins of your mind, be sober.” That they may not be entangled in thorns and briars, or be defiled by the dust and the filth of the way. And so the apostle says, “Girding up the loins of your mind,” your affections, so that they may not be defiled by earthly things. John Wesley used to say, “The child of God ought to be too proud to sin. When I think of myself as the disciple of Christ, born of the Spirit, I say, ‘How can I sin against God?’“ Set your affections on things above; gird up your loins, and keep your white garments “unspotted from the world.” And then “be sober.” Now, it would do a pilgrim very little good if he gathered up his garments and did not maintain sobriety. He might fall in the dust of the way, bruising himself as well as defiling his robe. And so we must not only gird ourselves, but keep sober and clear-minded for the journey.

    IV. What a contrast between the objects of Christian hope and worldly hope! Contrast the reality of Christian hopes with the illusiveness of worldly hopes. And consider, once more, the permanence and reliability of the Christian objects of desire and expectation. We come to a limit in this world. The glory of your possessions and your achievements will all pale and grow dim when you face the last great destroyer. But, blessed be God, the point at which human hopes are utterly blasted is the point at which Christian expectations only arrive at their consummation. What should we care for the perishing treasures of this world? for the evanescent pleasures that charm for a moment, and then lose their power? (A. T. Pierson, D. D.)


    Hope is mentioned in the text and in other parts of Scripture as a distinct grace or virtue, which the Christian should cultivate.

    I. I shall point out the distinctions between hope and faith.

    1. Faith and hope differ as to their extent. Faith relates to all things which Almighty God has revealed in Scripture, bad as well as good; whereas hope has only to do with the good things of our Heavenly Father.

    2. Again, hope may be described as ever looking forward, and advancing from one blessed prospect to another, with its eyes bent upon God and the promises. But faith has to do with the present and past, as well as with the future. With past facts.

    3. Once more, there is this great difference between hope and faith; that faith has to do with certainty, hope with uncertainty. You believe with full assurance, and it is a matter of faith that the righteous go to heaven. But that you individually are righteous, and shall finally go to heaven, is the subject of hope. Now the absolute necessity of this grace in your hearts will be at once evident, if you consider that it would interest you but little to be told of the felicities of heaven, had you no hope of ever attaining them. When you read of kings of the earth, of their royal appearance and great wealth, you at once feel that these things interest you but slightly, because they are so utterly beyond your reach.

    II. Now, let us illustrate the force and power of hope. Stories are told us of travellers journeying in other climes, who having wandered from their course, have by degrees found themselves involved in the intricacies of the wilderness without any probable chance of rescue. What so overwhelming as the feeling of utter loneliness which must press on the heart in the midst of unlimited sand? At such a time surely, a man may well give himself up as lost, and submissively lie down to perish. But there is a God beyond that sky and sun, Who has preserved men from worse dangers, and a hope springs up within his bosom, in the protection of that God. Hope cheers his soul, braces him to exertion, overcomes fatigue, and rescues from peril. He had no certainty of deliverance, but his hope was of sufficient power to make him persevere until he found the path, or was discovered by others and rescued. When the wife of the mariner sits at home solitary, what sustains her soul but the hope that all will be well? There can be no certain safety for him who is on the water; nothing, as we know, is so variable and treacherous as the waves and wind. When the prodigal child of God, like him in the parable, comes to himself and remembers his transgressions, what is to bring him to the feet of Almighty God but the hope of pardon? When the Christian soldier has taken his oath of service to Jesus Christ, and calmly considers the duties which are necessary to his reward, when he thinks of the enemies who encompass him, and of his own frailness and alienated affections, what can lead him to the contest and keep him undismayed? What but a sure and certain hope of Christ’s continued assistance? Lastly: There is a moment, if possible more trying than all, when hope is the stay and anchor of the tossed soul. It is in that hour when even the most saintly may look forward with something of dread to the departure from earth. “In hope of eternal life, which God Who cannot lie promised before the world began”; my flesh, he thinks within himself, “shall rest in hope”; “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; Thou wilt show me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy, and at Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.” (J. M. Chaunter, M. A.)

    Hope ennobles the spirit

    It is pleasing to observe how the hopes of persons, by degrees, greaten their spirits from their childhood. The proper spirit of a noble man, a prince, or a king, is greater than that of an inferior person. And the reason is because as he comes to understand his quality, his spirit grows with his hopes of what he shall attain to; his very hopes greaten his spirit, ennoble him, and make him think of living like one that expects to be in such a state as that to which he is born. And such is the property of the Christian’s hope. It not only makes him not ashamed, but it heightens and ennobles his spirit, makes him aspire high, and look forward to great things. (J. Howe.)

    Present the germ of future revelation

    I am well aware that the words of the original will bear the present signification. “Hope perfectly for the grace which is being brought unto you by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” But after careful consideration I am convinced that the future sense is the right one, though the fact that the present is employed is full of significance, and discloses a fact which underlies the whole Word of God. The future revelation will be but the full unveiling of the present; just as in the creation round us were our eyes cured of their films, we should see a splendour which would reveal heaven. The whole life of what lives in the world has in it the germ of that full revelation; just as when you unfold one of the soft buds of spring, sheath within sheath of delicate leafage is found there, and in the heart of it all, visible only to the aided eye, is every petal, every stamen of the flower. The forms are already perfect in their microcosm, but the colours that are to blaze in the sunlight, and the odours that are to scent the air, wait the inspirations of the spring. The colour, which is the glory of a flower, glows only under the perfect conditions of its life. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)

    A perfect hope

    I. We note the remarkable designation here of the object of Christian hope-“The grace that is to be brought unto you at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” Now, it is interesting to notice the various phases under which the future perfecting of the Christian life and felicity in heaven is set forth in the New Testament. Sometimes we read of the object of our hope as being the resurrection from the dead. Sometimes we read of the “hope of righteousness”; sometimes we read of the “hope of eternal life”; sometimes of the “hope of the glory of God”; sometimes of the “hope of salvation.” But all these are but the many facets of the one jewel, flashing many coloured and yet harmonious light. Peter adds another general expression when he sums up the felicities and perfectness of that future life in this remarkable and unusual phrase, “the grace that is to be brought.” “Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life”; and no man of the countless nations of the blessed can say, “Give me the portion for which I have worked,” but all must bow and say, “Give me from thine own loving heart that which I do not deserve,” “the grace that is to be brought at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” Such, then, is the object of Christian hope, stated in its most general terms, a grace which includes resurrection, salvation, righteousness, eternal life, the glory of God, and that grace ever tending towards us, and that ever tending grace to be ours in its fulness, when Christ is manifested and “we shall be manifested with Him in glory.” How different in its dignity, in its certainty, in its remoteness, which is a blessing-how different from the paltry, shortsighted anticipations of a near future which delude us along the path of earthly effort!

    II. Notice the enjoined perfection of Christian hope. What constitutes perfect hope? First, theft it shall be certain; and no earthly hope is so. If my anticipations are set upon contingent things they must vary with their objects. You cannot build a solid house on a quagmire; you must have rock for that. So, the only perfect hope is that which grasps a perfect certainty. Christian hope ought to be, if I might so say, screwed up to the level of that on which it is fastened. It is a shame that Christian people should be wavering in their anticipations of that which in itself is certain. Again, the perfection of hope lies in its being patient, persistent through discouragements, burning bright in the darkness, like a pillar of fire by night; and most of all in its being operative upon life, and contributing to steadfastness of endurance and to energy of effort. This is exactly what the feeble and fluctuating hopes of earth never do. For the more a man is living in anticipation of an uncertain good, the less is he able to fling himself with wholeness of purpose and effort into the duties or enjoyments of the present. But a perfect hope will be the ally and not the darkener of the brightness of the present. And if we hope as we should for that we see not, then shall we with patience wait for it. Here, then, is the sort of hope which it is laid upon us Christian people consciously to try to cherish, one which is fixed and certain, one which is the mother of patience and endurance, one which persists through, and triumphs over all trouble and sorrow, one which nerves us for effort and opens our eyes to appreciate the blessings of the present, and one which wars against all uncleanness, and lifts us up in aspiration and aim towards the purity of Jesus Christ. We are neglecting a plain duty and impoverishing ourselves unnecessarily by the want of a treasure which belongs to us, unless we are making conscious efforts for our increase in hope as in faith and charity. Think of the blessedness of living thus, lifted up above all the uncertainties that rack men when they think about tomorrow. Try to realise the blessedness of escaping from the disappointments which come from all earthward turned expectations. The brightest blaze of Christian hope may be on the verge of the darkness of the grave.

    III. Lastly, the discipline of Christian hope. “Gird up the loins of your mind.” It suggests that there is a great deal in this life that makes it very difficult for us to keep firm hold of the facts, on which alone a perfect hope can be built. Unless we tighten up our belt, and so put all our strength into the effort, the truths of the resurrection which beget to a lively hope, of the great salvation wrought by Jesus Christ, of the meaning and end of all our trials and sorrows, will slip away from us, and we shall be left at the mercy of the varying anticipations of good or evil which may emerge from the varying circumstances of the fleeting moment. “Be sober.” That means, not only gather yourselves together with a consecrated effort, but “keep your heel well down on the necks of lower and earthly desires.” The fleshly lusts that belong to everybody must be subdued. That goes without saying. But, then, there are others more subtle, more refined, but not less hostile to the perfectness of a heaven-directed hope than are these grosser ones. We must keep down all the desires and appetites of our nature, both of the flesh and of the spirit. For we have only a certain quantity of energy to expend, and if we expend it upon the things of earth there is nothing left for the things above. If you take the river, and lead it all out into the gardens that are irrigated by it, or into the stream that drives your mills, its bed will be left bare, and little of the water will reach the great ocean which is its home. We may, if we will, be as certain of the future as of the past. We may, if we will, have a hope which maketh us not ashamed. We may have a great light burning steadily, like a lamp fed with abundant oil, and shielded from every wind. We may see His coming shining afar off, and be warranted in saying, not merely “we hope,” but “we know, that when He shall appear we shall be like Him.” This Christ-given hope is the only one that persists through calamity, old age, and death. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

    The grace that is to be brought unto you.-

    Coming grace

    I. There is to be a revelation of Jesus Christ. He has promised to come; He has given His people the hope of His coming; His coming is necessary-

    1. For His own final and perfect glorification.

    2. For the complete salvation and glorification of His Church.

    3. For the full and everlasting destruction of His and its enemies.

    4. For the vindication of God’s way and the exhibition of His glorious attributes to the world.

    II. What the revelation brings. Grace. The Lord keeps His best wine unto the last, but He certainly sets forth good wine even now. We may, and do, receive grace now. Now is the day of salvation. But with all the grace given now to believers, and notwithstanding its present variety, fulness, and freeness, and all that it does in Christ’s people, they need yet more at His revelation.

    1. The grace of perfect vision of Him who is now unseen.

    2. The grace of perfect likeness to Christ.

    3. The grace of perfect acquittal.

    4. The grace of perfect avowal and recognition.

    5. The grace of perfect joy and glory forever.

    III. What influence this revelation should now exert.

    1. Spiritual readiness, in the loins of the mind girded, the thoughts collected, braced, prepared, and on the alert, with nothing left till the last (Luke 12:35-36).

    2. Spiritual self-restraint, in sobriety; neither too elated nor too depressed.

    3. Perfect hope; desiring, picturing, expecting the revelation and what it brings; hoping perfectly, never letting go hope, though the day seems far off. (Alex. Warrack, M. A.)

    Grace and glory

    We take grace as denoting in our text precisely what it ordinarily denotes in God’s dealing with a sinner, and wish to show you that grace thus understood may become, or rather, produce glory. We will briefly examine into the twofold achievement of grace-deliverance from sin, and consignment to God’s service.

    1. As to deliverance from sin, shall not we be borne out by the experience of every believer, when we declare that it is his happiness to overcome sin, and his misery to be exposed to its assaults? If this corruption were wholly eradicated, he might continually walk in the shinings of the countenance of his Maker, and feel, so to speak, the fresh and free air of a better land circulating around him, as he passed on in his pilgrimage. So that all the interruptions of happiness are to be referred to sinfulness, and happiness becomes uniform, or rather, advances uniformly towards perfection, just in proportion as the sinfulness is subdued, and the whole man given over to a holy dominion. And if this be a correct account of a believer’s experience, it will show us that grace and glory are one and the same. It is to the operations of grace that we must ascribe all the progress I have made in overcoming sinfulness; and if this progress b¢ the same as progress in happiness, we proclaim that to the operations of grace must be ascribed all the happiness which a believer attains. And if it would thus be perfect happiness to realise to the full the renewing power of grace, how can we better describe perfect happiness than by supposing grace given without measure, and acting without rival? And if, yet further, perfect happiness be one ingredient of future glory, is not the gift of grace the gift of glory, and does not St. Peter address himself to the highest and most rapturous imagination when he bids us “hope for grace at the revelation of Jesus Christ?” This will be yet clearer if you observe the period at which the grace will be received. The second advent of our Lord was unquestionably present to St. Peter’s mind. It is on this grand consummation that apostles and holy men of old delight to linger, and from this that they fetch their motives and consolations. They well knew that whatever the happiness of separate spirits, however deep and beautiful their repose after the clang and din of warfare, there can be no perfection of felicity until the widowhood be over, and the soul dwell once more in the body. They looked for grace “at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” because they knew with that revelation would come the resurrection of the saints, the body and soul both redeemed, both purified, both endowed with eternity. If, therefore, this consummation be glory, what is glory but grace completed?

    2. We have thus far only treated of grace as producing deliverance from sin; but this is not the only achievement of grace; yet further we must consider it as consignment to the service of God. There are none but true Christians who at all fulfil the great end of their being, that of promoting the glory of their Maker; and it is not through the workings of any human principle that they propose to themselves so sublime an honour; there must have been an alienation of the affections, and a withdrawment of the heart from temporary interests. We know, indeed, that all things, wickedness as well as righteousness, one way or another, promote God’s glory; but while the Almighty, in the exercise of His sovereignty, compels a tribute from the rebellious, that tribute is offered by none but the believer. It is, therefore, to grace, the principle imparted by God, that we ascribe every effort to promote God’s glory; nothing can be presented to God which has not first been received from Him; according to the words of David-“All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee”; and if it be the direct result of the workings of grace that we are led to consecrate ourselves to the service of God, then let grace have unrestrained operation, and, dust and ashes though we be, should we not become ineffably glorious? It will not be the robe of light which shall make us glorious, though brighter threads than sunbeams shall be woven into its texture; it will not be the palm and the harp that shall make us glorious, though the one shall have grown on the trees of Paradise, and the other have been strung by the Mediator’s hands; we shall be glorious as ministering to God’s glory glorious as the servants of the Almighty-glorious with more than an angel’s glory, because entrusted with more than an angel’s commission. And, if this be our glory, poetry may give her music to what she counts more beautiful, anti painting its tints on more sparkling and captivating things, but Christianity, the scheme of human restoration, recognises no glory but the living to the glory of God. If this be glory, then where is the word which could describe glory so emphatically as grace? Grace is that which produces consecration to God’s service, and therefore grace is nothing less than incipient glory. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

    At the revelation of Jesus Christ.-

    The revelation of Jesus Christ

    I. The grand object referred to. “The revelation of Jesus Christ.”

    II. The blessings which result to believers in consequence of this revelation.

    1. By means of this revelation the kindness of God our Saviour to man is made known.

    2. This revelation brings heaven to the view of believers, and assures them that they shall inherit that glory which is yet to be revealed.

    3. This revelation teaches those who in consequence of receiving it have truly believed on the Son of God, that when He shall come again it will be to con summate their salvation.

    III. The entire confidence and joyous anticipation, which it becomes believers consequently to indulge.

    1. It is very important to Christians that they should indulge hope-that they should “perfectly hope.” “We are saved by hope.”

    2. A firm foundation is laid for the exercise of perfect hope in the promises of God, ratified by the blood of the everlasting covenant, and confirmed by solemn oaths. (W. Temple.)

    Christ and His grace

    The display of Him is everything. Be it therefore observed that “the revelation” of Him is four fold.

    1. The first revelation of Him we call scriptural. This began very early, even in Paradise. There the Sun of righteousness dawned, and from thence shone more and more unto the perfect day. This exhibition of Him may be likened to a perfect portraiture of a most distinguished and endeared person age, at full length, rolled up on the side of a room, and which the owner gradually opens to the beholders, till the whole figure stands disclosed.

    2. The second revelation of Him is incarnate. Thus He was not only declared but perceived. He appeared not in vision but in person. Not tremendously, as in the giving of the law, but familiarly, “clothed in a body like our own.” Not transiently, as when He paid visits to His people of old, but by a continuance of three-and-thirty years-for “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us-full of grace and truth.”

    3. The third revelation of Him is spiritual. And we call it spiritual because it is produced by the Spirit of God in the spirit of man. It is expressed by sight; not a carnal sight of Him, but by the eye of faith. It is such an acquaintance with Him as draws forth our admiration, excites our love, gains our confidence, and secured our obedience.

    4. The fourth revelation of Him is glorious. After all He is now much concealed. There are millions who know nothing even of His existence. Even where He is professedly known, there are multitudes to whom He has no form or comeliness, nor any beauty, that they should desire Him. But Christians are relieved and cheered with the thought that it will not be so always. But what is to be expected at the revelation of Jesus Christ? “The grace that is to be brought unto you.”

    Two inquiries may here arise-

    1. What does “the grace” here spoken of mean? It comprehends the fulness of the promise, “I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” His invitation, “Come, ye blessed of My Father.”

    2. But why is it called grace? Why is it not said, “The glory that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ”?

    (1) May it not be, first, to exclude merit from all share in attaining it?

    (1) And may it not be so called to show the identity of grace with glory (W. Jay.)

    As obedient children.


    creature can escape. Man created to obey does not avoid this duty by separating himself from God; he only changes masters. What constitutes his greatness is that he freely responds to the design of his Creator.

    2. Because as Christians we are the redeemed of Jesus Christ, and consequently the property of God. Everything in the gospel teaches obedience.

    II. How must we obey? God will not be served by mercenaries nor by slaves. Who then will serve Him? The apostle answers, children.

    III. What influence does this obedience exert over our life? Action is but a part of obedience; to suffer is another. For many it is the larger part; for all it is the most difficult. Walking, speaking, working are to us means of obedience.

    1. Some complain at being obliged to obey, and rebel. Direct them to Nazareth, to Gethsemane, to Calvary.

    2. Some apparently accept the yoke of the Lord, but reserve to themselves the right of obeying in their way. Under the cover of Divine will they accomplish their own designs.

    3. Some wait till an inward impulse moves them to obedience. If it does not act they do not obey at all. In obeying at first passively and without joy, their obedience would soon, under Divine blessing, be transformed into a joyous doing of His will. One word to such as do not yet possess the truth. If they ask me what is the best way of obtaining faith, I will not hesitate to answer, “Obey!” (E. Bersier, D. D.)


    1. We must obey, not by halves, or where we list, but in all things (Psalms 119:6; Luke 1:6; Leviticus 10:2).

    2. We must not, on the other side, run without our errand, nor do things whereof we have no commandment; this is no obedience, be it never so costly or painful, have it never so goodly a show (Jeremiah 7:31).

    3. Moreover, we must obey the commandment of the Lord, be it never so strange, harsh, unpleasing, or contrary to custom, though all the world counsel to the contrary.

    4. We must obey without reasoning the case, or consulting with flesh and blood: we must bind reason hand and foot to follow God (as it were) blindfold, as Abraham offering Isaac, and Joshua compassing Jericho.

    5. We must obey, whosoever or whatever be against it. If profits, pleasure, farm, oxen, etc., call us away, and God invite us, we must follow Him, else we have no part in Him.

    6. Speedily, not hereafter, but today.

    7. Voluntarily, not be haled only by pain and misery. God loves a cheerful servant.

    8. Constantly, not for a while only. Reasons hereof.

    (1) God’s sovereignty over us. We clay, He our Maker.

    (2) His will a rule of righteousness.

    (3) His great mercies every way, even to the worst, but to His children wonderful ones. (John Rogers.)

    Obedience a Christian virtue

    The idea of the Christian life, as a new sphere in which hope is predominant, and into which by virtue of our Lord’s resurrection Christians enter by a second birth, leads the apostle to address those to whom he wrote as “children”; and among the typical excellencies of children he selects the virtue of obedience. Now it may be noticed, first of all, that obedience is not in our day one of the more popular Christian graces or virtues. There have been days in the Church when men have been possessed by nothing short of a passion for putting themselves under rule-sometimes, it must be granted, not being sufficiently careful as to the sort of rule they put themselves under. Those days have gone by; and While we hear of Church Temperance Societies and Church Purity Societies devoted to the enforcement of these particular virtues, we do not, as yet, hear of a “Church Obedience Society.” Now the neglect into which obedience has fallen is apparently part of a larger neglect-that of the passive virtues generally; because, although obedience has an active, sometimes a very active, side, it is in the main a passive excellence. As the soul loses touch with the great Master of love, humility, self-repression, obedience it falls back on the old pagan ideal of regulated self-assertion, and a virtue like that insisted on by St. Peter-child-like obedience-is apt to be very soon at a discount. And there is another characteristic of our time which makes obedience a more or less difficult virtue. Obedience is said to be the virtue of older social conditions, such as accompanied feudalism or absolute monarchy, older conditions to which democracy has succeeded. It was natural, we are reminded, for arbitrary rulers to make much of a temper of mind which buttressed their power, but in a democratic age liberty takes the place of obedience: liberty is the typical virtue of free, self-improved, self-governing man; obedience, as a virtue, has had its day. Again, we are reminded that we are living in an age of liberty, nor, can it be denied that the difficulties of doing justice to the virtue of obedience have been aggravated by the abuses which have gathered round the ancient centres of authority? Nothing discredits the claims of obedience like the exaggerations of the rightful claims of any who ought to be obeyed. The Monarchy of France, as Richelieu contrived to make it, was the natural forerunner of the great Revolution; the Papacy, when, among other causes, the false decrials had exaggerated a legitimate supremacy of order into a spiritual absolutism, led by reaction into that enfeeblement of Church authority which is the weakness of our part of Christendom. We have accordingly fallen upon times when, both in Church and State, the rights of liberty have been pleaded against the duties and the instincts of obedience, and pleaded more or less successfully because of abuses in the support of which obedience has been, or might be, conceivably enlisted. And, further, as a consequence of these three tendencies, attention has been in modern times largely concentrated on those parts of Holy Scripture, to the neglect of others, which lay stress upon the rights, as distinct from the duties, of a Christian; Upon his freedom from the Jewish law as distinct from his obligations to the eternal moral law; upon the liberty with which Christ has made him free, as distinct from that service which he owes to God and which is itself perfect freedom. It is impossible to mistake the charm and power which attach to this word “liberty.” There is, we feel, something in our own human nature which at once responds to it; it appeals to sympathies which are universal and profound. Liberty is even in one particular sense the excellence of man as man-that is to say, of man as being endowed with a free will. To attempt to crush the exercise of this endowment of freedom is regarded as a crime against human nature, while the undertaking to strengthen its vigour and to enlarge its scope appeals to man’s profound desire to make the best of that which is his central self; and hence the indefinite, the magic charm which always attends upon the word and the idea of liberty. But, when in this connection we use the word “liberty,” two different things are often intended. The liberty to choose between good and evil, with, it must be added, in our fallen state, an existing inclination in the direction of the evil, is one thing; the true moral liberty of man is another. True liberty is secure when the will moves freely within its true element, which is moral good. Moral good is to the human soul what the air is to the bird, what the water is to the fish. Bird and fish have freedom enough in their respective elements; water is death to the bird, as the atmosphere is to the fish. A bird can sometimes drown itself, a fish can leap out of the water and die upon the bank; but the liberty of fish and bird alike is sufficiently complete without this added capacity for self-destruction; and so it is with man. Every Christian who is living in a state of grace will understand this. He knows that he would gain nothing in the way of moral freedom by a murder, or an adultery, or a lie; he knows that our Lord Jesus Christ, who did no sin, who could have done no sin, was not, therefore, other than morally free, since it is His freedom in giving Himself to death which is of the essence of His self-sacrifice for the sins of the world: “No man taketh My life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.” Nay, a Christian knows, too, that God could not choose evil without doing violence to His essential nature. But is God, therefore, without moral freedom? Is not God rather the one Being who is perfectly free because His perfections make it impossible for Him to choose evil; and would it not follow that the more closely man approaches to the holiness of God, the more closely does he approach to the true idea of liberty? We may look at this fundamental truth from another side. The sense of liberty within the soul of man is the conscious energy of the will, its felt vigour its power of making straight for the aim before it. But what is more certain than that the will acquires this two-fold excellence-strength and directness of purpose-by the discipline of obedience? The man who has never obeyed is not the man to know how to command. The steady drudgery of an apprenticeship is the necessary training for the conduct of a great business. The submissive and persistent industry of the junior clerk is the true preparation for a partnership in the firm. He would be a poor general of division who had never served as an ensign or a lieutenant, if not in the ranks. Nay, we see the operation of this law, that the strength and freedom of the will is secured by obedience, in the very quarter where we might beforehand perhaps think that it might have been dispensed with. We are told that the Divine Redeemer of the world went down to Nazareth, and was subject to His mother and His foster father until a period long past the age of manhood; and when his ministerial life, which from first to last was a life of obedience, was ended, it was ended by a supreme act of obedience. For He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross; wherefore also God hath highly exalted Him.” The obedience which St. Peter recommends is, let us observe, the obedience of children. It is not the obedience of slaves, of slaves who are slaves against their will. The kingdom of heaven is not fashioned on the lines of an Oriental court in which a crowd of unwilling servitors tremble before a master whose word may at any moment bring to any one of them sentence of death. There have been Christians who have understood the service of God in some such sense as this, but it is not the tendency or a danger of our time. We should perhaps do better to remember that the use which a true Christian makes of his freedom is to become willingly a slave of Jesus Christ. This is St. Paul’s favourite way of describing himself, “Paul, a servant”-it should be, “a slave of Jesus Christ.” He means that he has freely surrendered himself, his soul, his body, his understanding, his affections, his will, his passions, his entire liberty, to the will, to the commands of Jesus Christ. But then this slavery is the highest expression of freedom, and it differs vitally from the involuntary slavery which has nothing to do with, though it may have at times been mistaken for, Christian obedience. In the current sense of the words, “Christian obedience” is not the obedience of slaves, nor is it the obedience of mercenaries. A true Christian does not serve God for the sake of what he can get from Him; he does not serve God only or chiefly even for the sake of gaining heaven, or of escaping hell. But here do not let us exaggerate. If God is to be served because He is what He is-infinitely perfect and lovable-it is not less true that a recompense does follow on Christian obedience. The picture in St. Matthew 25:1-46 of the King sitting in judgment and making the eternal awards to the blessed and to the lost is not an illusion. If the recompense is not the first motive of service, it is a motive which our Lord Himself has sanctioned. Nay, in the last resort obedience to God for His own sake and obedience for the sake of the reward which He gives so blend as not to be distinguishable from each other, since God Himself is the only true and adequate reward of the human soul. He says to each true servant now, as He said to the Patriarch, “I am thy exceeding great reward.” And yet it remains true that the obedience which keeps an eye only or mainly on what it will get is not in keeping with the higher temper of the Christian life. Every time we say “Our Father,” at the beginning of the most authoritative of all prayers, we bind ourselves to a life of obedience. Of this let us be sure, that no true obedience neglects orders and duties which God has clearly prescribed. If God says by His apostle, “Pray,” even “pray without ceasing,” a true obedience does not say, “My heart is cold, my prayer will be formal, lifeless, resultless”-it does its best. If God says, “In everything give thanks,” true obedience does not say, “God knows all about me and He will take my thankfulness for granted; I need not say grace after meals, or thanksgiving after Communion, or go out of my way to render praise to Him for some special deliverances and mercies”-it does its best. And if God bestows on us the treasure of His Holy Word, and bids us “Search the Scriptures,” true obedience does not say that the Bible will not help us until we are aroused by literary curiosity, or some other sort of eagerness, to read it; it resolves to train the spiritual taste by earnest daily study-it does its best. If God desires us again and again to bear witness before the world to the faith that is in us, true obedience does not dwell on the feeble hold of the great unseen realities which is all that as yet we have, on the danger of saying more than we feel or mean, on the shifting, uncertain character of our present impressions-it goes straight to Holy Scripture and does its best. If God bids us remember the poor, visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction-in other words, look after hospitals, orphanages, homes, penitentiaries, deserted children, tramps, lone women, and the like-true obedience does not say, “There is no knowing, after all, how many of these institutions are doing any real good.” It does not say, “We cannot possibly decide how many of these poor people are not gross impostors.” It goes to work with the love of God in its heart, and, expecting to make a full percentage of mistakes, it does its best. Obedience cannot hope to be always and everywhere the product of a sustained enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is a great gift of God which visits souls and visits churches at intervals, but there are also intervals when there is little or no enthusiasm abroad, but during which the persistence of obedience is not the less necessary; and it is during these colder periods that we learn the value of living by rule. No obedience worth anything is to be secured without rule. “Moral force,” it has well been said, “is like running water in a narrow channel which confines it on this side and that; it rushes onwards towards the fields of duty as the dispenser of fertility and of life; but if it has no barriers to confine its energies and to direct its course, it will presently sink away into the sands and will do no good to any living thing.” Not that child-like obedience is always, indeed chiefly, active. In the majority of human lives it is passive. It consists in acceptance of what is ordered, in submission, in resignation, rather than in anything demonstrative; and obedience of this kind is at once harder and more sublime than active obedience: it is the obedience of Gethsemane and of Calvary, rather than that of the preceding years of labour and of miracle. The Holiest, we are told, Himself learnt obedience, not by the things which He did, but by the things which he suffered. The best and most fruitful obedience may in some cases be that of the confirmed invalid, that of the closing weeks of a last illness. Obedience is the joy and glory of the great intelligences who move and worship around the eternal throne; and here below on earth the souls which grace has fashioned after the likeness of the pattern Man-aye, the finest natures among us-have a thirst, nay, they have a passion, for obedience, for they know that in freely obeying they touch nearly, or quite, the secret of moral victory and spiritual joy. (Canon Liddon.)

    The obedience of hope

    These words immediately follow, and are to be taken in closest connection with, the exhortation to “hope perfectly for the grace that is to be brought at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Hope, then, is to be nurtured, not only by a believing contemplation of future felicities, but by exercising ourselves to godliness and practical obedience. Two points as to the words of this text must be noticed before dealing with the thoughts. As the Revised Version shows, the literal rendering is “as children of obedience.” The essential or permanent characteristic of a person or thing is regarded as his or its parent. So obedience is represented as the inalienable mark of a Christian. But the immediately following reference to God as our Father seems to suggest that the Hebrew idiom here is blended with the Christian thought of sonship. One other expository remark is necessary. The Revised Version reads in the margin “but like the Holy One which called you.” If we adopt that rendering, and connect the words closely with the preceding, God’s own holiness is proposed as the pattern by which Christians are to fashion themselves.

    I. That Christian hope and Christian obedience are inseparable companions. The mark of a son is to obey. And obedience means not merely doing what we are bid, but being glad to be bidden to do it; and it means not merely the active submission of will to the loving command of the Father, but also the quiet acceptance of and bowing of the will to the wise appointments of that Father. So it is the exact opposite of that temper and attitude which are characteristic of the godless world which makes self and its own will its law. There are the two courses of life, obedience or rebellion; and there is no middle point. Does our obedience cover the whole ground-of action and of surrender and submission? Such obedience can never be parted from the great Christian hope. Hope will produce obedience. Now, many professing Christians are a great deal stronger in the department of devout emotion than in that of practical righteousness. I should like all these people who find it so good to feed their souls on the meditation and anticipation of future blessedness to notice how, as in one volume, Peter binds up the two things that they keep so distinctly apart, and how emphatically he affirms that, if we have any genuine Christian hope, it will have its effect in helping us, as children of obedience, to do and to accept all our Father’s will. There we come down to a very plain practical test. But, then, these two things which the Apostle thus couples by an iron band have a reciprocal action. They work upon each other; in fact, they are the outside and the inside of the same thing; but we may look at them as being different. Just as strong hope will produce obedience, so true obedience will nourish and strengthen hope. For a little sin will go much further towards obscuring and shattering a Christian man’s hope than a great sorrow will. It is comparatively easy to keep up the temper of joyous anticipation of the future in the midst of the darkness of a present experience; but it is absolutely impossible for a man, at one and the same time, to be rebelling in heart and act against the will of God and to be entertaining and recreating his soul by the bright hope of a future heaven. No Christian man’s hope will last through a sin. Therefore obedience and hope must co-exist and feed one another.

    II. That hope, fed by and feeding obedience, should change us from the likeness of our former selves. “Not fashioning yourselves according to the former in your ignorance”-that may be said to all people who have been brought out of the darkness into the light. It is but an uncertain light, or twilight mainly, at the best, that shines upon the mysteries of human life and duty, until the sunshine of God, manifested in Jesus Christ, rises and is welcomed by our hearts. So, then, non-Christian living is, in a profound sense, ignorance; and in the ignorance, just as the wild beasts of the forest go forth in the dark and are nocturnal in their habits if they are predatory, so the lusts that war against our souls expatiate and hunt and find their prey in the darkness. But, says Peter, if, hoping, you are obedient, and obedient you hope, then there will be a process of transformation going on in you. But in a world like this, and with creatures like us, unless a man has learnt not to do wrong, there is little chance of his doing right. The evil that we have to fight against is in possession, and we have to turn it out. A large part of all practical morality, Christian or not, consists in negative precepts; and the very heart and centre, in one aspect, of Christian duty lies here; self-denial, self-suppression, self-crucifixion. You have to put off the old self as part of the process of putting on the new. I press this upon you, “not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts, in your ignorance.” And that will be a life-long task. For nobody knows how, like a cuttlefish, holding on to its prey by the suckers upon its arm, his evil habits cling to him, until he have tried to fling away the loathly thing that prevents him from freely using his limbs. “Hope?” Yes! “Obey?” Yes! and that you may crucify the old man with his deeds, and put off the garments spotted by the flesh, that you may put on the “fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints.”

    III. Lastly, this obedience and hope should change us into the likeness of the father. If we are children we have the Father’s life in us; and we ought to have the Father’s likeness. This is the great aim that we have to set before ourselves. And oh! what an aim it is. Nothing less august than absolute perfection is worthy to be the goal of a soul. How different it is to say, Try to be like God as you haw learned to know Him in Jesus Christ, from what it is to say, “Try to be up to the ideal of humanity”; “try to cultivate a pure morality”; “be true to yourselves,” and all those other sayings, noble in their way and to a certain extent, which people who turn away from Christianity try to set up as substitutes for its morality. They are all hard and icy; and no kind of inspiration comes out of them. “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect,” the ideal lives; the ideal loves, Yes! and more; the ideal is our Father, and so He will make His child like Himself. And that fashioning ourselves like our Father, if it does not precede obedience to the negative precept, must at all events be carried on simultaneously with it. It is a fatal mistake to try simply to obey the negative precept unless we aim along with it at obedience to the positive one. The more we come close to Him the further we withdraw from earth and evil. But notice how hope animates the effort at becoming like God. He is “the Holy One which called you.” Well, then, if He has called us to be holy, it will not be in vain that we shall try to be so. And unless we have this “hope of His calling,” sure I am that we shall never earnestly and successfully aim at being like Him. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

    Obedience in small things

    Do not always be looking for the large and the heroic, the expansive, the typical, the magnificent. Do with simplicity and consecration and faith your duty as it comes, every day; that is all. The great Earl of Lincoln held all his great estates from the Crown on the condition that he gave to the king every year one white rose in the time of roses. Now, it was not much-a white rose for a title to these estates; but mind you it was enough. It was a sign that the earl held all from the throne, and that he held all for the throne; and, as he gave his white rose, year by year, it was the signal of his loyalty. And God says to us, “I do not ask you for the large and the difficult and the impossible, day by day-but simple love, simple loyalty, simple service, one white rose in the time of roses.” But mind you keep the white rose of love, of simple obedience, and consecration in your heart. That, then, is enough. He can see the heroic in the simplest service. (W. L. Watkinson.)

    Not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts.-

    We must forsake evil before we can do good

    For the order here used, he sets renouncing of our lusts first, before embracing of holiness; men put off their old rags, ere they can put on a new apparel; purge the stomach of ill humours, ere they take good nourishment; dig up the weeds, ere they sow or set herbs: so in this ease. Where, therefore, there remaineth the love of any lust or sin, there is no true grace in the heart, neither will any grow till that be rooted out. God will not plant any of His grace there, till the devil’s planting be plucked up. Many think they be Christians, and do many things well, though they keep the love of some sin; no, mark, the love of grace and goodness, and the love of any sin, cannot be in one heart; they are so contrary the one to the other; therefore, while thou livest in any known sin, and lovest any lust, as sure as God is in heaven thou art an hypocrite and standest in the state of damnation. (John Rogers.)


    are not sensual impulses and wants only, but desires of what is different from what God allows. (G. F. C. Frau Muller, Ph. D.)

    In your ignorance.-

    The sin of ignorance

    I. Why is ignorance named as the special sin to set out their unregenerate estate, seeing they were guilty of many other sins? Not because men sin only by ignorance, as the Platonists think, but-

    1. It may be the Holy Ghost doth of purpose do it to aggravate the hatefulness of the sin because men use to excuse it and make light of it.

    2. Because it is a sin none are free from. If he had named whoredom, or drunkenness, etc., many unregenerate men would have pleaded not guilty.

    3. This sin serves more to reproach the rebellious nature of man. It was the knowledge of good and evil that Adam so much aspired unto, and lo, now, he and all his were set in gross ignorance.

    4. Because ignorance is the mother and nurse of all sorts of sins (Ephesians 4:18; 2 Peter 2:12; Psalms 36:2-4). But have unregenerate men no knowledge? Yes, they have some knowledge, for they are wise to do evil, and they may have great learning in arts and sciences; but yet they are justly taxed with ignorance because they know not God as a Father by the light of faith, nor Christ Jesus whom He hath sent; and besides, they have no desire to know their own iniquities or the way how to reform their own lives; they have no knowledge to do good.

    II. These things being thus resolved, there are divers observations to be noted from hence.

    1. That a true convert must make conscience of inward sins, as well as outward; of defects as well as evil desires or lusts, as here of ignorance as well as of wicked thoughts. The same God that saith, “How long shall thy evil thoughts abide in thee?” complains also of ignorance (Isaiah 1:3).

    2. That ignorance is no small sin; it is exceeding hateful to God; contrary to doctrine of those that say it is the mother of devotion.

    3. That without reformation of ignorance we cannot be truly turned to God; without knowledge the mind is not good; therefore, to tear the veil is one part of God’s work in our conversion (Proverbs 19:3; Isaiah 25:8).

    4. That ignorance is wanton and full of lust (Ephesians 4:18).

    5. That the way to be rid of lusts is to be rid of ignorance. For saving knowledge keeps us from sin (James 3:17). Here we may see the principal use we should put our knowledge to, viz., to cleanse our hearts of base thoughts and desires.

    6. That we may live in places of great means for knowledge and yet be grossly ignorant. For he writeth here to the Jews, who had the law and the prophets, and the oracles of God and the priests, etc.

    7. That all knowledge or learning without the knowledge of God’s favour in Christ, and the way how to reform our own lives, is but foolish ignorance.

    8. That habitual lusts are a sure sign of ignorance, whatsoever knowledge men pretend.

    III. Lastly, seeing there is ignorance even in the children of God after calling, what are the signs of unregenerate ignorance?

    1. It hardens the heart and works a continued evil disposition to sin with greediness (Ephesians 4:11; Ephesians 4:18). Now the ignorance in the godly may be where the heart is softened and the overflowings of corruption stopped.

    2. It hoodwinketh the soul in the main things needful to salvation, as the knowledge of a man’s own iniquities, God in Christ, the forgiveness of a man’s own sins, and generally all the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). A wicked man may discern spiritual things carnally, but not spiritually.

    3. It hath never been in the furnace of mortification; it hath never been truly repented of, whereas the ignorance of the godly hath often been confessed, mourned for, etc.

    4. It will suffer no saving grace to neighbour by it; where ignorance hath not been repented of, there no fear of God, no holy contemplation, no uprightness, love of God, or His Word, or His people, will dwell. Now the ignorance that is in God’s children is well neighboured with many holy graces that can dwell by it. And as these ignorances differ in nature and working, so they differ in imputation. For unto the godly there is a sacrifice for ignorance. God doth not impute ignorance unto the godly: it shall be to them according to what they know, and not according to what they know not. (N. Byfield.)

    Ignorance the cause and root of a bad life

    He fathers their following of lusts on their ignorance; and ignorance is the root of a wicked life; for, till men know the will of God out of His Word, how can they do it? and what are we prone to by nature, but to all the evil in the world? Therefore the devil labours by all means to hold people in blindness, and, of all books, hath most been an enemy to the Bible, and to sincere and diligent reading, and preaching the Scriptures, for were those away, he knows all iniquity must needs abound. As, if one comes into a house at midnight, he sees no faults, but when the morning comes, then he sees a number of things out of order; so in the clear light of the gospel, we see the wickedness that then appeared not in the dark. Whither will not our nature run, and whither may not the devil and world lead one, when he hath no eyes to see whither he goes? As the raven first picks out the lamb’s eyes, and then kills it at his pleasure, when it cannot see to escape, so doth the devil by people. (John Rogers.)

    Slavery through ignorance

    I have heard a reflection often expressed by thoughtful country people when they saw a great draught horse meekly submitting to be bridled and led away to labour by a child: “If the brute creatures knew their own strength, they would not submit to the yoke and the lash.” These mighty quadrupeds could trample down the stripling that puts bits in their mouths. Yet they submit to whatever their master imposes, ignorant of their own strength. Oh, if man, God’s greatest creature, knew his strength, he would not submit to be the slave of vile passions! Strong men in multitudes are in our country led not only to the yoke, but even to the shambles, by the appetite of intemperance. This possessing spirit says to the right arm, Do this, and he doeth it; to the foot, Go thither, and he goeth. Oh, that these captives, driven openly in gangs, not through the marshes of interior Africa, but along the streets of British cities, were at last set free! (W. Arnot.)

    Holy in all manner of conversation.-

    Holiness in all things

    Not where, when, to whom, and what we list, but at all times, in all places, towards all persons, and in all things, as God is holy in all His ways and works.

    1. This serves to rebuke those that will yield in some things only. What is it if a man be not covetous, if he be proud, or unclean, etc.? Some will yield in great matters, but in small do as they list; as to swear by their faith and troth, especially in that which is true, talk vain a little, put a little false ware, deceive a little, etc. Some again will yield in all small matters, but in some great thing they will not; as to give all diligence to increase in every grace, and that no corrupt communication should come out of their mouths; though thou hast spoken many good words, yet hadst thou better be silent than have no more good to speak. Some in adversity will be very humble, good words, golden promises, but in prosperity nothing so. Some use their superiors well, their poor tenants or work folks hardly. Alas, there is no part of our life, wherein God gives any license to do evil; in our particular callings let us show the truth of our Christianity.

    2. Let us prove the truth of holiness in us by the generality of it; keep a constant tenour, an even hand, and let there be a proportion between every part of our life, not one part, as it were, devout, another profane and wicked. (John Rogers.)

    Be ye holy, for I am holy.-

    The holiness of God the type and model of ours

    What, then, is the sort of holiness to which He who is holy in calling us, does in fact call us?

    I. Here, negatively, let us note what it is not and cannot be.

    1. For one thing, it clearly is not, it cannot be, mere innocence, the innocence of one ignorant of evil, or of one who knows evil only by report, or of one who knows it only as a possibility, by a prohibitory enactment with a penalty attached to it.

    2. Neither is it enough that it should be a holiness consisting merely of enforced abstinence from evil, or of such outward compliance with good as a sense of dire necessity and a dread of unpleasant consequences may produce.

    3. Nor even can it be such painful discipline of self-restraint, self-denial, self-mortification, as may spring from better and more respectable motives-sometimes from motives of deep religious earnest ness.

    4. For, as to its essential character, our holiness, if it is to be like the holiness of God, must, at the very outset, pass out of the region of the merely negative, which implies a continual struggle to dethrone a tyrant, into the region of the positive, which is realised in our acknowledgment of Him who buys us to be His freedmen.

    5. For, finally, it is indeed now a new influence, a fresh and new power.

    II. The positive aspect of the grace in question-how, in that changed aspect of affairs, with our new mind towards God, as connected with His new mind towards us, may His holiness thus purely and simply bear upon us? How otherwise than by our being made partakers of His holiness, in such a sense and to such an effect that we do now really become “as God, knowing good and evil”? We know evil as God knows it; because we know good as God knows it. For we are partakers of “the Divine nature,” through our faith in “God’s exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4). We are thus “partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)


    I. Explain the exhortation.

    1. The nature of holiness.

    2. Its different stages and degrees.

    3. Its objects.

    4. Its effects.

    II. Consider the motive.

    1. God is holy, and therefore without holiness we cannot be like Him.

    2. God is holy, and therefore those only who are so can truly serve Him.

    3. God is holy, and without holiness it is impossible to please Him in anything we do.

    4. God is holy, and unless we be so too, we cannot be owned or acknowledged by Him.

    5. God is holy, and we must be holy in order to enjoy Him. (B. Beddome, M. A.)


    I. Holiness in the heart, or as it works its way down to the depth of our nature. “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance.”

    1. In their unregenerate state men always fashion themselves after the pattern of their lusts or inward sinful desires.

    2. The power of evil, however, though not expelled, is dethroned in the believer’s heart, and the principle of dutiful obedience takes its place. God’s people-ideal, and to a certain extent actual, people-are emphatically the “children of obedience.”

    (1) This implies for one thing that they inwardly approve the Divine law, that they love God’s commandments. It is not a law they would alter if they could.

    (2) Obedience, however, contains another element, namely, that the mind throws itself actively and energetically into the duties prescribed.

    II. Holiness in the life, or as it widens out over the whole area of conduct. “As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.”

    1. This enjoins holiness in all our thinking and reading.

    2. Holiness should also be observed in all your conversation, in the modern sense of the word. “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt.”

    (1) On the one hand, you must renounce filthy and blasphemous language.

    (2) But as you should avoid evil communications, so, on the other hand, your speech should be such as to cause grace in the hearers. We do not faithfully mirror the Divine holiness when we foul each other’s character.

    3. Christian holiness, furthermore, extends to our acts as well as to our words and thoughts. “Be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” Christianity influences the whole area of life private and public; it is commensurate with our existence.

    III. Holiness in its standard. “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”

    1. Why is holiness a virtue, and therefore required of us? The Bible answer is, Because God is holy. The essence of God-that is to say, that which makes God to be God-is His infinite holiness and infinite love. Hence the Bible continually summons men to holiness; not to learning or culture, but to holiness, for only in holiness and love can we resemble our Maker. By growing in other things, however much to be coveted in themselves, we do not grow in likeness to our Maker.

    2. In the text God is styled “He that called you.” And His “calling” imposes a fresh obligation upon you. You are called by God-to what? To holiness, “to show forth the virtues of Him that called you.” If you seek not holiness, you overlook the very purpose of your separation from the world and your incorporation into the Church. Your “call” has been in vain.

    3. As the ground of our holiness is in God, so the standard of our holiness, that to which it is to grow, is the holiness of God. “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Infinite holiness surely presents a standard lofty enough. Christianity in the morality, the holiness, it demands can never be outdone. One argument Herbert Spencer urges against it is that the standard of character it offers for our imitation is too high. Observe that the objection carries in it a homage to the pure ethics of the Teacher of Nazareth. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

    The family likeness

    I. The pattern of holiness. Religion is imitation. The truest form of worship is to copy. All through heathenism you find that principle working. “They that make them are like unto them.” Why are heathen nations so sunken in their foul nesses? Because their gods are their examples, and they, first of all, make the gods after the pattern of their own evil imaginations, and then the evil imaginations, deified, react upon the makers and make them tenfold more children of hell than themselves. Worship is imitation. For religion is but love and reverence in the superlative degree, and the natural operation of love is to copy, and the natural operation of reverence is the same. So that the old Mosaic law, “Be ye holy as I am holy,” went to the very heart of religion. And the New Testament form of it, as Paul puts it in a very bold word, “Be ye imitators of God, as beloved children,” sets its seal on the same thought. But then, says somebody or other, “it is not possible.” Well, if it were not possible, try it all the same. For in this world it is aim and not attainment that makes the noble life; and it is better to shoot at the stars, even though your arrow never reaches them, than to fire it along the low levels of ordinary life. I do not see that however the unattainableness of the model may be demonstrated, that has anything to do with the duty of imitation. Instead of bewildering ourselves with questions about “unattainable” or “attainable,” suppose we asked, at each failure, “Why did I not copy God then; was it because I could not, or because I would not?”

    II. The field of this Godlike holiness. Here is no cloistered and ascetic holiness which taboos large provinces of every man’s experience, and says “we must not go in there, for fear of losing our purity,” but rather wherever Christ has trod before we can go. That is a safe guide, and what ever God has appointed there we can go and that we can do. “In all manner of conversation.” There is nothing so minute but it is big enough to mirror the holiness of God. The tiniest grain of mica, upon the face of the hill, is large enough to flash back a beam; and the smallest thing we can do is big enough to hold the bright light of holiness.

    III. The motive or inspiration of holiness. Peter would stir his hearers to the emulation of the Divine holiness by that thought of the bond that unites Him and them. “He hath called you.” In which word, I suppose, he includes the whole sum of the Divine operations which have resulted in the placing of each of his auditors within the circle of the Christian community as the subjects of Christ’s grace, and not only the one definite act to which the theologians attach the name of “calling.” In the briefest possible way we may put the motive thus-the inspiration of imitation is to be found in the contemplation of the gifts of God. And not only so, but in this thought of the Divine calling there lies a fountain of inspiration when we remember the purpose of the calling. As Paul puts it in one of his letters: “God has not called us to uncleanness but to holiness.” And so, if in addition to the fact of His “gift and calling” and all that is included within it, if in addition to the purpose of that calling we further think of the relation between us and Him which results from it, so as that we, as the next verse says, call Him who hath called us, “Our Father,” then the motive becomes deeper and more blessed still. Shall we not try to be like the Father of our spirits, and seek for His grace, to bear the likeness of sons? (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

    Of imitating the holiness of God

    I. The obligations we are under to imitate the God whom we worship. This is an original obligation, founded in nature itself, requiring us to imitate what it necessitates us to admire. And this obligation is confirmed by the light of reason, teaching us further that imitation of God, as it is most fit in itself, so it cannot but be likewise most acceptable unto Him and agreeable to His will. For the same absolute perfection of the Divine nature which makes us certain that God must Himself be of necessity infinitely holy, just, and good, makes it equally certain that He cannot possibly approve iniquity in others. And the same beauty, the same excellency, the same importance of the rules of everlasting righteousness, with regard to which God is always pleased to make those rules the measure of all His own actions, necessarily prove that it must likewise be His will that all rational creatures should proportionately make them the measure of theirs. In the revelation which God has been pleased to make to us of Himself in Scripture, the necessity of the same duty is more expressly and more clearly enforced (Leviticus 11:44; Leviticus 19:1; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10; 2 Peter 1:4).

    II. The true extent and proper limitations of this duty.

    1. All imitation of God must be understood to be an imitation of His moral attributes only, and not of His natural ones.

    2. Even in these moral excellencies it is evident further that it must necessarily mean an imitation of likeness only, and not of equality.

    3. Yet ought we also to consider that even in the degrees of goodness it is our duty continually to improve. A perfect example is set before us that aiming always at that, we may make a perpetual progress in the ways of virtue.


    1. If true religion consists in the imitation of God, and all imitation of God is of necessity confined to His moral perfections only, then it hence evidently follows that moral virtue is the chief end of religion, and that to place the main stress of religion in anything else besides true virtue is superstition.

    2. If true religion consists in the imitation of God, and that which is imitable in God be His moral perfections, hence it follows necessarily that moral excellences, justice, goodness, truth, and the like, are of the same kind in God as in men.

    3. From hence it appears of how great importance it is to men to frame to themselves right and worthy notions of God. For such as are the conceptions men have of the object of their worship, such also will proportionably be their own behaviour and practice. (S. Clarke, D. D.)

    The true ideal of life, its sublime grandeur and implied attainability

    I. Its sublime grandeur. The holiness of God. To be holy is to possess, not one virtue or grace, but all virtues. “The moral magnates of the old world,” says Luthardt, “are strong in this or that particular virtue;” but they fail to give us the impression that the central point of their being is penetrated and renovated by the spirit of morality, and that we have in this a guarantee that the moral spirit by which they are animated would manifest itself in all aspects as occasion offered. They represent only single virtues: Aristides, justice; Epaminondas, truthfulness; Cimon, liberality; Leonidas, patriotism, etc.; but they do not represent morality itself. Socrates is the model of a noble Greek; but in his last hours he was un feeling to his wife and children. Plato and Aristotle were teachers of wisdom; but their verdict on the sensual errors of their fellow countrymen was more than lenient. Carp was proverbial for his integrity in public life, but was cruel to his slaves; and we might adduce many more such instances. Everywhere we see single virtues; nowhere do we find the spirit of morality filling the whole man.” God’s character is the totality. God “is light.” By a prism we can divide the light of the sun into various coloured rays, each of which is an object of interest and deserves study. But as in the light there is the combination of all these colours, so in the character of God we have the combination of all actual and conceivable virtues. This is our standard, nothing lower. First: Anything lower than this would not suit our nature. We are so constituted that our faculties can never unfold themselves vigorously, fully, without having some grand object ever before us; when that object is reached they collapse, and the soul sinks into dormancy if not death. Secondly: Anything lower than this would damage the universe. The well-being and blessedness of the intelligent creation depends upon every member aiming at the highest holiness, the holiness of God.

    II. Its implied attainability. No character ever appeared in history so imitable as the character of Christ. He is the most imitable character-First: Who has the most power to command admiration-the admiration of the soul. Secondly: Who is the most transparent in character. Thirdly: Who is the most unalterable in purpose. Therefore follow Him. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

    Personal holiness

    This great gift and demand of the Gospel, I wish to regard as a thing simply personal and individual. I have called it a gift, for holiness is no longer natural to, no longer rises spontaneously in the soul of man: it needs to be inspired and called forth by the “Spirit of holiness,” which is the Spirit of God. And what is this gift of holiness, so needful for the Christian, the work of the Holy Ghost in His own individual soul and nature? Now if holiness has its seat in the soul, it is clear that it does not consist merely of a certain number of ceremonial, or even of religious acts, but that it consists first of a principle, and then of habits springing from that principle. It does not consist merely of religious acts, although these acts are quite necessary to a holy life. It consists in the soul of man being brought into communion and concord with God, the source of holiness. And this is done on man’s part by the exercise of two qualities in his nature directed towards God-faith and love. The spiritual power of these two great gifts is unbounded, is miraculous. They transform the soul; they make it, according to its capacity, like God; they awaken new affections; they give a new bias to the will; they inspire new hopes, desires, and aims; they raise the spirit into a higher atmosphere, while they invest the commonest duties of life with a hallowing influence. This is its principle; but it is not merely an excited or elevated state of mind or feeling. It will not evaporate in sentiment, but will go forth into habits, and mix itself with all the acts of this life. Where the will of man is brought into harmony with the will of God, it must run out into deeds and habits of love and self-sacrifice, into all that is pure and holy. And if we look for a perfect exhibition, an unique pattern of the holiness here enjoined, we find it in the character and life of our Divine Redeemer. To be holy is to be like Christ; this is the final test, the consummation of human nature, wholly sanctified in body, soul, and spirit. For in that heavenly character, what is the leading idea? One stands forth pre-eminent-the supreme lesson of His life. It is the sacrifice of His will, in love to God and man. (A. Grant, D. C. L.)

    The holiness of God

    Why ought the holiness of God to be a reason for our holiness?

    I. Because holiness is that idea of himself which God is most intent upon communicating to man.

    II. Every other moral conception that you can form of God when you analyse it will carry you back to the fundamental thought that God is a holy being. He is said to be good. Goodness, if you analyse it, will bring you back to the idea of doing that only which is pure and fit and just and right.

    III. The relation which subsists between man and God makes it indispensable that man should be holy, or pure in his purpose, and this for several reasons. The Scriptures inquire, “How can two walk together, except they be agreed?” What harmony can there be between light and darkness, good and evil, right and wrong, purity and impurity, sin and holiness? Two persons may be most strongly attached where one supplements the other. So, even in the marriage relation, absolute identity of tastes is not always essential to the highest happiness; but, while there may be the supplementing of one with the other, if there be antagonism, there can he no sympathy or union. So that, if we are expecting to be accounted the children of God, there must be sympathy, truth, identity. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

    God and obligation, or the pattern of sanctity

    A “holy thing” is a thing that has been withdrawn from common uses and reserved for specific religious ends. A “holy man” is one upon whom there has been laid an authoritative interdict irrevocably separating him from the pursuits of common life, and binding him to the Divine service. But how can God be called holy in this earliest meaning of the term? He is eternally pure and perfect and separate from sinners, and does not need to draw a line between Himself and the world by a special consecration act. Well, God is separate from all those gods of the heathen kingdoms who may be thrust into competitive relations with Him. Even when the gods of the heathen are made to represent virtues and heroisms, when they incorporate the fairest ideals of the human imagination and conscience, in disposition and conduct and benign economy they fall immeasurably short of the perfection of the Most High, and He is still separate and alone. By acts that are from everlasting to everlasting in their range, He makes for Himself a consecrated sphere of life that must be ever and only His own (Micah 7:18). Is the time-honoured logic of this injunction sound? Is God’s pattern a spring of motion and obligation to us? The logic has stood the strain of many centuries: will it do for our critical decade?

    I. The argument at the outset sounds like an argument basing itself upon the authority which takes its rise in supreme and boundless power. The Divine Speaker seems to assume unlimited proprietorship over us because He imparts life and determines all the outward conditions under which life maintains itself. Now a Jew would have submitted himself at once. We, however, are disposed to go a little further into the subject than that, and ask, “Does mere power, however gigantic its scale, create obligation”? It is our privilege to live after the French Revolution, and we are not disposed to submit to superior power for the simple reason that it is superior power. For God to bind upon us the law of His personal life because He is stronger than we is surely not unlike Fate trying to vanquish Prometheus bound to the rock in the Caucasus. Well, whilst usurped power can bring no sanction with it, if the power be original, creative, unlimited in time and space, it does bring essential obligation in its train. God does not want our conformity to His pattern because His power out powers other types of power, but because it is spontaneous, eternal, and a part of Himself. He whose breath brings the secret of life, whose word makes every wavelet of sunshine or starlight that visits the eye, every atom of air that sweetens and vitalises the blood, whose hand prepares the foundation upon which all life rests, and strikes the blow which brings our truest enfranchisements, has the right to bind men by His pattern. The rights of all fatherhoods, the prerogatives of all crowns and thrones and sovereignties, the sanctions of all law and ethic speak in this imperative “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”

    II. The authority that here addresses us is not that of supreme power only, but also of absolve loveliness and perfection. In bidding us be like Himself God is bidding us be like that we most esteem, for has He not captivated the entire range of our reverence and admiration? The crown of supremacy belongs to God, not by an arbitrary coronation act, but by His own inherent fitness to wear it. We must set ourselves to copy that which we irresistibly worship. The musician whose soul has been visited by dream-like melodies from other worlds, is bound to so group his notes as to realise, for those to whom he sings, the mystic enchantments that have smitten his own soul with wonder. The painter to whose inner sense the subtle charm and secret of glowing sky, or flowered landscape, or fretting sea, has made itself known, is bound to suggest, as far as the play of colours will do it, the magnificent vision that has possessed his own imagination. All admirations have as their very core and essence the force of a vast moral constraint; and if God be the best of which we can think, or reason, or dream, if He has conquered all our moral admirations, if He is the loftiest pattern a quick and healthy and highly stimulated conscience can conceive, we are bound to copy Him. The highest form of worship is imitation. The trisagion of the cherubim, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts,” confesses the law under which earth and heaven alike are placed to be like God. I need not remind you how in His pattern prayer Christ makes us subscribe to the principle whose gracious operation and benefit we need for ourselves-“Our Father, which art in heaven.” Where there is fatherhood there is sonship and its duties, the first of which is to copy the qualities of the highest fatherhood. As we confess the Divine perfection the voice of unfailing response comes back in reply to our homage, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”

    III. These words are an argument from the affinities and similitudes of the divine and human natures. God’s nature is the archetype of ours. What does it mean when it is said we are “made in God’s image” and quickened to life with God’s breath, but that God has put within us the rudiments of His own holiness? The power to grow like God is implanted in man at the very beginning. There is a long-buried seed of spiritual excellence in him, old as his dim origins, which the processes of grace are destined to awaken and perfectly fructify. And to give us further assurance on the subject we are not only reminded of that image whose faint outlines and affinities we still bear, but we are told that this high and holy One has made Himself in our image. The correspondences are guaranteed from two standpoints. He has lived out His perfect life in an environment that is one with our own. In the person of His spotless and eternal Son, God has bowed Himself to the most abject conditions of our life, giving us a vision of that we are charged to copy, notwithstanding the strain of fierce and varied temptations. The grace that surrounds us on every side enters our natures and tends to produce there a reflection of the Holy One who has been our Friend and Saviour. In one of his books Mr. Ruskin says: “Some years ago a young Scotch student came to put himself under me, having taken many prizes justly with respect to the qualities looked for by the judges in various schools of art. He worked under me very earnestly and patiently for a time, and I was able to praise his doings in what I thought very high terms. Nevertheless there always remained a look of mortification on his face after he had been praised, however unqualifiedly. At last he could hold no longer, but one day when I had been more than usually complimentary, turned to me with an anxious yet not unconfident expression, and asked, ‘Do you think, sir, that I shall ever draw as well as Turner?’ I paused for a second or two, being much taken aback, and then answered, ‘It is more likely you should be made emperor of all the Russias. There is a new emperor every fifteen or twenty years on an average, and by strange hap and fortunate cabal any body might be made emperor. But there is only one Turner in five hundred years, and God decides without any admission of auxiliary cabal what piece of clay his soul is to be put into.’“ Come with your largest aspirations to the feet of Jesus Christ, and you may count upon a very different answer from that. “I am the ‘Firstborn amongst many brethren,’ and you shall be like Me, and shall realise the very qualities of Him whose manifestation I am. Trust Me, and go forward at My word, for you may be merciful and holy and perfect as the One in whose image you are made. The seed of the forgotten possibility is still in you, and I come to quicken that seed again, and in that quickening to bestow all spiritual grace and perfection. Yours is the very clay into which God determines to put His eternal ideal.”

    IV. The argument is an argument from the living contact and mystic immanency of the most high himself. The very self-same energy that makes God holy dwells in us and blends itself with our life. The very motive which determines God’s eternal and unspotted life of blessedness comes to infix itself in us. The power of God’s personal holiness, with all its magnificent achievements, lends itself to us for our perfecting.

    1. God comes very near to every man who wants to copy His personal perfection, and the reason He seems far off from some is that they have never been inspired with the desire to emulate His character. He is a model who lends Himself to the most intimate handling of reverential natures, and to the closest study of all who love Him and desire to conform themselves to His spiritual similitude.

    2. God is not only accessible, but He has the art of imparting Himself to those who seek Him in sincerity and love. If we may use the term without irreverence, He is the most magnetic being in the universe, inspiring those about Him with His own thought and love and sacred spiritual ardour. He is ever ready to make known His deepest secret to us.

    3. He comes also to dwell within us, and inform our nature with His hourly inspirations. And if God be in us, the imitation of God is not an extravagant or fantastic hope. And so our obligation is not measured by what we are in ourselves, but by those new ranges and outbursts of energy the Holy Spirit brings into our natures. His forces must be added to our own; the marvellous possibilities arising out of His inhabitation of human souls, the capacity attainable through His infinite and unfaltering succours, must be discerned and brought into the estimate if we would know the sum of oar obligation, the breadth of the law under which we are placed, the lofty standard we are summoned to reach. To be like God is a costly thing, involving stern self-abnegation, and the strenuous application of all that is within you to one end. Well, is God’s holiness a cheap and easy and self-indulgent thing? Did it not cost Him the most cherished treasure of His universe to exercise that holiness and compassionate an offending race? It is only by the renunciation of self that you can begin, however faintly, to be like God. (T. G. Selby.)

    Holiness after the Divine type

    The word holy has received various interpretations, according to the culture of those employing it, In the law of Moses, the word of which it is the translation seems to mean nothing more than ceremonial cleanliness. Then, certain moral ideas got associated with it, and to be holy signified to be virtuous. By and by the idea of pure feeling was added on, and it was seen that there must be an inward as well as outward purity in order to make a man holy. Our English word starts from an altogether different basis. Its fundamental conception is that of health; the holy man is the healthy, sound, whole man. But, then, it went through the same spiritualising process; first of all, health, holiness, consisted simply in soundness of body, then of mind, then of morals, and, finally, of the whole being. I like this conception better than the Hebrew; it gives one an idea more completely in harmony with the truth. I find it very hard to work my way up to spiritual holiness from the Hebrew standpoint of ceremonial cleanliness. But I discern this holiness, in the highest sense, to be wholeness, soundness, or health, that is, existence in the normal state, according to the laws of my whole being. And that, surely, is the holiness of God. He lives, He acts, according to the condition of His own absolutely perfect nature-from Himself, according to the truth of His own being. The text, then, is a call to Christian people ever to be striving after higher attainments in this holiness, ever to be setting before them the absolute holiness of God as the ideal after which they should form themselves.

    1. First of all, I feel there are a great force and beauty in the terms the writer employs: “Not fashioning yourselves according to your former desires, in your ignorance.” The idea is that of constructing the outward form of your life according to the inward scheme you have formed of it. And so, again, when he says, “Be ye holy in all manner of conversation,” it means, in every turn of your conduct, in deeds as well as words; let your outcoming be according to the perfect law of your nature. Words, actions, are simply the covering, habitation, exuded from one’s soul which shows clearly what the soul is-its character, tone, refinement, thought, feeling, purposes, life. Every instant we are thus giving out from ourselves and proclaiming to those who are by us what we are. And when I say this, I do not forget that a great deal of what we say and do is done according to custom and etiquette of the set of people amongst whom we live. Very few live according to the pure, free, spontaneous impulses of their own nature. But, then, it must be remembered that these social usages of thought and expression have entered into and become a part of our inner being before they get themselves outwardly observed by us. You mingle, for example, with coarse people; their coarseness, sooner or later, consciously or unconsciously, insinuates itself into your soul; then you fall into coarse ways; that is, the coarseness your soul has grown into, comes out in coarse words and manners. Or, let us hope, you associate with refined people; the influences of their refinement purify your soul, and it, too, becomes refined; the manners, morals, modes of life which you henceforth exhibit become, of necessity, the expression of that refinement. A noble soul puts its nobleness into the smaller acts of its life as well as into the greatest: two sentences will disclose the want of order in an illogical mind; Divine love radiates its tenderness through the simplest expression; the pure soul indicates its purity by the kind of its response to purity and coarseness, as the thermometer responds to heat and cold. The only way of being good, pure, noble, holy in the high Anglo-Saxon sense of the word, is to have the soul filled with truth and goodness, and then act from the inward impulses freely. Schematise, fashion your outward life by the plastic energy of your own soul.

    2. Secondly, I think this text intimates the progressive character of holiness in each individual. A past and a future are referred to; the present is the transition point from the one to the other. In the past, the outward life was fashioned by ignorance, or rather, in ignorance; now, knowledge is to take its place, and a higher ideal is to give the model of the conversation. Yet, observe, as much as the writer supposes his hearers to have risen above that former state, it was one of comparative evil rather than of positive-of privative knowledge rather than absolute ignorance. However high the attainments of today, and however pure the life of today may seem, when the higher knowledge and life of tomorrow come, we shall look back upon all we have attained today, as today we look back upon what we were yesterday. The youth at sixteen or seventeen thinks himself a man, and laughs at the childishness of ten years ago. When he has grown to forty or fifty years he will look back upon his present age as that of his boyhood. And so it always happens that our past seems to us folly, weakness, evil, in the light of the grace we have now reached. But that just leads the thoughtful to see how the past belongs to the present, and forms an essential part of it, containing within itself the rudiments of all that is truest and best in us now.

    3. But thirdly, we have here given to us the primal condition of this increasing holiness; namely, the setting before us of a perfect ideal. As He calling you is the holy One, be ye holy in all forms and turns of your life, for it is written, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” Now, you will observe, this is quite accordant with all I have said about the holiness being dependent upon, not an outward rule, but an inward principle. For, although correctly, God is set before us as the pattern, type or object with which we are to conform ourselves in holiness, yet, clearly, it is not God existing outwardly and beyond ourselves, but as He is known to, and conceived in our own minds. The outward revelation of God must be construed to the mind in the form of its own ideas, before it can possibly produce the least spiritual effect upon the soul. And that is true, whether the revelation be given in nature or in books. And now, consider a little the principle that it is the forming of higher ideals which is the one primal condition of progress in holiness. You can never rise above your own thoughts, that is certain. There is nothing which you have out of which anything higher and better could come; you are kept down to that level by a law harder than fate. Ex nihilo nihil fit. Blessed are those who can realise their thoughts to the full! For, whilst it is true that we cannot rise higher than our ideals, our thoughts, it is not true that we can always rise as high. The reverse is the truth. We never can shape the material on which we work so readily as we shape our thoughts. The thing done is never so true and good and beautiful as the idea we had of it. Sometimes the fault lies in the unshapeable, unplastic materials. More often with the untrained, disobedient hand, or other powers with which we do the work. What Divine songs our fancies, for instance, sometimes sing, and how they get never sung by the unmanageable organs of speech! What fame some artists would have, if the hand could but create the idealised picture or sculpture! And all this is still more true of the moral qualities of things, for in them we meet with more hindrances to realisation. We picture goodness, which a little passing appetite is strong enough to mar in operation, We idealise justice, and the chance of some palpable advantage causes the idea to get sadly distorted when it comes out in deeds. Wonderful and mysterious is that plastic power of the soul! as it thinks of Divine things it becomes Divine, and forthwith the divineness spreads through words and deeds; and although in spreading the divineness becomes diffused, attenuated, yet it is divineness still, which, radiating through, glorifies the character, and, in proportion to the fulness of the original thought, renders the outward life Divine. Wonderful power! mirroring Thine, great Father, Thou supernal power of all, who clothest Thyself with this universe wrought out of Thine eternal ideas-ever energising the forms of beauty and life we dimly see around-dimly see, because not for us, the finite, is it to comprehend Thine infinite thoughts. But as we comprehend and rise in our conceptions of Him-as more and more our souls conceive truly and fully goodness, love, the perfect life to which we are called and of which we are capable-it issues forth into the “conversation,” the character, the moulding and turning of words and deeds; and we become holy as the Holy One is holy. (James Cranbrook.)


    I. Holiness: what is it?

    1. Holiness does not consist in bodily austerities, or in ritual observances. This view of it has widely prevailed among men; for it is the natural result of that dislike of true holiness by which they are universally characterised, when associated with the conviction that holiness of some kind is indispensable with their acceptance with God.

    2. Holiness has been identified with mere external morality. This defective view of it prevails among the worldly minded, as the false view already considered is cherished and acted on by the superstitious.

    3. In what, then, does true holiness consist?

    (1) The words of God, “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” obviously imply that holiness consists in resemblance to God, or in conformity to His moral character. God is holy-infinitely and unchangeably holy.

    (2) Though holiness consists in resemblance to God, something more specific than the mere statement of this truth is requisite to give you a clear conception of its nature. In order to this, you must not only know how God thinks and feels and acts; but, seeing that the position which you occupy as creatures is widely different from that which belongs to Him as the Creator, and different, too, in many respects from that which is occupied by other creatures whose nature is dissimilar to that of man, you must be able to apply your knowledge of the thoughts and sentiments and conduct of God to your own condition and circumstances. The means of doing so has been provided; for His law-under which term in this statement the whole revelation of His will respecting human duty, contained in Scripture, must be regarded as included-is an expression of His own excellence, a declaration of the manner in which the moral perfections that compose His character must operate when communicated to creatures who sustain the relations to Him and to one another which are sustained by you.

    (3) But the intimation that the likeness to God which constitutes true holiness denotes conformity in heart and life to His revealed wilt, is not all that is necessary to enable you to form a clear and accurate conception of the nature of holiness. You must be aware of what is implied in conformity to the Divine law. It contains both prohibitions and commands; it tells you both what you should shun, and what you ought to do. Now, the injunction, “Be ye holy,” requires conformity to the law of God in both these departments; and none but he who hates and avoids whatever it condemns and forbids, and who loves and practises whatever it commends and enjoins, is a holy person.

    II. Holiness: why should we seek it?

    1. You should seek holiness as an appropriate means of testifying gratitude to God for the blessings of His salvation.

    2. You should seek holiness as an appropriate means of ascertaining and attesting your interest in God’s salvation.

    3. You should seek holiness as an appropriate means of securing present happiness. The possession of it imparts release from the distressing doubts and fearful apprehensions with respect to futurity which harass the ungodly, and gives that persuasion of interest in God’s favour, and that hope of eternal blessedness, which communicate a peace that passeth all understanding, and a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory.

    4. You should seek holiness as an appropriate means of recommending religion, and thereby advancing the glory of God.

    5. You should seek holiness as an appropriate means of preparing you for the happiness of heaven, and thus insuring your reception of it.

    III. Holiness: how may we acquire it? The acquisition of holiness is in Scripture made the subject both of exhortation and of prayer. Being made a subject of prayer, holiness must be regarded as a privilege, or blessing, communicated to men by God. In harmony with this view of it, the work of their sanctification, both in its commencement and in its progress, is attributed to the powerful operation of the Divine Spirit. But while the Scriptures declare that holiness is a Divine gift, imparted to men by the efficacious operation of the Holy Spirit, and, on this ground, a proper subject of prayer and thanksgiving, they also teach certain important truths in regard to the operations of the Spirit as the Sanctifier, which show that the acquisition of holiness may appropriately be made the subject of exhortation and injunction. That the acquisition of holiness is a duty incumbent on men; that they ought not merely to pray for it, but to strive after it, is a truth very plainly taught in the word of revelation-a truth which no man who searches the Scriptures with an unbiased mind will hesitate to receive.

    1. Release from the curse of the law and reconciliation to God are an indispensable prerequisite to the operations of the Spirit as the Sanctifier.

    2. The operations of the Spirit as the Sanctifier do not supersede activity on the part of the subjects of them. They are created anew. But the change effected on them in this new creation does not destroy the powers or faculties which constitute them voluntary agents. Ii only gives a new direction to their activity; and hence, though the continued operation of the Spirit is necessary to preserve and strengthen the principle of spiritual life which has been implanted in them, yet its actings are the actings, not of the Spirit, but of the individuals to whom it has been imparted.

    3. The truth revealed to us in Scripture is the means or instrument employed by the Spirit in all His operations as the Sanctifier. As His agency does not supersede human activity, so, in imparting to them the earnest desires, the ability, and the direction which are necessary to the acquisition of holiness, He always makes use of the disclosures of the mind and will of God contained in the word of revelation

    4. The operations of the Spirit as the Sanctifier are the result of prayer-of earnest, believing prayer. The atoning sacrifice of Christ has opened a channel through which the influences of the Spirit may be communicated to men, in consistency with the holiness of the Divine character, the honour of the Divine law, and the rectitude and stability of the Divine administration. (D. Duncan.)

    On being holy

    Hence this command to be holy requires that we bring ourselves into a moral adjustment to God and our entire moral duty.

    I. Why should we be holy?

    II. What are the reasons of this requirement?

    1. We cannot but require it of ourselves. Our own nature irresistibly demands it of us-his own individual conscience of every moral agent. He knows he ought to, and therefore, by a necessity as strong as his own nature, he must become holy, or fail of peace and conscious self-approval. No moral agent can respect himself unless he is holy. Need I urge that self-respect is a thing of very great importance? Few are fully aware how very important self-respect is to themselves and to others, This form of self-respect pertains to our relations to this world and to society. But suppose a moral agent in like manner to lose his self-respect towards God. How fearful must be the influence of this loss on his heart! How reckless of moral rectitude he becomes in all that pertains to his Maker!

    2. Another reason why we should be holy is, that God requires it of us. He has made us in His own image; and therefore, for the same reasons that make Him require holiness of Himself, He must require it of us. He requires us to be holy because He cannot make us happy unless we will become holy.


    1. Sinners know they are not holy.

    2. The hope that unconverted people often have that they shall be saved, is utterly without foundation.

    3. Many who know they must become holy, are yet very ignorant of the way in which they are to become so. Having begun in the Spirit, they try to become perfect in the flesh.

    4. Pardon without holiness is impossible, in this sense: that the heart must turn from its sins to God before it can be forgiven.

    5. The command to be holy implies the practicability of becoming so.

    6. Christ’s promises and relations to His people imply a pledge of all the help we need. The entire gospel scheme is adapted to men-not in the sense of conniving at their weakness, but of really helping them out of it.

    7. God sympathises with every honest effort we make to become holy.

    8. If we become partakers of His holiness, we are made sure of the river of His pleasures!

    9. All men will sometimes feel the necessity of this holiness. In some cases it is felt most deeply.

    10. There is no rest short of being holy. Many try to find rest in something less, but they are sure to fail.

    11. Many insanely suppose that when they come to die, they shall be sanctified and prepared for heaven.

    12. No man has any right to hope unless he is really committed to holiness, and in all honesty and earnestness intends to live so. (C. G. Finney.)

    Holiness repugnant to sin

    True holiness hath a repugnancy and contrariety to all sin. It is not contrary to sin because it is open and manifest, because it is private and secret, but to sin as sin, whether public or private, because both one and the other are contrary to God’s will and glory, as it is with true light, though it be but a beam, yet it is universally opposed to all darkness; or as it is with heat, though there be but one degree of it, yet it is opposite to all cold; so if the holiness be true and real, it cannot comply with any known sin. You can never reconcile them in the affections; they may have an unwilling consistence in the person, but you can never make them agree in the affection. (Obadiah Sedgwick.)

    How to become holy

    Tt to find time for the exercise of faith. Besides, sensible things ever surround them, try to press into their souls by every avenue of their senses, and exclusively, fill their affections and engage their thoughts; hence their disinclination to exercise faith would be proportionately increased. True, if the righteous are exposed to temptation to neglect the exercise of faith, they have incentives to attend to the duty. One incentive is a sense of sin. Another incentive is special temptation, or trouble, or difficulty, which often besets them, and urges them to look to their Saviour for deliverance or support. A third incentive is the impulse of the Holy Spirit, inciting thoughts of Christ. Further, the faith of the righteous is liable to decrease in strength and stability, through their failure to properly seek its nourish meat. Thus may their faith decline and waver through defect in spiritual appetite or neglect of spiritual food. And their exposedness to this may hardly be obviated by the frequent calls they may have to the healthy and invigorating exercises of devotion. Again, the faith of the righteous is liable to decrease in strength and firmness, through being exposed to attacks from the unbelief of their fallen nature, called in Scripture the evil heart of unbelief. Natural unbelief, therefore, needs to be much watched and prayed against, and an increase of faith to be much encouraged and prayed for. But further, the danger which their faith is in does not only arise from the unbelief of their fallen nature, but from the encouragement which such unbelief meets with in the world-ah! and the professing Church. For infidelity in sonic degree, practical or avowed, is everywhere manifest. The manner of such injury to their faith will be different at separate times. Sometimes, to notice the two extremes, when it is violently assailed by doubts within and infidel expressions and actions without, its injury will be sudden and apparent, like that of a plant which in spring is smitten with the blast of the east wind, so that one hour its roots are firm and its leaves green, the next its roots are loose, and its leaves dried up and withered. At other times, when its exercise or its nourishment is neglected through a worldly spirit, its injury will be gradual and imperceptible, like that of a plant which, while it is left uncultivated, has a worm at its roots. The righteous are saved with difficulty, secondly, because, in consequence of the general causes mentioned, their holiness is exposed to some degree of failure. It is exposed to this through decrease of faith, like the fruit of a tree through injury of its root, and also, like faith, through its exercise and nourishment being neglected. The holiness of the righteous is exposed to failure in measure through temptations. Again, the holiness of the righteous is exposed to failure through trials. Further, the righteous are saved with difficulty, because they are exposed to failure, in measure, in holiness, through difficulty in certain parts of obedience. It is no easy matter for the righteous, depraved as they are in nature, to perform their various duties in their entirety. But even this is not all; some duties which the righteous have to perform are especially difficult, through their direct opposition to their natural tendencies. I mean such as are involved in the following sayings of the Master:-“If ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14). Now I have two inferences to draw from this solemn subject.

    1. The first is, if the righteous are thus scarcely saved, must not many professors of religion be in a sad mistake?

    2. The second inference is that the righteous have great cause for earnest striving that the evidences of their conversion may be clear to themselves and to others.

    3. In a word, let them “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling,” and “give all diligence to make their calling and election sure.” (C. H. Coleman.)

    The salvation of the sinner impossible

    1. The faith in Christ of the righteous is maintained with difficulty. But the ungodly and sinners have no living faith in Christ at all. Thus they not only have not faith and seek not after it, but they yield themselves to be bound and fettered in infidelity. Yet without faith is it not impossible that the ungodly and sinners should be saved?

    2. I observe, the holiness of the righteous is maintained with difficulty in resisting and overcoming the evil dispositions which are inherent in their fallen nature. But the ungodly and sinners are entirely destitute of holiness in principle and in practice. How, then, can the ungodly and sinners be meet for heaven?

    3. The righteous often find it difficult to bear their trials with Christian consistency, being liable to impatience and irritability, through want of watchfulness in trials comparatively light and transient, and strongly urged to discontent and resistance of will, through distrust of God and failure in spiritual firmness, in trials severe and lasting. But the ungodly and sinners almost always, under any trials, allow themselves in discontent, bad temper, and resistance, whether the trials come the more evidently from God or from man. But the ungodly and sinners being thus refractory under trials, how is it possible that they can be finally saved?

    4. The righteous frequently experience great difficulty in performing some of the harder duties of the Christian life. But the ungodly and sinners neglect them altogether. If they render bodily service, they render no spiritual service to God. How is it possible, then, that the ungodly and sinners can find favour before the judgment seat? (C. H. Coleman.)

    Salvation difficult to the Christian-impossible to the sinner

    I. Why the salvation of the righteous is difficult. The difficulty in the salvation of either the righteous or the wicked turns not on any want of mercy in the heart of God. It is not because God is implacable and hard to be appeased. Again, it is not in any lack of provision in the atonement to cover all the wants of sinners. But, positively, one difficulty is found in the nature of God’s government, and in the nature of free agency in this world. God has so constituted man as to limit Himself to one mode of government over him. This must be moral, and not physical. That physical omnipotence which sweeps the heavens and upholds the universe could find no difficulty in moving lumps of clay so small and insignificant as we. But mind cannot be moved as God moves the planets. Physical force can have no direct application to mind for the purpose of determining its moral action. Such being the case, the great difficulty is to persuade sinners to choose right. God is infinitely ready to forgive them if they will repent; but the great problem is to persuade them to do so. God may and does employ physical agencies to act morally, but never to act physically. There are a great many difficulties in the way of converting sinners, and saving them when once converted. One class of these difficulties is the result of an abused constitution. When Adam and Eve were created their appetites were doubtless mild and moderate. They did not live to please themselves and gratify their own appetites. Their deep and all engrossing desire and purpose to please God was the law of their entire activities. Sin introduced another law-the law of self-indulgence. Every one knows how terribly this law tends to perpetuate and strengthen itself. Their appetites lost their proper balance. No longer subordinate to reason and to God, they became inordinate, clamorous, despotic. Now in order to save men, they must be restored to a state in which God and reason control the free action of the mind, and appetite is held in due subjection. Here is the difficulty. Some have formed habits and have confirmed them until they have become immensely strong, and it becomes exceedingly difficult to induce them to break away. The rescue must be effected by moral, not by physical means, and the problem is to make the moral means powerful enough for the purpose. Again, we must notice, among the difficulties in question, the entanglements of a multitude of circumstances. I have often thought it well for Christians that they do not see all their difficulties at first. If they did, its discouraging effect might be disastrous. The great difficulty is living to please self rather than God. It is wonderful to see how much this difficulty is enhanced by the agency Satan and sin have had in the framework of society. It would seem that a bait is held before every man, whatever his position and circumstances may be. There is a man chained to a wife who is a constant source of temptation and trial to him. There is a wife who sees scarce a peaceful moment in all her life with her husband-all is vexation and sorrow of spirit. Many parents have children who are a constant trial to them. They are indolent, or they are reckless, or they are self-willed and obstinate. Their own tempers perhaps are chafed, and they become a sore temptation to a similar state of chafed and fretted temper in their parents. On the other hand, children may have equal trials in their parents. Who but God can save against the power of such temptations? Many children have been brought up in error. Their parents have held erroneous opinions, and they have had their moral constitution saturated with this influence from their cradle and upwards. How terrible such an influence must inevitably be! Or the business of their parents may have been such as to miseducate them. When the mind gives itself up to self-indulgence, and a host of appetites become clamorous and impetuous, what a labour it must be to bring the soul into harmony with God! How many impulses must be withstood and overcome l how great the change that must be wrought in both the physical and moral state of the man! No wonder that the devil flatters himself that he has got the race of depraved men into his snares and can lead them captive at his will. Many are not aware of the labour necessary to get rid of the influence of a bad education. Ofttimes the affections become unhappily attached, yet the attachment is exceedingly strong, and it shall seem like the sundering of the very heart strings to break it off. Sometimes we are quite inadequate to judge of the strength of this attachment, except as we may see what strange and terrible means God is compelled to use to sever it. Oh, what a work is this which Christ undertakes that He may save His people from their sins! How strange and how complicated are the difficulties 1 Who could overcome them but God? Again, the darkness of nature is so great and so gross that it must be an exceedingly great work to save them from its influence and pour the true light of God through their intelligence. Indeed, Christians never know themselves except as they see themselves in God’s own light. Finally, the greatness of the change requisite in passing from sin to real holiness-from Satan’s kingdom into full fitness for Christ’s, creates no small difficulty in the way of saving even the converted, Remarks: We see why the Scriptures are so full of exhortations to the Christians to run, run, and especially to run by rule. They must, however, give all diligence. A lazy man cannot Bet to heaven. To get there costs toil and labour. For his will must be sanctified. The entire voluntary department of his being must be renovated. The Christian is also commanded to watch-not to close his eyes for a little more sleep and a little more slumber. We see, also, why the Christian is to pray always. We may also see why Christians are exhorted to separate themselves from the world. Mark, also, why Christians are exhorted to spend the time of their sojourning here in fear, and to walk softly and carefully, as before God, through all the meanderings of their pilgrimage. When candid men come to consider all these things-the human constitution, the tendency to unbelief, the impulses towards self-indulgence, and the strength of temptation-they cannot but see that there is abundant occasion for all those faults in Christian character and conduct which they are wont to criticise so stringently. Yet often, perhaps commonly, wicked men make no allowance for the faults of Christians, but assume that every Christian ought to be spotless, while every sinner may make so much apology for his sin as quite to shield his conscience from conviction of guilt.

    II. Show how and why the salvation of the wicked is impossible. Vitally important to be considered here is the fact that the governmental difficulty in the way of being saved, growing out of your having sinned, even greatly, is all removed by Christ’s atonement. The difficulty in the way of saving sinners is not simply that they have sinned, but that they will not now cease from sinning and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The salvation of sinners is therefore impossible.

    1. Because it is impossible for God by any means He can wisely employ to persuade them to desist from sinning. It may not be wise for God to bring all the moral power of His universe to bear upon the sinner in this world. If this were wise and practicable, it might avail-for aught we can know; but since He does not do it, we infer that He refrains from some wise reason. Certain limitations are fixed in the divine wisdom to the amount of moral influence which God shall employ in the case of a sinner. It is in view of this fact that I say God finds it impossible to gain the sinner’s consent to the gospel by any means that He can wisely employ.

    2. Again, the sinner cannot be saved, because salvation from sin is an indispensable condition of salvation from hell. The being saved from sin must come first in order. If salvation implies fitness for heaven, and if this implies ceasing from sin, then, of course, it is naturally and forever impossible that any sinner can be saved without holiness.

    3. The peace of heaven forbids that you should go there in your sins. What sort of happiness, congenial to his heart, could the sinner hope to find there? And now will heaven let you in? No. Nothing that worketh abomination can by any means go in there.

    4. Besides, it would not be for your own comfort to be there. You were never quite comfortable in spiritual society on earth.

    5. The justice of God will not allow you to participate in the joys of the saints. His sense of propriety forbids that He should give you a place among His pure and trustful children.

    III. If, then, the sinner cannot be saved and go to heaven, where shall he appear? The question is a strong negation. They shall not appear among the righteous and the saved. This is a common form of speaking. Nehemiah said, “Shall such a man as I flee?” No, indeed. Where, then, shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? In no desirable place or position-certainly. Not with the righteous in the judgment, for so God’s Word has often and most solemnly affirmed. It is asked, Where shall the ungodly appear? I answer, Certainly not in heaven, nor on the heavenly side. (C. G. Finney.)

    Saved with difficulty

    I. The people of God will be saved with difficulty.

    1. Owing to their strong remaining corruptions.

    2. To their long and inveterate habits of sin.

    3. To the strong and numerous foes that oppose his march.

    4. A great amount of labour will be requisite to push him forward in his heavenly pilgrimage.

    5. There will await him many other dangers, of which he can have yet no conception.

    II. But “where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?” All the difficulties, and more yet, that obstruct the way of the Christian heavenward, are surely before the man who has not commenced his route thither.

    1. The man who is not a Christian has yet to enter upon the way.

    2. He may have yet more corruptions. He may have taken a more wayward course.

    3. But his iniquities must all be uprooted.

    4. He has more foes, in addition to those planted in the way of the Christian.

    5. He must do more labour than if he had set out earlier.

    6. The same, and more yet dangers await him than await the Christian.


    1. Would I have the sinner despair, lie down and die? Will not heaven be worth all the efforts he has yet to make?

    2. Oh, then, how anxious should sinners be to commence the great work of their salvation!

    3. How anxious, too, should the Church be that sinners might live! (D. A. Clark.)

    The difficulties that are to be encountered in the way of salvation

    That the righteous should scarcely be saved seems hardly reconcilable with the grace and deign and promises of the gospel. Did not Christ come to save sinners?

    I. In what sense the righteous are said to be scarcely saved. That may be understood two ways.

    (1) With respect to accidental difficulties arising from the particular circumstances of times and persons. For the difficulties of religion are not alike in all times, nor to all persons; for they are not like a geometrical measure, which is always exactly the same; but rather like a voyage at sea, which is to be managed by the same compass and to the same port; hut it sometimes proves calm and pleasant, and at other times stormy and tempestuous. Which chiefly happens when a religion appears new, or goes about to reform the old; for then it is sure to meet with all the opposition which the passions and interests and prejudices of partial men can raise against it. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? i.e., Christ hath foretold desolation and ruin to come upon the Jewish nation. Sincerity and constancy are the necessary conditions of salvation, which may be tried much more in some than it is in others. We must all have the same journey’s end if we hope to get to heaven, but some may meet with a freer road, and a calmer season, and better company, in their journey than others. But herein mankind are apt to be deceived, as though all the difficulties lay in a suffering condition; whereas a soft and careless life is rather more dangerous to their souls, because persons are less apt to suspect their danger. The temptations of the suffering side are apt to awake the sleepy powers of the soul, whereas the gentle and easy condition of life often lays them asleep. But this is not all; for there are many things which make it more difficult to some than others, which are of another nature. Some tempers are more flexible and pliable than others; more capable of hearkening to reason, and more apt to reflect on their own actions; whereas others are naturally stiff and obstinate, who stick fast to an opinion or prejudice which they have once taken up. Some, again, are very easily convinced of a fault, but very hardly reclaimed. Again, some have had the advantage of a pious and religious education. For although the difficulties be not alike in all, yet, of one kind or other, they are such as cannot be overcome by ourselves without the power of Divine grace exciting, preventing, and assisting of us.

    (2) Having thus showed what difficulties there are which arise from the different circumstances of times and persons, I am now to consider those which arise from the terms of salvation, which are common to all persons and times.

    Here we must suppose salvation to be the thing aimed at as the chief end or happiness of such men, and here are two kinds of difficulties to be inquired into.

    (1) Such as are implied in the general pursuit or happiness. For happiness is not a thing of chance or necessity, but a matter of choice and design.

    (1) That happiness did consist in one uniform design of life, i.e., that a man must choose one proper and chief end to himself, and so order his thoughts and actions that he may attain it.

    (2) That there must be a careful and attentive mind to pursue this design.

    (3) That any man who desired to be happy must, above all things, take pains about himself.

    (4) That those who consulted most the ease and pleasure of mankind were forced to put men upon some hard and unpleasant things to make anything like happiness to consist in pleasure. For they cast off all riot and excess, because the pain which followed exceeded the pleasure; and therefore they made temperance and chastity necessary to the true pleasure of life. So that all were agreed that it was impossible to attain to anything that looked like happiness without some real difficulty, which was necessary to be undergone, although the success Were uncertain.

    (2) Let us now consider the difficulties relating to salvation, or that happiness which Christians expect. And here I shall show-

    (1) It is more reasonable to expect difficulties in the way of salvation. For the more excellent and desirable the happiness is, the more it is worth the while for us to take pains about it; especially when there is a certainty of attaining it

    (2) The difficulties in our way to salvation are not such but we may reasonably hope to overcome them; i.e., if we set ourselves about it; otherwise a very mean difficulty will appear too great for us.

    And there are two things to show that we may hope to overcome them.

    (1) That the most difficult duties are in themselves reasonable to be performed by us.

    (2) That God offers His gracious assistance for the performance of them.

    II. And this helps us to reconcile the difficulty of salvation with the easiness of the terms of the gospel. For that which is not only hard, but impossible to us, in our own strength, may, by the mighty power of Divine grace, become not only possible but easy to us.

    III. And from hence we see what encouragement there is still for us to hope to be saved, if we be righteous. There is none for the ungodly and sinner. “But what is it,” some may say, “to hear that the righteous are scarcely saved, when we are so conscious to ourselves of our own unrighteousness?” (Bp. Stillingfleet.)

    The difficulties of salvation

    This imports not any uncertainty in the thing itself as to the end, in respect of the purpose and performance of God, but only the great difficulties and hard encounters in the way, “fightings without, and fears within.” All outward difficulties, however, would be us nothing, were it not for the incumbrance of lusts and corruptions within. Were a man to meet disgraces and sufferings for Christ, how easily would he go through them, yea, and rejoice in them, were he rid of the fretting impatience, the pride, and self-love, of his own carnal heart! And many times, after much wrestling, he scarcely finds that he hath gained any ground: yea, sometimes he is foiled and cast down by them. And so in all duties the flesh is dragging downwards! When he would mount up, he finds himself as a bird with a stone tied to its foot; he hath wings that flutter to be upwards, but is pressed down with the weight fastened to him. What struggling with wanderings and deadness in hearing, and reading, and prayer! And what is most grievous, is, that, by their unwary walking and the prevailing of some corruption, believers grieve the Spirit of God, and provoke Him to hide His face and withdraw His comforts. How much pain to attain anything, any particular grace of humility, or meekness, or self-denial! And if anything be attained, how hard to keep and maintain it against the contrary party! How often are they driven back to their old point! If they do but cease from striving a little, they are carried back by the stream. And what returns of doubtings and unbelief, after they thought they were got somewhat above them, insomuch that sometimes they are at the point of giving over, and thinking it will never be for them! And yet, through all these, they are brought safely home. There is another strength than theirs, which bears them up and brings them through. But these things, and many more of this nature, argue the difficulty of their course, and that it is not so easy a thing to come to heaven as most imagine it. (Abp. Leighton.)

    A solemn appeal

    I. Consider the appeal in its reference to temporal calamities.

    1. The righteous are saved, when the existence of the Church is preserved.

    2. The righteous are saved personally, when their lives are preserved.

    3. The righteous are saved, while the life and welfare of their souls are secured, whatever may otherwise befall them.

    II. Consider the appeal in its reference to spiritual and eternal salvation.

    1. The righteous are scarcely saved-

    (1) Because their salvation could not be purchased but at the greatest conceivable expense.

    (2) Because the purchased redemption could not be applied but by supernatural power.

    (3) Because even when salvation is thus attained, it is not persevered in without the same supernatural aid, and the utmost diligence.

    (4) Because after death is the judgment. The righteous shall be saved, but it will be scarcely when the matter comes to a scrutiny of sterling evidence.

    2. It remains now to ponder the inference which the apostle chiefly designs to impress on our minds, “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” It is as if he had said, How certain their doom!

    (1) How certain! “Where shall they appear?” Not surely in a saved state. This is the simple answer to the question.

    (2) How dreadful must it be! The abrupt and pungent form of expression suggests the horrors of their doom.

    (3) How reasonable will be their doom! For this, too, the question strongly implies, not only as an appeal to reason, leaving themselves to decide, but as an allusion to the mode of procedure in courts among men. “Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” On what ground shall they stand? What can they plead in their own behalf at the bar of the eternal Judge? Inferences:

    1. What construction ought to be put on the little difference made between the righteous and the wicked in the dispensations of Providence. This has often been mistaken by the former (Psalms 73:1-28), and abused by the latter, as if religion were of no value. A real distinction exists, and will eventually be manifested. The ungodly have no reason to glory, indulging atheistical thoughts because of the sufferings of the godly.

    2. What views ought to be entertained of spiritual salvation? It is not that easy trifling matter which many take it to be. “Who then can be saved?”

    3. Propose this question to yourselves in a less limited form, “Who can be saved?” Through the grace of God, all sinners, even the chief. But, who will be saved? Only those who live a life of faith, and make their calling and election sure. (The Christian Magazine.)

    The difficulty of salvation

    The way to come to salvation is full of difficulties-

    1. Because there is much ado to get Lot out of Sodom, to get Israel out of Egypt.

    2. Again, it is hard in regard of the sin that continually cleaves to them in this world, which doth, as it were, shackle them, and compass them about in all their performances.

    3. Besides, it is a hard matter in regard of Satan; for he is a great enemy to the peace of God’s children. Pharaoh after the Israelites.

    4. Then, by reason of great discouragements and ill-usage which they find in the world from wicked men.

    5. Besides this, scandal makes it a hard matter to be saved; to see evil courses and evil persons flourish and countenanced in the world.

    6. This, likewise, makes the way difficult; we are too apt to offend God daily, giving Him just cause to withdraw His Spirit of comfort from us, which makes us go mourning all the day long; wanting those sweet refreshments of spiritual joy and peace we had before. When Christ wanted the sweet solace of His Father upon the Cross, how did it trouble Him? (R. Sibbes.)

    Why God will have the righteous with such difficulty saved

    God will have it thus to sweeten heaven unto us. After a conflicting life peace is welcome; heaven is heaven indeed after trouble. We can relish it then. Because God will discard hypocrites in this life, who take up so much of religion as stands with their ease and credit in the world, avoiding every difficulty which accompanies godliness, but, so they may swim two ways at once, go on in their lusts still and be religious withal. This they approve of. Therefore, God will have it a hard matter to be saved, to frustrate the vain hopes of such wretches. Alas! it is an easy matter to be an hypocrite, but not to live godly. (R. Sibbes.)

    The righteous scarcely saved

    Peter means this, “If Christians have such a hard tug to get into heaven, there is no chance at all for anybody else.” The soul that has long been driving before the winds of pleasure cannot so easily turn round and cut the wind’s eye. If religion were something you could wear like a cane in your hand, or a band of crape on your hat, or if it were portable, in the shape of a Bible or Psalm book that you could carry under your arm, it would not seem so hard; but to have it as a principle in the soul, looking over your shoulder when you write out your ledgers, coming in to make suggestions when you are making a trade, breaking over the walls of Sunday, and running by your side from Monday morning to Saturday night, verily that seems a troublesome religion. How many postpone conversion because they think that it is so easy to become religious-they can begin at any time! They can shed sin as naturally as a bird his feathers, or a tree its bark. One crack of the whip of resolution will frighten out the drove of their iniquities. No! no! St. Peter himself was “scarcely saved.” It was not until every passion of his soul was in agony of earnestness that he fastened on to life. Oh, if in this instance it required the girding up of the soul in order to obtain the hope and joy of Christ’s salvation, what shall become of those who make no effort, reach forth no strong prayer, lay hold of no Bible promise, and sleep when peril stands at the helm? If the righteous be “scarcely saved,” where will the ungodly and sinner appear? But after pardon is obtained, there are batteries of strength which must be passed on our way into the heavenly harbour. All the Christian’s foes are marshalled under three sturdy generals-the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. Business, entrenched behind counters, and bales of goods, and safes, attempts the overthrow of our souls. Disappointments fret, and fraud exasperates us, and meddlesome curiosity makes our lip curl. Gains lift us up, so that losses can better hurl us down. The Christian has to contend against temptations which made Adam disobey, and Abraham lie, and Moses get angry, and Job swear, and David sin against chastity, and Peter deny his Master. Satan makes assault. Having gathered skill by six thousand years of chicanery in making devotion profane, and integrity lie, and honesty cheat, and humility proud, and generosity tight-fisted, he knows just where to strike the Christian. Bad spirits are ever on the wing, coming to us on steps of sunshine, and floating on the dark wave of midnight, seated on the wings of the morning, and dropping with the evening dew. Guns cannot shoot them, swords cannot pierce them, fire cannot burn them, cold cannot freeze them. They fly with wings tireless, eye dimless, swifter than arrows, deadlier than plagues, cutting like hail, drowning like surges, crushing like rocks. Who can resist them? Only that arm which clasps God’s arm, and that heart sustained by God’s heart. If, with heavenly shield and sword, the righteous are only scarcely saved, where, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (T. De Witt Talmage.)

    Scarcely saved

    The victorious general in the hour of triumph has not unfrequently reason to remember how nearly, through oversight or miscalculation, he had lost the day: a little more pressure on this wing or that, a trifling prolongation of the struggle, a few minutes’ further delay in the arrival of reinforcements, and his proud banner had been dragged in the dust. The pilot guiding his barque safely into port sometimes knows how through lack of seaman ship he nearly made shipwreck. And the successful merchant remembers crises in his history when he found himself on the brink of ruin, when the last straw only was wanting to precipitate the catastrophe. Men who have won the prizes of life have cause to wear their honours meekly when they recall the errors of judgment, the lack of courage, the acts of rashness, the ignorance, the credulousness, the hesitation, which so nearly deprived them of fame and fortune. Our religious history furnishes parallels to these narrow escapes on the lower level. (W. L. Watkinson.)

    Commit the keeping of their souls to Him.-

    The saint’s hiding place in the evil day

    Wherein consider-

    1. That the state and condition of God’s children is to suffer.

    2. The dispensation of that suffering, they suffer not at all adventures, but according to the will of God.

    3. Their duty in this estate, namely, to commit the keeping of their souls to God.

    In the duty we have these particulars comprehended-

    1. An action, to commit.

    2. An object, what we must commit, the soul.

    3. The person to whom, to God.

    4. The manner, in well-doing.

    5. The reason which should move us hereunto, implied in these words, as unto a faithful Creator.


    1. That the state of God’s children is to suffer, yea, to suffer of God; for sometimes He seems to be an enemy to His dearest servants, as unto Job. But chiefly they are in a militant estate here.

    (1) Why God’s children must suffer here. Because they live among those that they cannot but suffer from, wheresoever they live.

    (2) They must suffer also in regard of themselves; for the best of us all have many lusts to be subdued, and a great deal of corruption to be purged out, before we can come to heaven, that holy place into which no unclean thing can enter. In the best estate there will be suffering one way or other. Then, suspect thyself to be in a bad estate, for every true Christian suffers in one kind or other, either from without or within. We must be conformable to our Head before we can come to heaven. But the dispensation of our suffering is according to the will of God. God’s will concerning our suffering is permissive in respect of those that do us harm; but in regard of our patient enduring injuries, it is His approving and commanding will. We are enjoined to suffer, and they are permitted to wrong us. It seems, then, there is some excuse for those that persecute the saints. They do but according to God’s will; and if it be so, who dares speak against them? It is not God’s commanding will, but His suffering will. He useth their malice for His own ends. But observe further, that we never suffer but when God will. And His will is not that we should always suffer, though generally our estate be so in one kind or other. God is not always chiding (Psalms 103:9), but hath times of intermission, which He vouchsafes His children for their good. And this the Lord doth out of mercy to His poor creatures, that they might not sink before Him, but gather strength of grace, and be the better fitted to bear further crosses afterwards. And it is for matters better than life that God lets His children suffer here; for, alas! this life is but a shadow, as it were, nothing. I beseech you, therefore, considering all our sufferings are by the appointment and will of God, let us bring our souls to a holy resignation unto His Majesty, not looking so much to the grievance we are under as to the hand that sent it.

    I. Now this well-doing must be distinguished into two times.

    1. Before our suffering. We must not go out of our sphere, but serve God in our standings, that if trouble comes it may find us in a way of well-pleasing, either doing works of charity or else the works of our particular calling wherein God hath set us.

    2. So likewise in suffering we must commit our souls to God in well-doing in a double regard.

    1. We must carry ourselves generally well in all our sufferings.

    2. In particular, we must do well to them that do us wrong. First, I say, in affliction our carriage must be generally good in respect of God, by a meek behaviour under His hand, without murmuring against Him.

    3. In regard of the cause of God, that we betray it not through fear or cowardice, through base aims and intentions, etc., but endeavour to carry it with a good conscience in all things. When we make it clear by managing anything, that we are led with the cause and conscience of our duty, it works mightily upon them that wrong us.

    (1) It wins those that are indifferent.

    (2) Confounds the obstinate, and stops their mouths.

    Therefore, let us carry ourselves well, not only before, but in suffering. We should have an eye to God, and an eye to ourselves, and an eye to others, and an eye to the cause in hand; so we shall do well. We must not commit our souls to God in idleness, doing nothing at all, nor yet in evil-doing, but in well-doing. But I cannot do well, but I shall suffer ill. Labour, therefore, to carry thyself well in suffering evil, not only in the general, but even in particular, towards those persons that do thee wrong; endeavour to requite their evil with good. There is a great measure of self-denial required to be a Christian, especially in matter of revenge, “to pray for them that curse us, to do good to them that persecute us,” etc., and so “heap coals of fire upon our enemies’ heads” (Proverbs 25:22; Romans 12:20). How is that?

    1. Coals of conversion.

    2. Coals of confusion.

    Some will say, Christianity is a strange condition, that enforceth such things upon men, that are so contrary to nature. It is so, indeed, for we must be new moulded before ever we can come to heaven. But suppose a man carry himself ill in suffering. There is not the least promise of comfort in Scripture to such a man, unless he return, and seek the Lord by timely repentance; for all encouragement is to well-doing.

    II. But what must we commit to God in well-doing? The keeping of our souls. The soul is the more excellent part, witness He that purchased the same with His dearest blood. Therefore, whatsoever estate thou art in, let thy first care be for thy soul, that it may go well with that. You know in the firing of an house, that which a man chiefly looks after is his jewels and precious things, “I have some wealth in such a place, if I could but have that I care for no more, let the rest go”; so it is with a Christian, whatsoever becomes of him in this world, he looks to his precious soul, that that may be laid up safely in the hands of God. But what should we desire our souls to be kept from in this world? From sin and the evil consequences thereof. But must we not commit our bodies and our estates to God, as well as our souls? Yes, all we have; for that is only well kept which God keeps; but yet in time of suffering we must be at a point with these things. If God will have our liberty, if He will have our life and all, we must hate all for Christ’s sake; but we must not be at such a point with our souls, we must keep them close to God, and desire Him to keep them in well-doing. Suppose it come to an exigent, that we must either sin and hurt our souls, or else lose all our outward good things? Our chief care must be over our souls. We must desire God to preserve our souls, whatsoever becomes of these; our principal care must be that that be not blemished in the least kind; for, alas! other things must be parted with first or last. The soul is the better part of a man, and if that miscarries, all miscarries. If the soul be not well, the body will not continue long in a good estate. Bernard saith sweetly, “Oh, body, thou hast a noble guest dwelling in thee, a soul of such inestimable worth that it makes thee truly noble.” Considering therefore that it is Satan’s aim to unloose our hold from God, by defiling our souls with sin, oh! let it be our chief care to see to that which Satan strikes at most!

    III. But to whom must the soul be committed? To God. Indeed, He only can keep our souls.

    IV. But why must we commit our souls to God? Because He is a faithful Creator. Whence observe-That the soul of man being an understanding essence, will not be satisfied and settled without sound reasons. Comfort is nothing else but reasons stronger than the evil which doth afflict us; when the reasons are more forcible to ease the mind than the grievance is to trouble it. It is no difficult matter to commit our souls to God when we are once persuaded that He is a faithful Creator. We must take God here as a Creator of our whole man, body and soul, and of the new creature in us. Yea, God became man to enrich us with all grace and goodness, to free us from the hands of Satan, and bring us to an eternal state of communion with Himself in heaven. (R. Sibbes.)

    The Christian’s duty under trials

    I. Christians must expect to suffer.

    1. Sometimes by adversity. Poverty; Christ so suffered; so did His disciples; bodily affliction, etc.

    2. In their reputation. Holiness of life and zeal in religion will provoke the ungodly (Matthew 11:18; Luke 7:33; Hebrews 11:25-26).

    3. In their property. Persecution in olden times; spoiling of their goods; loss of custom; piety a bar to temporal promotion.

    4. In their liberty and life. Though the age of martyrdom has passed, let us cherish and honour the memory of those, etc.

    II. Christians suffer according to the will of God.

    1. These sufferings are for the trial of faith (verses 12, 13; 1 Peter 1:7). It is the day of battle that tests the valour and fidelity of soldiers. Then the believer feels his own helplessness and trusts in God alone.

    2. They promote spiritual prosperity and happiness. The graces of the Spirit generally languish under worldly prosperity (Matthew 13:22). Under trials God gives “more grace”(2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

    3. They promote the glory of God. Show what His grace can do in supporting the mind of the sufferers, and in filling their hearts with gratitude. “He hath done all things well.”

    III. The conduct of Christians under sufferings.

    1. They should be characterised by well-doing. Obedience a sign of resignation. The more we are tried the stronger must be our attachment to Christ (Job 5:19-22) Active usefulness a cure for trouble.

    2. The soul is to be more valued than the body.

    3. Enlarged views of the love and care of God.

    4. The actual surrender of the soul to His keeping. “What can separate us?” etc.


    1. See the dignity, wealth, and happiness of God’s people; He loves and protects them, and is their portion (Psalms 44:16).

    2. Learn the folly of trusting in human resources amid the trials of life.

    3. Note the folly of those who persecute the Church of God (Isaiah 54:17). (The Lay Preacher.)

    Tranquillity in suffering

    These words contain the true principle of Christian patience and tranquillity of mind in the sufferings of this life, expressing both wherein it consists and what are the grounds of it.

    1. It lies in this, committing the soul unto God in well-doing. If you would commit your soul to the keeping of God, know that He is a holy God, and an unholy soul that walks in any way of wickedness, whether known or secret, is no fit commodity to put into His pure hand to keep. Therefore beware of wilful pollutions and unholy ways. Loose ways will loosen your hold of Him and confidence in Him. If thou give thy soul to Him to keep upon the terms of liberty to sin, He will turn it out of His doors, and remit it back to thee to look to as thou wilt thyself. Yea, in the ways of sin thou dost indeed steal it back, and carriest it out from Him; thou puttest thyself out of the compass of His defence, goest without the trenches, and art, at thine own hazard, exposed to armies of mischiefs and miseries. So much sin as gets in, so much peace will go out. Afflictions cannot break in upon it to break it, but sin doth. All the winds which blow upon the earth from all points, stir it not; only that within the bowels of it makes the earthquake. I do not mean that for infirmities a Christian ought to be discouraged. But take heed of walking in any way of sin, for that will unsettle thy confidence. Commit the keeping of their souls. Their chief concern is, that whatsoever be lost, this may not; this is the jewel, and therefore the prime care is of this. If the soul be safe, all is well; it is riches enough. What shall it profit a man, though he gain the whole world, says our Saviour, and lose his own soul? And so, what shall it disprofit a man, though he lose the whole world, if he gain his soul? Nothing at all. Now the way is this, commit it to God: this many say, but few do. Give your souls into His hand, lay them up there, so the word is, and they are safe, and may be quiet and composed. Learn from hence what is the proper act of faith; it rolls the soul over on God, ventures it in His hand, and rests satisfied concerning it, being there. And there is no way but this to be quiet within, to be impregnable and immovable in all assaults, and fixed in all changes, believing in His free love. The ground of this confidence is in these two things, the ability and fidelity in Him in whom we trust. There is much in a persuasion of the power of God. If He was able to give them being, surely He is able to keep them from perishing. This relation of a Creator implies likewise a benign propension and goodwill to the works of His hands. And as He is powerful, He is no less faithful, a faithful Creator, truth itself. Those who believe on Him, He never deceives or disappoints. There is another ground of quietness contained in the first word, which looks back to the foregoing discourse, “Wherefore”-what? Seeing that your reproaches and sufferings are not endless, yea, that they are short, they shall quickly end in glory, be not troubled about them, overlook them. The eye of faith will do it. A moment gone, and what are they? (Abp. Leighton.)

    The soul’s refuge

    I. The sufferance of the saints. Let this teach us two duties. First, to prepare for evils before they come; next, to make them welcome when they are come. So they shall neither meet us with fear, nor leave us with sorrow.

    II. The integrity of that sufferance. They only are said to suffer according to God’s will, who suffer first innocently, then patiently.

    III. The comfort of this integrity. He that suffers for Christ’s testimony is confident of God’s mercy.

    IV. The boldness of this comfort.

    1. God loves us, as our Creator.

    2. God is faithful to us, however unfaithful we have been to Him.

    V. The caution of this boldness. “In well doing.”

    1. The wicked man may commit his soul to God’s keeping, but how is he sure God will take the charge of it? What should God do with a foul and polluted soul? The soul must at last be committed to some; now He only is the receiver of it in death, that was keeper of it in life. If Satan have always ruled it, God will not embrace it.

    2. A man may do good, yet come short of this comfort; it is given to them that do well. It is not doing good, but doing well that gets God to keep the soul. You have served Me, says God to Israel, but after your own lusts. To serve God is doing good, but after their own lusts, is not doing well. To build a church is a good work; yet if the foundations of it be laid in the ruins of the poor, their children come not to pray for, but curse the builder. (T. Adams.)

    The support of good men under their sufferings for religion

    I. When men do suffer really and truly for the cause of religion and God’s truth, they may with confidence commit themselves (their lives and all that is dear to them) to the more especial care of His providence. When men may be said to suffer truly for the cause of religion and God’s truth, and when not.

    1. When men suffer for not renouncing the true religion, and because they will not openly declare against it, and apostatise from it.

    2. When then they are persecuted only for making an open profession of the Christian religion, by joining in the assemblies of Christians for the worship of God.

    3. When they suffer for not betraying it by any indirect and unworthy means.

    4. When they suffer for the maintenance and defence of any necessary and fundamental article of it, though they be not required to renounce the whole Christian religion.

    5. When they suffer for maintaining the purity of the Christian doctrine and worship; and for opposing and not complying with those gross errors and corruptions which superstition and ignorance had, in a long course of time, brought into the Christian religion.

    6. When they suffer for not disclaiming and renouncing any clear and undoubted truth of God whatsoever; yea, though it be not a fundamental point and article of religion.

    Cases wherein men may seem to suffer for the cause of religion, but cannot truly be said to do so.

    1. When they rashly expose themselves to danger and run upon sufferings for the sake of religion.

    2. When they suffer not for their faith, but their fancy, and for the wilful and affected error of a mistaken conscience.

    3. When they suffer for the open profession and defence of truths not necessary.

    II. How far they may rely upon the providence of God to bear them out in these sufferings. To which I answer: that provided we do what is our duty on our part, the providence of God, will not be wanting on His part to bear us out in all our sufferings for His cause, one of these three ways.

    1. To secure us from that violent degree of temptation and suffering, which would be too strong for human strength and patience.

    2. In case of such extraordinary temptation and trial, to give us the extraordinary supports and comforts of His Holy Spirit.

    3. In case of a temporary fall and miscarriage, to raise us up by repentance, and a greater resolution and constancy under sufferings.

    III. What ground and reason there is for good men to expect the more peculiar and especial care of God’s providence in case of such sufferings. The providence of God extends to all His creatures, according to that of the Psalmist: “The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” But He exerciseth a more peculiar providence towards mankind; and more peculiar yet towards those who study to please Him by obeying Him and doing His will (Psalms 11:7; Psalms 33:18). When, in all our sufferings for the cause of religion, we may, with confidence, commit ourselves to the more especial care of God’s providence.

    1. Provided always that we neglect no lawful means of our preservation from sufferings, or our deliverance out of them.

    2. Provided, likewise, that we do not attempt our own preservation or deliverance from suffering by evil and unlawful means.

    3. Provided, also, that we do trust the providence of God, and do indeed commit ourselves to it; relying upon His wisdom and goodness, and entirely submitting ourselves to His will and disposal, both as to the degree and duration of our sufferings.

    4. Provided yet further, that we pray earnestly to God for His gracious help, for His merciful comfort and support under sufferings; that He would be pleased to strengthen our faith, and lengthen out our patience, in proportion to the degree and duration of our sufferings.

    5. Provided, moreover, that we be not confident of ourselves, and of the force and strength of our resolution.

    6. Provided furthermore, that, according to our ability, we have been much in the exercise of alms and charity.

    7. Provided, above all, that we be sincere in our religion, and endeavour to be universally good, and “holy in all manner of conversation,” and “to abound in all the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God.” This is the largest sense of well-doing, and the most necessary, to prepare us for sufferings, and to give us courage and constancy under them; and likewise to engage the providence of God to a tender care of us, and concernment for us, if He shall see it fit to bring us into a state of suffering. (Abp. Tillotson.)

    The keeping of the soul

    I. Observe both the mystery and the mercy of the believer’s sufferings in this world.

    1. It is a mystery that God should be pleased to subject His people to suffering.

    2. Though we may sometimes deem it a mystery we may readily see that it is a mercy-it is according to the will of God-both as to the end to be answered by it, and as to the measure and degree.

    II. There is one supreme subject which in all our sufferings should be our chief care-that is the soul.

    1. It is infinitely more precious than the body.

    2. Everlasting happiness depends upon committing the soul to God now.

    III. The text shows us who alone is qualified to be the keeper of this invaluable treasure-our immortal soul.

    1. The soul belongs to God.

    2. This Divine and merciful Creator has provided for the keeping of our souls. Sent a Saviour for them-engaged to accept and keep them.

    IV. Here is an act of sacred resignation and confidence to which all, and especially all sufferers for righteousness’ sake, are invited. Let them commit the keeping of their souls to Him, etc.

    1. This is an act of faith resting on His promise of salvation through a Mediator.

    2. This act must be accompanied with well-doing. It must be in the way of righteousness. (The Evangelist.)

    A faithful Creator.-

    God’s faithfulness

    This is one of those Biblical phrases upon which in many a time of need the souls of men may fall back and rest, The phrase was intended originally for the support of some in the early Church who had been compelled to suffer for Christ’s sake. Commit your souls, the Apostle writes to such, in well-doing to God as a faithful Creator. The first truth involved in this simple, large phrase is that the Creator has character. A certain well known and fundamental character, that of faithfulness, we are warranted by this Scripture in ascribing to the Creator. It is one of the general characteristics of revelation throughout the Bible that it attributes to God certain distinct moral qualities; that it brings out by these the character of God, rather than the nature or mode in which God may be conceived to exist or to create. This is the grand peculiarity of the Old Testament. This one feature lifts it up above all the literature of the ancient times, as a clear mountain above a jungle; this feature renders it an inspiring Bible for the world, that it exalts the Lord God as having character-true, holy, righteous, merciful, supremely moral character. You have known some man who had this character of faithfulness. He may have accomplished little which men will remember; but he has kept on his way faithfully. He was always to be found where others had reason to expect to find him. Many a faithful woman’s life has been the one scarce noticed, continuous thread, slight, but not to be broken, on which has been bound and kept together all the happiness and success of sons and daughters. A faithful life resembles the sure, unceasing roadway, which runs on and on over the hills, and through the woods, and by the homes of men, into which we may always come back at evening time, no matter how far we may have wandered afield or how long we may have followed the winding brook, at our own sweet will during the day. Now this familiar, homelike, often unnoticed, but fundamental character is described by this Scripture directly to our God. He is the faithful One. Other Scriptures ascribe to Him characters more transcendent, and the very glory of them renders God to our thought unspeakable and high as the heavens above us. Carrying our thought of this character a step further, observe, secondly, that in this Biblical phrase is included the truth that God has some regular method in whatever He does. For regular habit, or methodical action, is a quality of faithfulness. The person who is here and there and everywhere, and whose belongings are never in their place; the person whose life follows no conceivable method may have some other attractive qualities, but would not be counted on as faithful. So that in speaking of the Creator as faithful we must mean that He has followed some method in creation. We say that our God has His regular habits of procedure: that He does not deal with His creation now on one plan and then on another; that He does not let His divine affairs run on of themselves from age to age without thought, system, or order. The faithful Creator is the God of regular habits, the God of system, the God who has His own time and place for everything. Now, think how very much it means for us to know that God is methodical, whether in the realm of nature or of redemption. Two helpful things in particular let me mention as of daily importance for us in the methodical habit of the Divine faithfulness; the one is that because God all through nature and history has been following His one chosen method, we can study what He has been doing, and find out to some extent at least what His method is, and as we find it out we can trust it and adjust our plans of life and our efforts and hopes to it. So we can live surely, as we live in accordance with God’s method. Consider thus God’s method in the natural creation. It is the business of all our sciences to find that out. And as our science discovers God’s method in nature, we may learn to use it in our acts. We propel our street cars, we light our houses, we run our machinery, we multiply our conveniences, because we have found out something about God’s regular habit or method of the light and the electricity and the admirable mechanics of the creation, to which from the beginning He has been faithful. As we learn what the laws of life are-the laws of development, survival, and fruitfulness-we discover still further truth concerning the methods of the faithful One from eternity; and we; must trust these laws of life, and adjust our free action to them, or we shall perish. It is so, likewise, in the kingdom of heaven. God has His providential methods of soul training, and soul enlarging, and soul ripening. Experience discloses to some extent these spiritual methods of the faithful One; and there is life, hope, and peace in submitting our souls to them. The other particular which I would bring out from this general truth of the methodicalness which the faithful Creator observes is this: a good method, as we know, is not to be set aside every now and then because it may seem not to meet exactly all cases and contingencies. So the fact that God has method, and must have it in order to be faithful, is reason enough why He does not vary the course of His providence to meet some of our desires, however much the good God might wish to gratify us. We indeed some times have to change our methods, because we find that they do not work. But God’s regular ways of doing things, whether in the evolution of the creation or in His redemptive work of making all things new-God’s methods have been formed in wisdom, and are on the whole the methods which can be trusted to work out the largest amount of possible creaturely good. There is no new reason, therefore, arising in any juncture of natural forces, or even from any emergency of human history, which should lead God to change the laws of life or to give to His Church some different method of redeeming love than that which has been followed, and is now pursued, by the Divine wisdom on this earth. If, then, God’s persistency in keeping straight on along His well known ways of nature and grace may seem at times to work incidental evil; if God’s steadfastness in letting fire burn, and lightnings blast, and devouring floods overwhelm, as well as the sweet sunshine restore and fructify, may at times destroy human homes or lay desolate for a season human hearts-nevertheless, it is His faithfulness which is involved, and that same faithfulness holds in its own persistent method the possibility of future good in place of present evil, and of even larger and eternal good in consequence of temporal hardship. A third element goes with those just mentioned. This text contains also the kindred truth that God has aim or object. Faithfulness is fidelity to one’s aim or object. It requires that the goal be kept in sight. Faith fulness in the highest is for us to be true to our ideals. It is the same kind of loyalty in the Creator. This likewise is a grandly uplifting thought for us, that the Creator from the beginning, and through all the method of His working, has never lost sight of the goal; that He is faithful to the divine ideals; the divine ideal of a free life of the creature capable of sinning and suffering, because made also to achieve a righteousness and love which only along the way of spiritual freedom can ever be reached; the divine ideal also of embodied spirit, capable of being raised through death to celestial perfection. This likewise belongs to the faithfulness of God. One other characteristic might be added to these three elements of moral character, method, and aim, which are comprehended in the faithfulness of our God-viz., responsibility. This last, however, might be regarded rather as the resultant of all the others, or as a consequent of faithfulness. God is responsible. Think of that in relation to your own personal being and life, as well as in relation to the affairs of God’s world. Perhaps we are more ready to think of it in the latter relation, and to admit God’s responsibility for the world at large and its government, than we are to trust it in reference to our own individual lives. But it is equally true of both. We must assume the Divine responsibility on the large scale of history. When brave Martin Luther was once hard pressed, and inclined to be over anxious concerning the prospects of the Reformation, quiet Philip Melancthon by his side would say to him, “Martin, let God be Governor of the world.” The faithful Creator is the responsible One. There is not a verse of prophet or apostle, there is not a word spoken by Jesus Christ, to lead us to suppose for an instant that God on high would avoid His responsibility for His world; or that He would for a moment put off upon any man the least of His Divine responsibility for affairs. There would be indeed no use and no hope for anything we may do or say to make things human better were it not for this prior and this final responsibility of God, the faithful One from eternity to eternity. Let Martin Luther do and dare as the great reformer, because God is Governor of the world. Let us do with our might whatsoever our hands find to do, because we are but servants, and the responsibility is God’s. Finally, let us take this same truth into our daily thought of ourselves, and of those with whose lives ours are bound in this world and beyond. God gave you and them power to live together in common affections and pursuits. He will be faithful to His own gifts. He will not deny Himself in the being and the powers of life, of thought, of love, which He has given you and them. God made these human hearts capable of love immortal, and even in their mourning capable of proving and deepening their power of love; He is faithful; He cannot deny Himself in the human hearts which He has made. (Newman Smyth.)

    A faithful Creator

    Suppose, in the place of God as Creator, we substitute chance, or fate, or law, what a blank we have at once in the highest regions of thought and feeling! If you are only the offspring of a blind, unintelligent, unknown force; if you are the product of something that men call “a tendency” or law, are you not immediately let down from a conscious dignity, which has been one of the most ennobling factors and influences of your life? As a child of God you have a supreme motive to be Godlike; as a creature of force you are deprived of all such motives.

    I. God the creator is faithful is His relations to us His creatures. It is surely not a presumptuous thing to assert that God has assumed, by the very act of creating us, something like responsibility for our well-being. We cannot conceive of a God calling sensitive creatures like ourselves into existence, and then leaving us to our own poor hapless devices. We reason from analogy-we say, in the common arrangements of society, that parentage involves the idea of obligation. But let us come to declarations and facts-the declarations of Scripture and the facts of human life. In the Book we read, from one end to the other, that God has the charge of our existence; that He acknowledges our claim, as His creatures, as His children, on His bounty and wisdom and love. We take the third step in the inquiry, and look at the facts of life. Just as a parent will seek to adapt the surroundings of a child to its powers and capacities, to place him in a position where he shall obtain all the enjoyment that is compatible with his growth and development; so God has provided the things that are. He has furnished the world as the fitting nursery and schoolhouse for the family of man that He is educating for an immortal and perfect life.

    II. God the creator is faithful to the great purpose for which He made us His creatures. We here and now cannot see what the design in the creation of mall is-that is, not to the full of what God purposes to make of us; how He intends by and by in another state of being to use us. We are here only preparing for the sublime work of some future, preparing to fulfil what our Father has had in view for us from the beginning. It could have been for no insignificant position and service that He did actually make men in His own likeness, giving them the high honour of resembling Himself in those spiritual characteristics which constitute the essence of His being. Some time since I stood looking with melancholy interest on the magnificent desolations of Kenilworth Castle. It was a spectacle that filled the heart with regret, but beneath one part were some workmen busily engaged in introducing new layers of stone. On inquiring what they were doing, I was told they were supporting the ruin to prevent its getting any worse. That was all that the owner of that once famous place could do-support the ruin! With that he must be content; but it would not be surprising if he left it alone to the swift process of decay. Human nature is ruined, but not left to decay, not simply kept from getting worse. The will of God is complete recovery, restoration to even greater glory in all its parts, and to this end nothing the Divine Father could expend that would serve this purpose has been withheld. A faithful Creator! Who is like unto Him? He has never left and never forsaken us. And He will not until we again reflect His glory in the fullest measure, and are prepared to take that high place and do that grand service for which we were originally designed. Being faithful to us, can we not trust Him and commit our souls to Hint? (W. Braden.)

    The faithful Creator

    I. God is faithful in responding to the claims of His creatures. Even of the animal creation this is true. God’s “tender mercies are over all His works.” The “springs of the valleys give drink to the beasts of the field.” “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle.” “Not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father.” And surely God is faithful also in responding to the claims of man. The appetites, desires, and affections with which man has been endowed, have theft’ correspondent means of satisfaction in the world around him. There is nourishment for his body-for his intellect-for his heart. If God is thus faithful in responding to the claims of His creatures, surely He is faithful also in the sense of being worthy of our trust.

    II. God is faithful in adhering to His original purpose in creation. Humanity, in His idea, is a holy and blessed thing; and this idea must yet be realised. God has not created sin, but He will triumph over it. As man has chosen that he shall not be educated by standing firm, he must be educated by and through his very fall. And so the “faithful Creator” becomes the merciful Redeemer. How faithful is that love which will even send sorrow upon us-yes, and take sorrow upon itself-rather than permit us to come short of the destiny for which it created us. It is God’s purpose to make you holy and blessed. For this He created you. For this Christ died. For this God is educating you. And surely, if He is thus faithful in adhering to His own purpose concerning you, He is faithful also in the sense of being worthy of your trust. If He crosses your wishes and thwarts your projects, this may be simply because He is unwilling to let you ruin yourself. He would lead you into humility. He would subdue your selfishness and self-will. He would enrich your whole spiritual nature. He would lead you to Christ or into closer sympathy with Christ. (J. C. Finlayson.).