The elders which are among you I exhort.
1. In that he, an elder, exhorts them, elders, note that ministers are fittest to teach ministers and to judge of their actions. When we dislike anything in a minister, it were wisdom to ask the judgment of some godly minister before we censure.
2. In that he requireth nothing at their hands but what he himself did, note that the most forcible way of teaching, whether private or public, is, first, to do that in our own persons which we require of others. He is an ill captain that bids his soldiers go fight, himself in the meantime tarrying behind.
3. In that he beseecheth, note his modesty and humility. (John Rogers.)
The office, spirit, and reward of a faithful ministry
The apostle Peter, after various exhortations to strengthen the brethren, turns at the close of his Epistle to his fellow ministers, and gives them his parting counsel. St. Peter calls the Church “the flock of God.” It is not man’s flock, but God’s, which He hath purchased with His own blood. Our Saviour spoke of the Church as His flock-My sheep, My lambs-and Himself as the Good Shepherd. Each believer will have his own history. There will be peculiarities in it, not found in any other-in what way he wandered; where Jesus found him-in the house of God, on the bed of sickness, at the grave of some one dear to him as his own soul. When thus brought home to the fold, he becomes one of those sheep to whom Jesus gives eternal life. He feels that he is not his own, that he has been bought with a price and can no longer live to his own will, but to the will of Him that loved him. But though thus made one of the flock of Christ, the believer has not yet reached heaven; he must be fed, cared for, guided on his way there, and it is for this end, as well as to add to this flock, that the office of the ministry was instituted. Jesus so loves the souls of men, for whom He died, that He commits them only to those who love Him, and will feed His flock. Having thus considered the office of the ministry, let us consider the spirit in which it is to be exercised-not of constraint, but willingly, of a ready mind, neither as lording it over your charge. There may be a constraint in taking upon us this office and ministry, but it is such a constraint as St. Paul had when he said, “Necessity is laid upon me; woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! The love of Christ constraineth me.” We may shrink from it from a sense of our utter insufficiency for such a work. Isaiah said, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips.” There may be a shrinking from the work from these causes, and at the same time a willing and ready mind. The constraint St. Peter speaks of is where there is no heart for the work, where there are secular motives of base gain or ambition. Where there is this constraint, a penurious, stinted service will be rendered. Christ praises the angel of the Church of Ephesus for labour unto weariness. This is what Christ praises in His servants. Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, the Church. Our Saviour had warned His apostles against the spirit of ambition which was found in the world. “You know,” He said to them, “that the great ones of this world exercise lordship over men, but it shall not be so among you.” And last of all in the qualifications of the Christian minister, we are to be examples to the flock in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity. Having thus considered the office of the ministry, and the spirit in which it is to be exercised, let us now notice the reward of the faithful minister. “And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory which fadeth not away.” The service of Christ in the ministry of the gospel is not without its reward. It has its reward, not only in prospect, after it is finished, but by the way, in the life which now is. Our work brings us in contact with Divine truth, which grows upon us in interest and delight, so that we are overmastered by its power and glory. This truth raises the soul above itself on the wings of faith and hope, and makes us heavenly minded, which is life and peace. There is a satisfaction growing out of the nature of our work, so that the labour itself is its own exceeding great reward. Our work, again, brings us into a loving sympathy with the Man of Sorrows. The gospel we preach began first to be preached by the Lord Himself. And as He was grieved at the unbelief and hardness of heart of those who heard Him, as He wept over Jerusalem, so does every faithful minister of Christ mourn over those who obey not the gospel and neglect its great salvation. (J. Packard, D. D.)
Address to the young elders
It is quite plain that St. Peter is here addressing distinctively not elders in age, but eiders by office. Age might enter then, more than now, into the question of fitness; nevertheless, what made a presbyter was not age, but ordination. And when we see gathered together a goodly band of youthful ministers, we do well to say to them, Remember, you have an office given you which reckons not by years, but by graces; you have to walk the aisles of your church, to tread the streets of your parish, as men (in one sense) prematurely old-as men of that truest dignity, which consists not in wealth, not in rank, not even in age, but in bearing Christ’s commission. St. Peter counts this so honourable an office that he will claim even for himself none higher. Another apostle, his friend and chosen brother, describes himself in like manner in two of his writings, only as “the elder” (2 John 1:1). They well knew, both of them, the higher compulsion of sympathy, above anything that mere power or official dignity can exercise.
1. I will say a word upon the dedication. The Christian clergyman is a dedicated man. Do you heartily believe that your motive in asking ordination is honest, truthful, pure? Is it the choice of your heart? Do you mean to give your life to it? You must not be satisfied with that sort of average ambiguous twilight state which the world considers good enough for a lay Christian.
2. Thus the dedication passes on into the commission. You dedicate yourselves to Christ, and He gives you His commission. It would be absolutely intolerable to one who knows himself to have to feel, when he robes himself in his vestry for the exercise of one of his clerical functions, that he is volunteering his counsels for that time to a body of rational spiritual beings who have just as good a right to teach him. Bearing this well in mind, still we say, Without Christ’s commission we could not speak: with it a dying man may be bold to speak to dying men.
3. Next to the sanctity, the twofold sanctity, of the office, let me strongly urge upon you its Divine humanity. The secret of all influence is, Be human. One word of genuine kindness, of hearty compassionate sympathy, will be worth ten thousand expositions of your claim to reverence: it will open hearts otherwise barred against you, and, letting you in, will let in Christ after you. And as in your intercourse, so also in your preaching. Let it indeed assert strongly the direct revelation and inspiration of your gospel. But in the application of this Divine gospel, speak as a man to men; speak as one who knows its necessity to himself, as one who knows the nature, the life, the heart, to which he has to offer it, and has learned, not from hooks but from men, what is that heart sickness too, and eager inward thirst, to which Christ his Lord came to minister, and has of His infinite mercy set him to minister in His absence, in His presence!
4. Need I say, then, in the fourth place, that the Christian ministry is a work? It is no pastime. It is no outside perfunctory propriety. It is a work. Be able to say, I am an elder of Christ’s Church, and therefore my time, my strength, nay life, is the Church’s, is Christ’s.
5. Who shall deny then this other avowal-that the ministry is a difficulty? Do you suppose, ye who pass by, that a clergyman’s ordination sets him above the most trying snares of world, flesh, or devil?
6. Then let me record, for your encouragement, this one other characteristic-the ministry an honour, a privilege, and a blessing. There is a special coronet for the faithful presbyter, over and above that which he shall share with the lowliest of the redeemed. In this life if is his, if he be earnest in his work, to enjoy a gratitude scarcely given to another-the gratitude of lives remodelled, the gratitude of souls saved. (Dean Vaughan.)
Peter exhorting the elders
I. A well-equipped soldier.
1. An elder.
(1) In age.
(2) In knowledge.
(3) In experience.
(4) In position.
2. A witness. Of Christ’s-
3. A partaker-of the glory which shall be revealed. “Come ye blessed of My Father,” etc.
II. A humble-minded saint. This was not one of St. Peter’s early characteristics. But he had learnt by experience to form a true opinion of his real position in the sight of God, and of the many infirmities which pertain to fallen humanity. This chastened spirit is particularly manifested-
1. By the position assumed. “Fellow elder.” There is no assumption of extra wisdom or superior knowledge.
2. By the method of his teaching. Not “I command, decree,” “enforce”; simply “I exhort.” He would suggest, remind, urge on. What a heavenly spirit! (J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)
A witness of the sufferings of Christ.-
A witness and a partaker
I. A witness of the sufferings of Christ. So far as possible, let us be witnesses with Peter.
1. An eyewitness of those sufferings. In this we cannot participate, nor need we desire to do so.
2. A faith witness of those sufferings.
(1) He had personally believed on Jesus at the first.
(2) He had further believed through after communion with Him.
3. A testifying witness of those sufferings.
(1) He bore witness to their bitterness when borne by Jesus.
(2) He bore witness to their importance as an atonement.
(3) He bore witness to their completeness as a satisfaction.
(4) He bore witness to their effect in perfect salvation.
4. A partaking witness of those sufferings.
(1) In defence of truth he suffered from opposers.
(2) In winning others he suffered in the anguish of his heart.
(3) In serving his Lord he suffered exile, persecution, death. What he witnessed in all these ways became a motive and a stimulus for his whole life.
II. A partaker of the glory to be revealed. It is important to partake in all that we preach, or else we preach without vividness and assurance.
1. Peter had enjoyed a literal foretaste of the glory on the holy mount. We, too, have our earnests of eternal joy.
2. Peter had not yet seen the glory which shall be revealed, and yet he had partaken of it in a spiritual sense: our participation must also be spiritual. Peter had been a spiritual partaker in the following ways:
(1) By faith in the certainty of the glory.
(2) By anticipation of the joy of the glory.
(3) By sympathy with our Lord, who has entered into glory.
3. Peter had felt the result of faith in that glory.
(1) In the comfort which it yielded him.
(2) In the heavenliness which it wrought in him.
(3) In the courage with which it endowed him. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.-
Partaking as well as preaching
‘Tis a very sad thing when preachers are like printers, who compose and print off many things, which they neither understand, nor love, nor experience; all they aim at is money for printing, which is their trade. It is also sad when ministers are like gentlemen ushers, who bring ladies to their pews, but go not in themselves-bring others to heaven, and themselves stay without. (Ralph Venning.)
Feed the flock of God.
True office bearers in the Church
I. Their duty. Feeding, leading, controlling, protecting.
II. Their motive.
(1) Not constrainedly.
(2) Not covetously.
(3) Not ambitiously.
III. Their hope.
1. “The crown”-symbol of dignity.
2. “Of glory”-not tinselled or tarnished, but unalloyed.
3. “That fadeth not away”-imperishable.
IV. Their spirit.
1. Mutual subjection.
2. Perfect humility.
V. Their help. “Grace”-the favour of God, the greatest and mightiest inspiration of souls. (U. R. Thomas.)
The discharge of the ministry
I. The duty enjoined. Every step of the way of our salvation hath on it the print of infinite majesty, wisdom, and goodness; and this amongst the rest, that sinful, weak men are made subservient in that great work of bringing Christ and souls to meet, and that the life which is conveyed to them by the word of life in the hands of poor men, is by the same means preserved and advanced. Oh, what dexterity and diligence, and, above all, what affection are needful for this task! Who would not faint in it, were not our Lord the Chief Shepherd, were not all our sufficiency laid up in His rich fulness, and all our insufficiency covered in His gracious acceptance?
II. The discharge of this high task we have here duly qualified. The apostle expresses the upright way of it both negatively and positively.
1. There be three evils he would remove from this work-constrainedness, covetousness, and ambition-as opposed to willingness, a ready mind, and exemplary temper and behaviour.
(1) We are cautioned against constrainedness, against being driven to the work by necessity, indigence, and want of other means of subsistence, as it is with too many, making a trade of it to live by; yea, making it the refuge and forlorn resource of their insufficiency for other callings. This willingness should not arise from any thing but pure affection to the work.
(2) Not for filthy gain, but purely from the inward bent of the mind. As it should not be a compulsive motion from without, so it should not be an artificial motion by weights hung on within, avarice and love of gain. The former were a wheel, driven or drawn, going by force; the latter little better, as a clock made to go by art, by weights hung to it. But there should be a natural motion, like that of the heavens in their course.
(3) The third evil is ambition, and that is either in the affecting of undue authority, or the tyrannical exercise of due authority, or to seek those dignities that suit not with this charge.
2. “But being ensamples”: such a pattern as they may stamp and print their spirits and carriage by, and be followers of you as you are of Christ. And without this, there is little or no fruitful teaching.
III. The high advantage. “And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear,” etc. Thou shalt lose nothing by all this restraint from base gain, and vain glory, and worldly power. Let them all go for “a crown”-that weighs them all down, that shall abide forever. Oh, how far more excellent:-“a crown of glory,” pure, unmixed glory, without any pride or sinful vanity, or any danger of it-and a crown “that fadeth not,” of such a flower as withers not. May they not well trample on base gain and vain applause, who have this crown to look to? They that will be content with those things let them be so; they have their reward, and it is done and gone, when faithful followers are to receive theirs. (Abp. Leighton.)
Feed the sheep
I thought that I was passing by a sheepfold, where the shepherds seemed extremely busy. But they were occupied entirely with the gate and the hurdles, and had turned their backs on the sheep. The pasture was bare and brown, little better in some places than a sandy waste; the water was muddy, and full of dead leaves. The sheep were few in number-thin, emaciated, and looked scarcely more than half alive. “What are you doing, friends?” I asked of the shepherds. “Our master told us to feed his sheep,” they replied. “We want to attract those sheep out on the mountain side; they are his too.” “And what are you doing to attract them?” “Do you not see? We are gilding the gate and the hurdles, in the hope that, when the sun shines on them, those outside sheep will be attracted by curiosity. Then when they come inside we can feed them.” “And why do you not feed those that are inside?” “Oh, they are in; they are safe enough! They can pick up food for themselves. We have not time to attend to them as well as attract the outsiders, and the latter business is by far the most important. We have a further attraction also: we play on the shepherd’s pipe. The outside sheep often come round to listen.” “But, friends, it is for the sheep inside that my concern is awakened. Your Master said, ‘Feed My sheep.’ Your gilding and music will never feed them.” “Oh, no; those are for the sheep outside. We do feed them inside. Look, here is grass, and there are turnip troughs.” “Do you call it grass? Parched, poor, uninviting stuff! My good friends, these troughs want cleansing and filling.” “Do you think we have any time for that? We must attend to these other things.” “Surely not to the neglect of the main thing? To what are you attracting these sheep? To what are you dooming the others? Attraction to starvation is not a very attractive idea.” “Then you would have us to spend all our time on the sheep inside, and never gather the others in at all?” “By no means. I would have you to attract the outsiders; but I would have them attracted by fresh food and clear water, not by golden hurdles and shepherds’ pipes. Trust me, the true way to attract lost sheep is by letting them see that the found sheep are better off than they are.” “That is exactly what we are trying to do. Therefore we gild the hurdles to entice them to come and look into the fold.” “And when they come and look in, you show them-what? A bare patch of ground, and a few half-starved sheep. My poor mistaken friends, the day is coming-ay, and fast too-when you will stand alone behind your gilded hurdles; for the fold will be left empty. The sheep will either be starved to death, or will have dragged their emaciated limbs to other fields than yours, where there is yet green grass left, and the fountain of living water is fresh and pure. Will you put down the paint pot and lay aside the reed, and begin at once to clear out the water and refill the troughs? It is not yet quite too late. It soon will be.” Does the parable need interpretation? Will the shepherds listen? (Emily S. Holt.)
Taking the oversight thereof.-
It is not enough for ministers to preach, yea, sacredly and diligently, but they must besides take a particular oversight of their flock, and looking into the conversation and behaviour, and applying themselves accordingly in admonition, exhortation, comfort. If a minister know any of his people riotous or profane, he must rebuke them; if any out of the way, admonish them; he must hearten them that be in a good course to go on still, and must comfort them that languish under their sins, temptations, and fears; in a word, deal with every one as the cause requireth.
1. This rebukes those ministers that be absent from their people usually or continually. How can these take care of them that come not at them but rarely, except they could indent with the devil, never to trouble their people, or tempt them in their absence.
2. It rebukes those also that living among their people, yet care not thus, but think themselves discharged that they meet them at Church on Sunday, and then preach them a sermon, whereas all the week after they consider not of them. (John Rogers.)
Not for filthy lucre.-
God’s servants-their ruling motive
You cannot serve two masters-you must serve one or other. If your work is first with you, and your fee second, work is your master, and the Lord of work, who is God. But if your fee is first with you, and your work second, fee is your master, and the lord of fee, who is the devil; and not only the devil, but the lowest of devils-“the least erected fiend that fell.” So there you have it in brief terms-work first, you are God’s servants; fee first, you are the fiend’s. And it makes a difference, now and ever, believe me, whether you serve Him who has on His vesture and thigh written, “King of kings,” and whose service is perfect freedom; or him on whose vesture and thigh the name is written, “Slave of slaves,” and whose service is perfect slavery. (John Ruskin.)
Gold a contemptible motive for service
The noblest deeds which have been done on earth have not been done for gold. It was not for the sake of gold that our Lord came down and died, and the apostles went out to preach the good news in all lands. The Spartans looked for no reward in money when they fought and died at Thermopylae; and Socrates the wise asked no pay from his countrymen, but lived poor and barefoot all his days, only caring to make men good. And there are heroes in our days also, who do noble deeds, but not for gold. Our discoverers did not go to make themselves rich when they sailed out one after another into the dreary frozen seas; nor did the ladies, who went out to drudge in the hospitals of the East, making themselves poor, that they might be rich in noble works; and young men, too, did they say to themselves, “How much money shall I earn?” when they went to the war, leaving wealth and comfort, and a pleasant home, to face hunger and thirst, and wounds and death, that they might fight for their country and their queen? No, there is a better thing on earth than wealth, a better thing than life itself, and that is, to have done something before you die, for which good men may honour you, and God your Father smile upon your work. (C. Kingsley.)
Too much money for a clergyman
Mr. Fletcher, of Madeley, was once offered a living in a small parish in the county of Durham; the duty was light, the stipend £400, and the surrounding country very charming. Mr. F. thanked the donor for his kind offer, but at the same time declined it, saying, “There is too much money for me, and too little labour.”
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage.-
1. Ministers must not exercise civil authority and temporal power over their people, but use a spiritual rule over them, by teaching them, etc., and ruling them by the Word of God.
2. Ministers must not carry themselves proudly and disdainfully.
3. Nor must a minister rule them with violence (Ezekiel 34:18). (John Rogers.)
Bernard of Clairvaux wrote to Pope Eugene, “Peter could not give thee what he had not; what he had he gave: the care over the Church, not dominion.”
Ensamples to the flock.-
Power of example
Of Mr. Henry Townley, who died in 1861, Dr. Henry Allon, his pastor, said in his funeral sermon: “I doubt whether a holier man than Henry Townley has ever lived … I have often, in his presence, felt humbled and awed at his manifest sanctity and consecration. I never remember to have left him without shame and penitence, and prayer that God would forgive my shortcoming, and make me like him.”
When the Chief Shepherd shall appear.-
The Chief Shepherd’s appearance
I. The style and character here appropriated to our Divine Redeemer.
(1) He has received His Church as a charge from the hand of the Father.
(2) He ‘has ransomed the sheep with His most precious blood.
(3) He lives to gather the wanderers into His fold, by the power of His Spirit and the instrumentality of His Word.
2. “Chief Shepherd.”
(1) His infinite dignity.
(2) His official supremacy.
(3) The preeminent qualities He possesses, for the office with which He has been invested.
(a) The comprehensiveness of His knowledge.
(b) His almighty power.
(c) His exquisite tenderness and sympathy.
(4) To Him all the subordinate agents in His kingdom are responsible.
II. This chief shepherd is about to appear.
1. This fact is most certain.
2. The circumstances of His second coming will be marked with peculiar splendour.
III. The recompense which will be awarded at that solemn hour, to those who have faithfully fulfilled the duties of the office of under shepherds.-
1. The beautiful imagery employed by the apostle to exhibit this recompense-“a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”
2. What are the substantial truths couched under this imagery?
(1) The approbation of his Master.
(2) The visible tokens and pledges of ministerial success.
(3) His own personal exaltation and felicity.
1. The vast importance of the Christian ministry as an ordinance of God for the present and everlasting welfare of His Church.
2. The true honour which is due, and ought to be presented, to those who have faithfully discharged this office on earth, and especially when their course has terminated. (G. Clayton.)
The Chief Shepherd
I. The title which is here given to Christ as the Chief Shepherd. The very name of “shepherd” is full of lustre and beauty, of condescension and grace. And whilst other names describe the different parts of Christ’s work, and the various principles of Christ’s character, this seems to combine them all. As Prophet, He was to teach His Church, to convey to it the lessons of Divine wisdom; as Priest, He was to make atonement for the sins of His people; as King, He was to rule over them in the gentleness and sanctity of His sway; but as He is the Chief Shepherd, we have the wisdom and goodness which instructs, the grace and mercy which unfolds, the power which rules, the authority which legislates, all in one.
1. He is called the Chief Shepherd. In relation, without doubt, to the inferior and subordinate shepherds. For the universal Church, in all its subdivisions, is His vast sheepfold, and the ministers of religion are the shepherds in subordination to Him. And, according to the manners of the East, and in ancient and early times, there was one-the Chief Shepherd whose own the sheep were. It is in reference to this, that Christ, in the passage before us, is called “the Chief Shepherd.”
2. It describes, also, the dignity of His person, and the glory of His perfections. In every respect He is chief-chief among the angels, having a name as much more excellent than they, as His nature is more excellent than theirs. He is first among the priests: Adam was a priest, Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Melchisedec, and Moses were priests; and then come the descendants of Ham in their rank and order; but Christ is Chief Priest. So He is among the prophets; He infinitely transcended Moses. He is so among the kings; “King of kings and Lord of lords,” the blessed and only Potentate, whose power and splendour overwhelms them all. And so He is among the shepherds-the Chief Shepherd, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and ending.
3. He is Chief Shepherd also in having set a perfect example of a shepherd’s duty in watchfulness, care, and love. What instructions He delivered; with what authority, dignity, and power!
4. And, finally, He is called Chief Shepherd on account of His exaltation and majesty in the heavenly world. He has a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.
II. The appearance which He shall hereafter make in glory; and the word “appear” denotes that He is now hidden. The God of this world has blinded the eyes of many, that they neither see nor believe. And as it respects bodily vision, He is hidden also from His own people; for we walk by faith and not by sight.
1. But the passage before us speaks of His appearance; He is to be made manifest. As the heavens were opened at the baptism, and the Holy Ghost descended visibly in the shape and appearance of a dove, so are the heavens hereafter to be opened, and the Chief Shepherd will appear and descend again.
2. And respecting the time of this appearance, it is reserved in the bosom of heaven, as a deep secret-not one of the holy angels is permitted to know-not one of the spirits of the just made perfect, have any more apprehension of the time of the second advent than you or I have.
3. Respecting the purpose of His coming. It is not to teach, to suffer, and to die; this He did once, and will do it no more. He will come, it is said, without a sin offering unto salvation; He will come to accomplish the resurrection of all the dead.
4. And as to the manner of the Advent. I take it that all which was seen and heard at Sinai, the greater revelation of Divine power and justice, when the sign of the Son of Man was seen in heaven, and Jerusalem was overturned, is but a faint type and foreshadow of that which shall then be. Oh, all miracles, all prodigies of Divine power, which have taken place from the beginning of the world to this day, will be as nothing amidst all the miracles which shall then be accomplished. It will be a day of God emphatically, in which it will he seen what God can do.
5. And now let those of us who are in the ministry learn what we are to look for. Contempt there may be from men, but there will be honour of God. (J. Stratten.)
Ye shall receive a crown of glory.-
The faithful minister
I. I shall describe the nature, qualifications, and duties of the ministerial office as stated in the context.
1. I shall consider the duties which this figurative description of the pastoral office implies.
(1) It is incumbent on a Christian shepherd to feed the flock. And what is the provision with which he is to feed them? Food for the mind and heart, suited to their condition as rational beings, as fallen sinners, and as immortal creatures, the truth as it is in Jesus.
(2) Inspection of the state of the flock is another duty implied in this figure. We should know the circumstances of our people, the sorrows which oppress, the cares which perplex, the sins which beset them, and the difficulties which embarrass them, in order that we may give to each “a portion of meat in due season.”
(3) Protection of his flock is also the duty of a shepherd. Is not Satan perpetually going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour? Is not the spirit of the world ever watching for an opportunity to devastate the interests of piety in our churches? Are there not heresies ever lurking about the pastures of truth?
(4) Affectionate tenderness is generally associated with the character of a shepherd.
(5) A faithful minister will enforce all his instructions by his example.
2. The apostle states in a negative form the manner in which the duties of the pastoral office are to be entered upon and discharged.
(1) A minister is not to take upon him the oversight of flock under constraint, but with a willing mind.
(2) We are forbidden to take the oversight of the flock for the sake of filthy lucre.
(3) A Christian minister is not to lord it over God’s heritage. He has no dominion over the conscience; his power in the church is ministerial, not legislatorial.
II. I shall consider his subordination and responsibility to Christ. These are implied in the expression, “the Chief Shepherd.” It is needless to say that this refers to our Divine Lord. This epithet implies-
1. His superiority to all others. They are mere men of the same nature as their flocks; He in His mysterious and complex person unites the uncreated glories of the Godhead with the milder beauties of the perfect man. They (in a good sense of the term) are hired pastors; He is the great Proprietor of the sheep. They partake of the infirmities of the people; He is holy, harmless, and undefiled. They are encompassed with ignorance, and with the best intentions often err in the direction of the church. Unerring wisdom characterises all His dispensations. They possess affection for their flock, but the warmest bosom that ever glowed with ministerial love is as the frigid zone itself compared with the love of His heart. They are weak, and are often ready to sink under the multiplied cares of office; but though the government is upon His shoulder, He fainteth not, neither is weary. They are mortal, and continue not by reason of death; He is the “blessed and only Potentate, who only hath immortality,” and reigns, as Head over all things to His Church, not “by the law of a carnal commandment, but by the power of an endless life.”
2. This epithet implies the authority of Christ. He, in this respect, is the Chief Shepherd. It is exclusively His right to rule in the Church, to regulate all its concerns and all its officers.
III. Turn we now to contemplate the faithful minister’s glorious reward.
1. The reward will be bestowed when the Chief Shepherd shall appear.
2. But I must consider of what the reward is to consist. “He shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”
(1) The figure implies honourable distinction. The crown was an emblem of honour. The faithful pastor will no doubt be singled out amidst the solemnities of the last day, and occupy a station where every eye will behold him. He will receive a public testimony of approbation from the Chief Shepherd.
(2) Perfect felicity is evidently implied in this figurative description of a minister’s reward. The crown of victory was worn on days of public rejoicing, and he who wore it was considered the happiest of the festive throng, and the centre of the universal joy. He received the congratulations of the admiring multitude as having reached the summit of human happiness. The apostle, therefore, intended to include the idea of perfect happiness in his beautiful illusion. The holy pastor shall partake, in common with his people, of all those sublime felicities which the Father hath prepared for them that love Him.
(3) Eternal duration is ascribed by the apostle to the honour and happiness promised in the text. (J. A. James.)
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves.
Counsels to the younger
1. The younger are to submit to the elders. Are you young in years, or in the experience of the Christian life? Be not wise in your own conceit, but be willing to receive the advice of your superiors.
2. All are to be subject one to another.
II. Humility. “And be clothed,” or rather, “clothe yourselves with humility.”
1. Humility is a garment to be put on. And what garment is more beautiful than humility?
2. A reason is assigned.
(1) “God resisteth the proud.”
(2) But to the humble-the lowly minded-God gives grace, or favour, pouring it down upon them in richest plenty.
3. Humble yourselves, therefore, says the apostle, and this shall be the result: “He will exalt you in due time.”
III. Trust in God; casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you. Humility is closely allied with confidence.
1. Let us look at the import of this exhortation. It is to trust our heavenly Father with ourselves and all our concerns.
2. And here is our warrant for the great privilege: “He careth for you.” (Thornley Smith.)
All of you be subject one to another.-
There is a general complaint in our day that reverence is rapidly becoming extinct. The sentiment of respect is gone; each one stands upon his own powers and his own right. I suppose all of us, in a certain degree, recognise the truth of this charge against our own time. We may ask ourselves whether this feeling of personal independence is not in itself a good which may make amends for many losses that accompany the acquisition of it. But any consolation which we might derive from this last reflection is checked by another. Can we claim this sentiment of personal independence as at all characteristic of ourselves? Is it not fading along with the one which appears to contend with it? Is there not less of self-reliance than there was?
I. But a sentence like this, if we felt it to be indeed a command, “All of you be subject one to another,”-would not that be something more than these speculations about the decline of reverence in an age or a country? That speaks to me. It tells me of a temper which ought to exist in society, which would preserve it; but of a temper which is first of all to be cultivated in myself-which cannot by possibility be diffused through a mass, except as it is formed in the heart of a man. We may look at once to the root of the matter and see whether our respect is merely the effect of the circumstances and accidents in which we live; whether it depends on some external conventional witness of propriety; whether it has been merely taught us by the precept of men; or whether it proceeds from an under source, and is kept alive by springs within, which the Spirit of God Himself is renewing continually. The Bible and Christianity are continually forcing this thought upon us, that nothing can stand which has not a foundation; that if we wish any social edifice to bear the winds and rain, we must dig deep and build it upon a rock; that the passion of the heart for external things and forms, though it looks strong, is not a safe one-not one upon which we can depend. To this point then the apostle brings us. He recognises the relation of younger to elder as a very deep relation, involving duties, calling for subjection. With this natural relation he connects others equally real, though not equally acknowledged. But he has no hope that his admonitions will be heeded unless the principle which lies beneath them is apprehended. “All of you be subject one to another.” This reverence is not one grounded ultimately upon differences of position or differences of age. Unless each man cherishes it toward every other man; unless he feels that there is a grandeur and awfulness in the fellow creature who is not distinguished from him by any external signs of superiority at all, who has all the external signs of inferiority-unless he feels that there is (the word is a strong one, but it is St. Peter’s and we cannot change it) a subjection due to every such man, that a positive deference is to be paid him-he will not keep alive the other kind of respect, it will assuredly perish. The old oriental notion that royalty is mysterious, and that when it casts away mystery it ceases to obtain respect, is unquestionably grounded on a great truth. St. Peter does not deny the mystery, but he finds this mystery in the being of man himself; every one he meets is the shrine of it; every beggar carries in him that which an archangel cannot look into, which can be described in no words, measured by no human standards. Try to think of that man as having a whole world within him, unknown to you, unknown to him, which is yet a more wonderful world than this which his eyes and yours look upon; nearer to the centre from which this external one receives its light and heat. Try to think so! But will the trial succeed? Is there any chance of forcing ourselves into so strange a state of feeling? Is not this sympathy with people utterly different from ourselves a special gift to a few individuals, commonly women rather than men? And is it not more properly called pity than reverence?
II. St. Peter meets these questions in the second part of the text: “Be clothed with humility.” St. Peter knew-no one better-that it is not in station nor in mere example to make a man humble. He was a fisherman, yet he was proud. He conversed with our Lord for three years. He was low, but he aspired to be high. He might be spurned by the people of Judaea as a Galilean, or by the Romans as a Jew; but perhaps he should set his foot upon the necks of both; he should have some goodly place in his Master’s kingdom, if not the highest place of all. The self-confidence was brought to the test and fell. What darkness closed in upon him then and shut out all the past and the future! What light was really coming to him through that darkness-a light that illuminated past, present, and future! Such phrases as these, then, which occur so often in the New Testament, “Put on Christ,” “Having the mind of Christ,” “Be clothed with humility,” which are often cast aside as mere figures of speech, oriental modes of thought, were the most accurate, the most exactly corresponding to his inward experience, which the apostle could use.
III. It introduces and explains the third clause of the text, “For God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” “How shall I be rid of this pride, it is so natural, so ingrained?” This must have been St. Peter’s question very often; it must be ours. At last he found the answer. It was a terrible one. It was an everlasting one. When he was proud he was not sinning against a rule, a precept; he was resisting God. Every act of pride was nothing more than doing battle against Him; refusing to be ruled and moved by Him. And all humility meant nothing else but yielding to His government-but permitting the Spirit of Christ to hold that spirit which He had redeemed, and claimed for His own. And when a man is once bowed to the conviction that he is not meant to be what his Master and King refused to be, that it is not condescension in him to be on a level with those to whom the Prince of the kings of the earth levelled Himself, “God giveth grace.” All the powers of the universe are then conspiring with him, not pledged to crush his wild Titanic ambition.
IV. St. Peter then could transfer his own hardly won experience to the Church, and could say in his Catholic Epistle to the dispersed of that time, to the dispersed through all time, “All of you be subject one to another.” So he asserted the true condition of a society while he took down the conceit of its separate members; so he exalted each of these members in the very act of depressing him.
V. Generally this rule of being subject one to another, when applied to a society, implies that we should respect the opinions, habits, individual peculiarities, hereditary prepossessions of every man with whom we have to do; that we should take it for granted he has something which we need; that we should fear to rob him of anything which God has given him. This respect for him does not come from our caring more for him than for truth. It is part of our homage to truth. There is a danger of making him less true, of alienating him from truth, through our desire to attach him to ourselves. And therefore that same subjection one to another must make us resolute to maintain all truth so far as we have grasped it; vehement in denouncing all the habits of mind which, we know from ourselves, are unfavourable to the pursuit of truth, and undermine the love of it. And so this submission to man, which is in very deed submission to God, will preserve us from all servility; from that kind of deference to the judgment of individuals or of multitudes which is incompatible with genuine manliness, because it is incompatible with genuine reverence. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)
Seniors should not be over-exacting
There are occasions when it is very helpful to our composure and equanimity to look at our debtor account, and not merely at the credit side. We may have a real claim to another’s deference, and still may be in many respects inferior to him. It is right that the younger should defer to and honour the elder; but it is equally right that the elder should not insist too much upon bare seniority. For others may be in their best bloom and vigour, while we are already in the decline of both. And let us not forget that with all our eldership we are but of yesterday. (J. A. Bengel.)
Be clothed with humility.
Humility illustrated and enforced
I. Humility illustrated.
1. When St. Austin was asked what was the first grace of a Christian, he answered, humility: what the second, humility: what the third, humility. This grace is more fundamental to the nature of all true religion than any other grace whatever. The foundation of repentance is laid in an abasing sense of our guilt. The reason why men are not humble is, that they do not see the greatness of God. It is the effect of all knowledge to humble us, by producing a sense of our distance from the object which we contemplate: the farther we advance in knowledge, the more this distance widens on our view: hence where an Infinite Being, God, is the object of contemplation, there must be infinite scope for humility in His worshippers. The gospel is peculiarly adapted to produce this feeling: this is its very end and effect: “no flesh shall glory in His presence; the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” This effect arises from the very constitution of the gospel; as it is a revelation of the free grace of God to sinners, without any respect to moral or natural differences of character.
II. The motive by which such a temper is recommended.
1. “God resisteth the proud.” The expression is very emphatic; He sets Himself in battle array against him; marks him as an object of peculiar indignation. It is not so said of any other temper. When the heart is filled by pride, nothing but spiritual barrenness and hardness can ensue. In a word, the proud are equally disqualified for the duties of Christianity here, and for the blessings of glory hereafter.
2. “But,” as it is added, “He giveth grace to the humble.” The same words are used by the apostle James, with the additional expression, “He giveth more grace.” The humble feel their poverty, and pray for grace; and their prayers are heard.
III. Let us, then, seek and cherish this grace, the only temper that can make us shine before God, the only one that can render us blessings to each other. The apostle exhorts us to “be clothed with humility.” Men always use and wear their clothing, and we are to be clothed with this grace as a permanent vesture. It should pervade every part of our character; all the faculties of the mind: it should regulate the understanding, the will, and the affections. And then all other graces will shine the brighter through the veil of humility: it will shed a cheering influence on all. (R. Hall, M. A.)
The loftiness of humility
This is St. Peter’s command. Are we really inclined to obey it? For, if we are, there is nothing more easy. Whosoever wishes to get rid of pride may do so. Whosoever wishes to be humble need not go far to humble himself. But how? Simply by being honest with himself, and looking at himself as he is. The world and human nature look up to the proud successful man, One is apt to say, “Happy is the man who has plenty to be proud of. Happy is the man who can divide the spoil of this world with the successful of this world. Happy is the man who can look down on his fellow men, and stand over them, and manage them, and make use of them, and get his profit out of them.” But that is a mistake. That is the high-mindedness which goes before a fail, which comes not from above, but is always earthly, often sensual, and sometimes devilish. The true and safe high-mindedness, which comes from above, is none other than humility. Better to think of those who are nobler than ourselves, even though by so doing we are ashamed of ourselves all day long. What loftier thoughts can man have? What higher and purer air can a man’s soul breathe? The truly high-minded man is not the proud man, who tries to get a little pitiful satisfaction from finding his brother men, as he chooses to fancy, a little weaker, a little more ignorant, a little more foolish, than his own weak, ignorant, foolish, and perhaps ridiculous, self. Not he; but the man who is always looking upwards to goodness, to good men, and to the all-good God; filling his soul with the sight of an excellence to which he thinks he can never attain; and saying, with David, “All my delight is in the saints that dwell in the earth, and in those who excel in virtue.” And why does God resist and set Himself against the proud? To turn him out of his evil way, of course, if by any means he may be converted and live. And how does God give grace to the humble? Listen to Plutarch, a heathen; a good and a wise man, though; and one who was not far from the kingdom of God, or he would not have written such words as these: “It is our duty,” he says, “to turn our minds to the best of everything; so as not merely to enjoy what we read, but to be improved by it.” And we shall do that by reading the histories of good and great men, which will, in our minds, produce an emulation and eagerness which may stir us up to imitation. We may be pleased with the work of a man’s hands, and yet set little store by the workman. Perfumes and fine colours we may like well enough: bat that will not make us wish to be perfumers, or painters: but goodness, which is the work, not of a man’s hands, but of his soul, makes us not only admire what is done, but long to do the like. “And therefore,” he says, “he thought it good to write the lives of famous and good men, and to set their examples before his countrymen. And having begun to do this,” he says in another place, “for the sake of others, he found himself going on, and liking his labour, for his own sake; for the virtues of those great men served him as a looking glass, in which he might see how, more or less, to order and adorn his own life.” “Indeed, it could be compared,” he says, “to nothing less than living with the great souls who were dead and gone, and choosing out of their actions all that was noblest and worthiest to know. What greater pleasure could there be than that,” he asks, “or what better means to improve his soul? By filling his mind with pictures of the best and worthiest characters, he was able to free himself from any low, malicious, mean thoughts, which he might catch from bad company. If he was forced at times to mix with base men, he could wash out the stains of their bad thoughts and words, by training himself in a calm and happy temper to view those noble examples.” So says the wise heathen. Was not he happier, wiser, better, a thousand times, thus keeping himself humble by looking upwards, than if he had been feeding his petty pride by looking down, and saying, “God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are”? If you wish, then, to be truly high-minded, by being truly humble, read of, and think of, better men, wiser men, braver men, more useful men than you are. Above all, if you be Christians, think of Christ Himself. (C. Kingsley, M. A.)
I. I shall mention some of the cases in which humility of soul will show itself.
1. The natural powers of the human mind will be spoken of with modesty.
2. When he thinks of his graces and attainments, the Christian is clothed with humility.
3. Another genuine expression of humility is a ready acknowledgment of our constant dependence.
II. I shall recommend the practice of humility.
1. That “he who humbleth him self shall be exalted,” holds good with regard to our connections amongst our fellow men,
2. The advantages of this grace are not confined to temporal consequences; they extend to a future and eternal state.
3. The inhabitants of heaven are celebrated for this grace; and any who are unfurnished with it cannot be members of their society.
4. To recommend the cultivation and practice of this grace, remember our blessed Lord exemplified it in the whole of His conduct.
III. I shall direct to an improvement of this discourse.
1. Though the language of the text speaks of humility as something that is external, “Be clothed with humility,” nevertheless, if the heart is not humbled, all is empty show.
2. Let it be remembered that this grace is needful in every rank and condition of life.
3. Consider the exhortation, “Be clothed with humility,” as given by the apostle Peter; and it will direct us to a very particular improvement. “Be clothed with humility.” This grace is not only a robe of ornament, but a shield of defence. When it adorns the heart and life, it defends the head also in the day of battle. (Robert Foote.)
I. The nature and the effects of humility.
1. Humility, as it relates to our own private thoughts and judgment, requires that we should entertain no better an opinion of ourselves than we deserve. To judge too severely of ourselves, and to fancy we are guilty of faults from which we are free, cannot be humility, because there can be no virtue in mistake and ignorance. Only as we have all a propensity to extenuate our defects, and to overrate our good deeds, it is safest to correct this bent by forcing the mind somewhat towards the contrary way, and frequently to review our failings, and the many causes which we have of rejecting all conceited thoughts. The imperfections common to human nature are these: Mortality; a stronger propensity to evil than to good; an understanding liable to be frequently deceived, and a knowledge which at the best is much confined. The infirmities peculiar to ourselves are those defects either in goodness, or in knowledge, or in wisdom, by which we are inferior to other persons. To be sensible of these faults, is humility as it relates to ourselves: to overlook them is pride.
2. True humility, as it influences our behaviour towards our Maker, produces a religious awe, and banishes presumption and carelessness and vainglory.
3. Between an unmanly contempt and disregard of ourselves, with an abject fear and blind reverence of others, which is one extreme, and a conceited, overbearing insolence, which is the other extreme, true humility proceeds, always uniform and decent. The humble person never assumes what belongs not to him; he desires to possess no more power, and to receive no more respect from others than is suitable to his own character and condition, and appointed by the customs of society. He is not a rigid exacter of the things to which he has an undoubted right; he can overlook many faults; he is not greatly provoked at those slights which put vain persons out of all patience.
II. The motives to the practice of it.
1. Humility is a virtue so excellent that the Scriptures have in some sort ascribed it even to God Himself. Humility consists principally in a due sense of our defects, our transgressions, our wants, and the obligations which we have received. Therefore such humility cannot be in God, who possesses all perfections. But there is a part of humility, as it relates to oar behaviour towards men, called condescension; and this is sometimes represented in Scripture as a disposition not unworthy of the Divine nature.
2. The example of our Saviour is an example of every virtue, particularly of humility.
3. In the behaviour of the angels, as it is revealed to us in the Scriptures, we find that part of humility called condescension, or a cheerful submission to any offices by which the good of others may be promoted. Hence we learn to think it no disgrace to be, as our Lord says He was, the servant of all. In truth, we cannot be more creditably employed.
4. It is affirmed in many places of Scripture, that humility secures to us the favour of God, and will bring down His blessing upon ourselves and our undertakings.
5. Humility usually gains the esteem and love of men, and consequently the conveniences, at least, the necessaries of life. Since all love themselves, they will probably favour those who never provoke, insult, deride, or injure them, who show them civility, and do them good offices. The humble person, therefore, takes the surest way to recommend himself to those with whom he is joined in society, to increase the number of his well-wishers and friends, and to escape or defeat the assaults of detraction, envy, and malice.
6. The most certain present recompense of humility is that which arises from its own nature, and with which it repays the mind that entertains it; and a very valuable recompense it would be, though it were the only one allotted to this virtue. A humble person neither hates nor envies anyone; therefore he is free from those very turbulent vices which are always a punishment in themselves. He is not discomposed by the slights or censures of others. If he has undesignedly given some occasion for them, he amends the fault; if he deserves them not, he regards them as little. He is contented with his condition, if it be tolerable; and, therefore, he finds satisfaction in all that is good, and overlooks, and in some measure escapes, all that is inconvenient in it. He has a due sense of his unworthiness and defects; by which he is taught to bear calamities with patience and submission, and thereby to soften their harsh nature, and to allay their violence.
7. Lastly: from the account which we have given of humility, we may draw this conclusion, that it is not, as the haughty are inclined to imagine, an unmanly and sordid disposition. It is indeed a virtue so remote from meanness of spirit, that it is no bad sign of a great and exalted mind. On the contrary, if we would know what meanness of spirit is, and how it acts, let us look for it amongst the proud and insolent, and we shall not lose our labour. (J. Jortin, D. D.)
I. Wherein consists the grace of Christian humility.
1. Humility is directly opposed to pride. As pride consists in having high thoughts of oneself, so humility consists in having low apprehensions of ourselves. Pride is the child of ignorance, humility the offspring of knowledge. They are not opposite errors, between which truth and goodness lie, but the former is a vice, the latter is a virtue; the one is the feeling generated by the belief of a lie, the other is the temper of mind produced by the reception of the truth. Humility may be considered in a twofold point of view, as it respects God and as it respects our fellow creatures, but in these different aspects it is not two virtues, but the same correct estimate of our character and condition influencing our conduct towards God and man. Humility consists in a due sense of our dependence. Pride can only exist in a fancied state of independence; a feeling of obligation wounds; that of constant dependence mortifies pride. Yet man is entirely a dependent being. We derive everything from God: “In Him we live and move, and have our being.” If we are humble, it will be a pleasing thought to us, that God has unlimited control over us, that we owe everything to Him, and that He has an indisputable right to order our affairs according to the good pleasure of His will. In the discharge of duty, in prosperity and adversity, in circumstances of perplexity, or in all our plans for the future, we shall not lean to our own understanding, nor rely upon our own strength, but rather trust in the Lord with our whole hearts, we shall acknowledge Him in all our ways, and look up to Him for the direction of our steps. But we are not only dependent on God, we are so in a subordinate sense on our fellow creatures. While society is formed of different ranks and orders, there is an intimate union between them, and a constant dependence of the parts on each other. The higher cannot do without the lower ranks, and the latter are almost equally dependent on the former.
2. Humility consists of a proper estimate of our relative importance. As it respects God we are as nothing before Him; He is the high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity; from everlasting to everlasting He is God; boundless in might, infinite in all His perfections. Humility towards men will consist very much in a due estimate of our relative importance, not only to each other, but in the view of the Divine Being. Whatever nominal distinctions are recognised in the world, humility will feel that God has made of one blood all nations that dwell upon the earth. What are the mole hills of distinction, the little elevations of human society, when we contemplate it in the mass? or what are they in the estimation of God, who is no respecter of persons? Humility will not put an extravagant value on the distinctions of earth; it will be kind and courteous to all, and in all the suffering and misery it may be called to contemplate in others, it will feel the irresistible force of the appeal, Am I not a man and a brother? It will be ready to render to all their due, tribute to whom tribute is due, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour.
3. Humility will also consist in a low estimate of our knowledge. “Be not wise,” says the apostle, “in your own conceit.” In all the distinctions of society there are none in which vanity and self-conceit are so cherished as in that of human literature. Now humility will moderate our estimate of what we know; it will teach us that literary distinction arises far more from adventitious circumstances, over which we have no control, than from any native superiority of mind; and that many of those whom the providence of God has precluded from the cultivation of their minds would, with equal advantages as ourselves possessed, have far outstripped us in the acquisition of knowledge. Humility will cherish a conviction of the imperfection of our faculties. It will feel on every side the bounds of human knowledge: the voice of God saying, “So far shalt thou go and no farther.”
4. Humility consists in a correct estimate of our moral condition.
(1) We are not only subjects of the Divine government, but we are guilty creatures, under the condemnation of the law of God. Whatever the pride of man may suggest, “we are all gone out of the way, we are altogether become filthy, there is none that doeth good, no not one.” Humility rightly estimates this moral desolation. It thus prepares the mind for the revelation of God’s mercy, to welcome the glad tidings of a Saviour, and to submit to the Divine method of forgiving sins. And if through grace we are brought to depend on Christ for salvation, humility will characterise every subsequent estimate of ourselves.
(2) A proper estimate of our moral condition will express itself appropriately towards our fellow men.
II. We must enforce the cultivation of humility upon you by various considerations.
1. It is in its own nature necessary to a reception of Christianity.
2. Humility is also an essential part of religion. Our hearts cannot be right with God until we apprehend His majesty and our own meanness-until we realise our entire dependence on Him-until, with humble and imploring faith, we are looking to the Saviour for salvation, and disposed to say, “Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief.” Humility is equally necessary to our perseverance in the Divine life: the dependence on God it generates is the vitality of our religion; the self-diffidence it creates is our best security.
3. God has put peculiar honour on humbleness of mind, while He has expressed His detestation of the opposite spirit. “Every one proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.” “A high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.” But, on the contrary, He everywhere commends an humble spirit; it is the disposition of mind He delights to favour. “Though the Lord be high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly.”
4. This virtue is enforced by the conduct of our Lord.
5. Humility is an undying grace; it will flourish more perfectly in heaven. All the saints and angels are clothed in this appropriate garb of a creature. Let us, then, cultivate a quality of character which will abide with us through eternity, which will constitute a portion of the bliss of heaven; it will enlarge our happiness on earth, and eminently meeten us for future glory. (S. Summers.)
The word itself and its history are interesting. “There are cases,” says Coleridge, “in which more knowledge, of more value, may be conveyed by the history of a word than by the history of a campaign.” Now take this word humility. It was not a new word when the New Testament was written. It had been used for years. Only it is striking that almost without exception the word humility, used before the time of Christ, is used contemptuously and rebukingly. It always meant meanness of spirit. To be humble was to be a coward. Where could we find a more striking instance of the change that the Christian religion brought into the world, than in the way in which it took this disgraceful word and made it honourable? To be humble is to have a low estimation of one’s self. That was considered shameful in the olden time. Christ came and made the despised quality the crowning grace of the culture that He inaugurated. Lo! the disgraceful word became the key word of His fullest gospel. He redeemed the quality, and straightway the name became honourable. Think what the change must have been. Think with what indignation and contempt men of the old school in Rome and Athens must have seen mean spiritedness, as they called it, taken up, inculcated and honoured, proclaimed as the salvation of the world, and Him in whom it was most signally embodied made the Saviour and King of men. Ah, it seems to me more and more that it must have been very hard for those early disciples to have believed in Christ. But let us see, if we can, what the change was that Christianity accomplished, and how it came about. The quality that Christianity rescued and glorified was humility. Humility means a low estimate or value of one’s self. But all values are relative. The estimate we set on anything depends of course on the standard with which we compare it.
1. Now Christianity’s great primary revelation was God. Much about Him it showed men, but first of all it showed them Him. He, the Creator, the Governor, became a presence clear and plain before men’s hearts. His greatness, His holiness, His love-nay, we cannot describe Him by His qualities, for He is greater than them all-He, by the marvellous method of the Incarnation, showed Himself to man. He stood beside man’s work. He towered above, and folded Himself about man’s life. He entered into men’s closets and took possession of men’s hearts. And what then? God in the world must be the standard of the world. Greatness meant something different when men had seen how great He was; and the manhood which had compared itself with lesser men and grown proud, now had a chance to match itself with God, and to see how small it was, and to grow humble about itself. Just imagine that when you and I were going on learning our lessons, doing our work, exercising our skill here on the earth, and proud of our knowledge, our strength, and our skill-just suppose that suddenly Omniscience towered up above our knowledge, and Omnipotence above our strength, and the Infinite Wisdom stood piercing out of the sight of our ignorant and baffled skill. Must it not crush the man with an utter insignificance? What is the use of heaving up these mole hills so laboriously close by the gigantic mountainside? But if the revelation is not only this; if it includes not only the greatness but the love of God; if the majesty that is shown to us is the majesty of a father, which takes our littleness into his greatness, makes it part of itself, honours it, trains it, does not mock it, then there comes the true graciousness of humility. It is not less humble, but it is not crushed. It is not paralysed, but stimulated. The energy which the man used to get out of his estimate of his own greatness he gets now out of the sight of his father’s, which yet is so near to him that, in some finer and higher sense, it still is his; and so he is more hopeful and happy and eager in his humility than he ever used to be in his pride. This is the philosophy of reverence and humility as enrichers of life and mainsprings of activity.
2. This is one, then, of the ways in which Christ rescued and exalted humility. He gave man his true standard. He set man’s littleness against the infinite height of God. The next way that I want to speak of is even more remarkable. He asserted and magnified the essential glory of humanity. He showed us that the human might be joined with the Divine. Thus He glorified human nature. Ah, if a man must be humbled, and is exalted by his humility, when he sees God, surely when he sees the possibility of himself, there is no truer or more exalted feeling for him than to look in on what he is, and think it very mean and wretched by the side of what he might be, what his Lord has shown him that he was made for. Christ makes us humble by showing us our design. There is nothing more strange, and at the same time more truthful, about Christianity than its combination of humiliation and exaltation for the soul of man. If one wants to prove that man is but a little lower than the angels, the son and heir of God, he must go to the Bible. If he wants to prove how poor and base and Satan-like the soul of man can be, still to the Bible he must go. If you want to find the highest ecstasy that man’s spirit ever reached, it is the Christian saint exulting in his God. Do you want to hear the bitterest sorrow that ever wrung this human heart? It is that same Christian saint penitent for his sin. I think we cannot but see the beauty of a humility like this if it once becomes the ruling power of a changed man’s life, this humility born of the sight of a man’s possible self. It has in it all that is good in the best self-respect. Nay, with reference to the whole subject of self-respect this seems to be true, that the only salvation from an admiration of our own present condition, which is pride, is to be found in a profound respect for the best possibility and plan of our being, which involves humility. So it is the sight of what God meant us to be that makes us ashamed of what we are. And it is the death of Christ for us, the preciousness that He saw in our souls making them worthy of that awful sacrifice, it is that which lets us see our own soul as He sees it in its possibility, and so lets us see it in its reality as He sees it too, and put our pride away and be humble. (Bp. Phillips Brooks.)
Clothed with humility
The image of the “clothing”-a word which is used only in this place in the Bible-is thought to have reference to a particular kind of white vestment which used to be worn by slaves. And it was made very long and large, that it might cover not only all the other dress, but the whole figure; and so it may be considered that the believer, remembering well that he is the follower of Him who “came not to be ministered unto but to minister,” should place all he has and all he is under the folds of a mantling “humility,” and array himself in a servile robe. But let me caution you not to think that “the clothing of humility” has anything to do with that robe of which the Bible speaks as “the wedding garment.” It has nothing to do with it, except that God invariably makes this the lining for that. That is something from without a man; this is from within. That is saving; this is evidential. Now I am persuaded that the first way to grow humble is to be sure that you are loved. The education of almost any child will teach you that if you treat that child harshly, you will make his little heart stubborn and proud; but if he feels that you love him, he will gradually take a gentler tone. So it is with the education through which we are all passing to the life to come. The first thing God does with His child is to make the child feel that He loves him. There is nothing which will stoop a man into the dust like the gentle pressure of the feeling “I am loved.” The forgiven David, the woman at Jesus’s feet, Peter under the look, John in the bosom. Let me advise you further. If you desire to cultivate that posture of mind, accustom yourself, force yourself to do acts of humiliation-whatever is most against your natural taste. There is a still deeper feeling without which you will never have on that “robe of humility”-you must often sit and receive the droppings of the Holy Ghost. You must meditate with open eye on the meek, humble face of Jesus. You must be in union with Christ. There is a false “humility” than which none can be more destructive to the character. It is of three kinds. There is “humility” of external things-in a mortification of the body. But it is a cloak, not a robe-a look, a posture, a ceremony. There is another counterfeit which Satan makes and calls “humility.” It is what St. Paul calls in his Epistle to the Colossians a “voluntary humility”-people thinking themselves unworthy to come to God. And there are those who do not know it, but who, like Peter, are under an appearance of “humility,” indulging contemptuous pride. “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” “I am not good enough to be saved. I am not worthy to come to the Lord’s Supper. I cannot believe God loves me.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Humility explained and enforced
Humility is that Christian virtue without which no other can exist, and by which every other is beautified, for, whilst the flowers of all the Christian graces grow in the shade of the Redeemer’s Cross, the root of them is humility.
I. Humility becomes us as creatures. It may also be remarked that the temptation to pride, and consequently the exercise of humility, has very much to do with a comparative view of ourselves and others. It is not in the superiority which we possess over the inferior creatures that we are apt either to exaggerate the difference or to forget that it is from God, but it is in the little advantage which one man may happen to possess above another, whether in mental endowments, bodily powers, or worldly wealth. It is this minor distinction, the comparative difference between man and man, which excites envy in one party and creates haughtiness in another. But the judgment of humility is according to truth. This is the spirit of humility which, like the flower blooming in the valley, delights the eye of the contemplative, who, forgetting the gaudier plants of the garden, finds nothing to charm him so much as the simple beauties of nature.
II. Humility becomes us as sinners.
III. Humility becomes us as disciples of Christ.
1. They must retain a humbling remembrance of past sins. Those sins, though forgiven by Jehovah, must not be forgotten by them, that they may see what they are in themselves, and understand how much they owe to redeeming love.
2. The Christian must also continually watch the state of his heart.
3. Whatever measures of holiness the Christian attains to, he must always remember that by the grace of God he is what he is. Thus all boasting is excluded, for he has nothing but what he has received.
4. There will always, whilst we are on the earth, remain much to be done, much to be attained. Every grace will be defective in measure and mixed with infirmity. The most faultless disciple will here find cause for humiliation. Conclusion:
1. What a delightful character is the man of distinguished humility. He may not have the glory in which the patriot, the hero, or the martyr is enshrined, but he is adorned with the beauties of holiness; he carries about with him the majesty of goodness, if not the dominion of greatness.
2. Learn from this subject to beware of false humility. True humility is diffident and retiring; it is not like the scentless flower, which turns its face to the sun throughout his course, as if for the purpose of being seen, but it is rather like the modest violet, which hides itself in obscurity, and sends forth fragrance from its deep retirement. It employs no herald, it unfolds no banner, it blows no trumpet, but, whilst conferring substantial benefits, it desires to be like the angels, who, while ministering to the heirs of salvation, are unseen and unknown by the objects of their attention.
3. Learn also, while you avoid false humility, to labour for that which is real. Let the young labour for this. Christian humility will teach you the most willing obedience, the most genuine affection, the most respectful demeanour towards your parents, and it will excite you to the most anxious endeavours for the promotion of their happiness. Let not the old neglect this spirit of humility. Do not aggravate the sorrows of your evil days by pride, by peevishness, or by discontent. When almost every leaf is gone from the rose of life, let not its thorns remain. Let parents manifest much of this temper in the treatment of their children. Always endeavour to persuade before you attempt to compel. This is the way to grow in grace, for “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (T. Gibson, M. A.)
In looking into the nature of humility, we discover that it does not involve meanness or servility. It is not pusillanimity. It contains no element that degrades human nature. It is not the quality of a slave, but of kings and priests unto God. It is a necessary trait in all finite character, and therefore it is perfectly consistent with an inviolable dignity and self-respect.
I. In the first place, humility is becoming to man, because he is a creature. Shall a being who was originated from nonentity by almighty power, and who can be reduced again to nonentity by that same power, swell with haughtiness?
II. In the second place, humility is becoming to man, because he is A dependent being.
1. All his springs are in God. He is dependent for life, health, and all temporal things. He is dependent, above all, for spiritual life and health and all the blessed things of eternity.
2. Man is dependent not only upon his Creator, but also upon his fellow creature.
III. In the third place, man should be humble because he is a sinful being. Considering the peculiar attitude in which guilty man stands before God, self-abasement ought to be the main feeling in his heart, for, in addition to the infinite difference there is originally between himself and his Maker, he has rendered himself yet more different by apostasy. The first was only a difference in respect to essence, but the last is a difference in respect to character. How strange it is that he should forget this difference, and, entering into a comparison of himself with his fellow men, should plume himself upon a supposed superiority. The culprits are disputing which shall be the greatest at the very instant when their sentence of condemnation is issuing from the lips of their Judge! There is still another consideration under this head which strengthens the motive for humility. We have seen that the fact of sin furnishes an additional reason for self-abasement because it increases the distance between man and God; it has also made him still more dependent upon God. Nothing but pure and mere mercy can deliver him. But nothing interferes with the exercise of mercy like pride in the criminal. A proud man cannot be forgiven. It involves a self-contradiction. If there be self-asserting haughtiness in the heart, God can neither bestow grace nor man receive it.
IV. A fourth and most powerful reason why man should be clothed with humility is found in the vicarious suffering and atonement of Christ in His behalf. Feeling himself to be a condemned sinner, and beholding the Lamb of God “made a curse for him” and bearing His sins in His own body on the tree, all self-confidence and self-righteousness will die out of his soul. (G. T. Shedd, D. D.)
Humility with the fruits of it
I. To explain the nature of humility. Humility consists in a low opinion or esteem. Now the opinion which we form of ourselves is either absolute or comparative, and whichever way we judge it is very certain that a low opinion best becomes us, and is most suitable to our nature and state.
1. First, if we judge of ourselves absolutely, without comparing ourselves with any others, humility and truth too requires that our opinion should be very moderate and low. We know but little, and we live, alas! to little good purpose. What a mixture of corruption is there with every grace, and what a sully of sin in every duty! Again, as to the happiness of our state, what mortal does not feel that he is miserable? Pains and diseases afflict our bodies, crosses and disappointments perplex our circumstances, the gloom of melancholy gathers about the heart, and sorrows overspread the whole world.
2. Humility consisteth in having a low opinion of ourselves as compared with others, whether with God or with our fellow creatures.
II. To set before you the good fruits of humility. To this grace we may apply these words of the prophet, “It taketh root downward and beareth fruit upward” (Isaiah 37:31), and the deeper the root is laid, the larger and fairer will the fruit be.
1. Meekness is one pleasant fruit which grows upon humility, and to this we may join the kindred grace of peaceableness or quietness of spirit (1 Peter 3:4).
2. Patience is another good fruit of humility, with which we may join the kindred grace of submission. Now patience has respect either to God or man.
(1) Patience in respect to God consisteth in a quiet submission to His afflictive providences without murmuring.
(2) If we further consider patience as it respects men, as it is opposite to fretfulness at their faults and follies, this also is the fruit of humility; for if we were as sensible of our own follies as we should be, we should more patiently bear with the faults and follies of others.
3. Self-denial is another good fruit of humility, and how necessary a duty that is you will learn from those words of Christ (Luke 9:23). We surely esteem the body at too high a rate when we pamper it to the hurt of the soul.
4. The last good fruit of humility which I shall here speak of is contentment. The humble man remembers that, be his worldly condition what it will, it is unspeakably better than he deserves.
III. To urge upon you the exhortation in our text by a few motives. “Be ye clothed with humility.” For-
1. Consider how high an approbation God has expressed of this grace, and how hateful pride is to Him.
2. Consider what a lovely and engaging example of humility Christ hath set us.
3. Let me recommend humility as a necessary part of your preparation for heaven. (D. Jennings.)
Humility and its greatness
I. Let us examine the source and ground of humility. This is drawn from the knowledge of God and from the relation in which we stand to Him. Hence, where the knowledge of God is absent, the exercise of humility becomes impossible. Humility begins with the knowledge of God, and advances to the knowledge of ourselves. Thus we see at our first step that it consists of something we gain, not of aught we lose. The humble man is rich in his humility, for he has gained that which the proud man has not. Pride is the instinct of ignorance. But we must take another step, and ask how it is that the knowledge of God, instead of puffing a man up with the conceit of an acquisition, only produces humility and the most prostrate lowliness of mind. It might be answered, because the knowledge itself is but a gift freely bestowed; it is a revelation, not a discovery, and therefore implies in itself the obligation of a receiver towards a donor. This is true, but a more complete reply is, that humility is produced by the impressiveness of the majesty and greatness of the Divine Being as revealed to us in His matchless perfections and infinite glory. This knowledge of the glory of God is not a work of nature but a gift of grace. This new knowledge becomes a test whereby we measure ourselves. We cannot help this self-application, since, in knowing God, we have gained a new idea altogether. And it is in the immense difference between what God is and what we are that Christian humility originates and grows. Then, when we read the inspired history of man, lowliness is increased. For there we are told not alone of the immortal spirit breathed into man, but of the Divine likeness in which we were first created, even in the image and similitude of God. And now, standing amid these wonders of revelation, with the wretched experience of ourselves as we are fresh and full upon us, there is not a truth which does not deepen our awe by the very wonderfulness of the realities to which we find ourselves related, and with which we stand in daily contact. For here is the wonder, that true humility grows out of self-respect. No man living has so high a conception of the dignity of human nature as the Christian.
II. From the source and nature of Christian humility let us consider its practical outgoing. Here, again, we must take the side turned towards God first; otherwise we shall be out of order. What are the characteristic feelings and what the corresponding acts which a profound humility produces in our intercourse with God? In the first place, it produces an absorbing and unmeasured admiration. In speaking of so great a being as God, adoration may perhaps be the better word, so long as it is understood to be the adoration not of fear but of love-the adoration of desire, of grateful affection, and of fervent praise. And then, out of adoring praise to the redeeming God by whom we live, arises simple trusting faith in Him. From praise and trust combined there will arise also implicit obedience. For admiration and trust exalt to the highest degree the glory of the Being admired and trusted. Then how can God be wrong in any way? and if right, then every word of His must be kept as a seal of our acceptance. And now we shall see how these three sentiments of adoration, trust, and obedience necessarily affect our relation towards our fellow men. Gentle manners, gentle looks, gentle words ever considerate of other men’s feelings, make the true Christian a natural gentleman, and invest him with an intuitive politeness which is but the outgoing of the Divine life within. (E. Garbett, M. A.)
Be clothed with humility
I. Let us be clothed with humility before God. God delights in it; it is the “ornament which in His sight is of great price.” A lady applied to a celebrated philanthropist on behalf of an orphan child. When he had bidden her draw on him for any amount, she said, “As soon as the child is old enough I will teach him to thank you.” “Stop (said the good man), you are mistaken; we do not thank the clouds for rain-teach the child to look higher and thank Him who gives both the clouds and the rain.” That was being clothed with humility before God.
II. Let us be clothed with humility before the world-the proud and gainsaying world. This is the way in which we are to be lights to it add salt in it. Humility does more than argument. If it irritates, it impresses and convinces. An aged patriarch was tauntingly asked by a boastful young Pharisee, “Do you suppose that you have any real religion?” “None to speak of,” was the dignified answer, and it went sharp as a javelin into that young Pharisee’s bosom.
III. Let us be clothed with humility before each other. “Yea, all of you be subject one to another.” This is hardest of any-this wants more humility than either of the preceding. Mr. Newton’s favourite expression to his friends was, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be, but by the grace of God I am not what I once was.” (James Bolton.)
The garment of humility
No garment sits so well on human nature, and no ornament so gracefully conceals its deformity, as humility. Yet there is no dress which we find it more difficult to assume. There is something in our imperfect and unsanctified nature which revolts at the very idea of submission, condescension, and inferiority.
I. What is meant by being clothed with humility. To cultivate this grace we need only contemplate ourselves as we really are, examine out’ true condition, look at our selves in the mirror of truth and righteousness, and we shall come away humbled to the dust.
II. Some advantages to be secured by being humble. God’s commandments have nothing arbitrary about them. Whatever He ordains is for our good.
1. Humility is the great qualification for the reception of knowledge and for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. A proud man will neither learn anything from his neighbour nor receive anything from his God. If a man thinks he knows enough already upon any given subject, he is not likely to learn much more. Humility opens the pathway to all knowledge. By it our minds become docile so that they are prepared to receive every new form of truth. And if we cherish this spirit, may we not learn from all around us? Humility also prepares for the reception of the Divine kingdom into the heart.
2. Humility is essential to the growth of the soul in holiness and grace. All true spiritual progress is the work of God. If he do not yield to the power and grace of God, how can He fashion him after His own will? Humility, then, prepares us to feel our inability to do any good thing of ourselves, and to look for all in God. Humility opens the pathway to honour and glory (Isaiah 57:15).
4. Humility is associated with the purest happiness. Humility in man helps him to maintain a serenity and calmness amidst all the storms of life. (Harvey Phillips, B. A.)
Two kinds of clothing
A new suit of clothes! That’s a subject in which you all take an interest. When a boy enters the army or navy he puts on a new suit of clothes, blue or red, and that reminds him that he is bound to serve his queen and country, and that he must not disgrace his uniform. I am going to speak to you today about some different kinds of clothing, some good, others bad. First of all, let us think of the clothes which God makes for His beautiful world. He clothes the grass of the field. Every tree has a different shaped dress and a different shade of colour. Even in the winter, when the trees look so bare and cold, they are still clothed by God. Trees have two sets of leaves, one set for the summer, the other for the winter. And God clothes the beasts and birds and gives each exactly the sort of dress which he re quires. You have all seen the mole hills in a field, and sometimes you have caught a glimpse of the mole himself. Well, God has clothed him in a dress like black velvet, which is just fitted for his home underground. The animals which live in cold regions have a warm clothing of fur, and those which live among snow and ice are white, so that their enemies may not easily see them. Now let us think about ourselves. In the Bible we hear of two kinds of clothing, the best and the worst. St. Peter says, “Be clothed with humility”; that’s the best clothing. In the hundred and ninth Psalm we are told of a wicked man who “clothed himself with cursing as with a garment”; that’s the worst clothing. Now I have noticed that very often when children are growing up into big lads and girls, there is a great change in their manners. Did you ever hear the old fable of the donkey who found a lion’s skin? The donkey covered himself with the skin, and tried to play the lion and frighten the people. But some of them spied his long ears, and recognised his well-known voice, and he was soon stripped of his lion’s skin and driven away. Now, my boys, if you are tempted to put on a suit of clothes which does not become you, if while still boys you put on the habits of a man, and of a bad man into the bargain, remember the fable of the ass in the lion’s skin. But when a child has outgrown the good clothing of humility and put on a full suit of pride, there comes another evil from it. He often gives up his prayers and his Bible. I told you that the Bible speaks of the worst kind of clothing; it tells us of a man who “clothed himself with cursing as with a garment.” I take cursing there to mean all sorts of bad language. The old Greeks tell us a story about the death of Hercules. That strong hero had shot his enemy, Nessus, with a poisoned arrow, and the garment of the slain man was all stained with poisoned blood. Before he died Nessus gave his clothing to the wife of Hercules, telling her that it would make her husband love her always. It came to pass after a time that she gave the fatal garment to her husband, and no sooner had he put it on than the poison seized upon him, and when, in his agony, he tried to put off the clothing, it clung all the tighter, and so he died, killed by his own poison. So it is with the man who clothes himself with a garment of cursing or bad talk; it clings to him and poisons him, body and soul. There are several other kinds of clothing of which I might warn you. One of these is self-righteousness. I have seen a man with a very glossy black suit of clothes, very carefully buttoned up, and at first sight he looked most clean and respectable. But when I came to look more closely, I found that his linen was anything but white and clean. His respectability was all outside. If your clothes are old and worn out or do not fit you, what must you do? You must get a new suit. Well, there are some kinds of clothing which we should cast off as soon as possible. If any of you have put on bad habits, filthy clothing, such as pride, or falsehood, or bad talk, you must change your clothes. Cast off the old garment, and go down on your knees, and ask God for Jesus Christ’s sake to give you a new dress. (H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)
Work tends to humility
I cannot but think that one of the truest ways in which Christianity has made humility at once a commoner and a nobler grace has been in the way in which it has furnished work for the higher powers of man, which used to be idle, and only ponder proudly on themselves. Idleness standing in the midst of unattempted tasks is always proud. Work is always tending to humility. Work touches the keys of endless activity, opens the infinite, and stands awe struck before the immensity of what there is to do. Work brings a man into the great realm of facts. Work takes the dreamy youth who is growing proud in his closet over one or two sprouting powers which he has discovered in himself, and sets him out among the gigantic needs and the vast processes of the world, and makes him feel his littleness. Work opens the measureless fields of knowledge and skill that reach far out of our sight. Is not this what you would do for a boy whom you saw getting proud-set him to work? He might be of so poor stuff that he would be proud of his work, poorly as he would do it. But if he were really great enough to be humble at all, his work would bring him to humility. He would be brought face to face with facts. He would measure himself against the eternal pillars of the universe. He would learn the blessed lesson of his own littleness in the way in which it is always learned most blessedly, by learning the largeness of larger things. And all this, which the ordinary occupations of life do for our ordinary powers, Christianity, with the work that it furnishes for our affections and our hopes, does for the higher parts of us. (Bp. Phillips Brooks.)
There are some sins which have resisted every influence but that of Christianity, and over which even the gospel itself seems to obtain a precarious triumph. One of these is pride. To be proud is not only to be what Christianity condemns, but something essentially inconsistent with the first principles of its teaching, and with the special type of character which it seeks to create. Heathenism showed it no such antipathy. Unless it made itself specially ridiculous by trading on obviously false pretences, it was considered a becoming and reasonable tiring. It is not difficult to understand how this should have been so. Pride, to be seen in its objectionable light, must be seen in connection with those truths about God and human nature which Christianity first made known to the world. It is only when it stands in their company it appears as Scripture represents it. How Christianity dethrones this idol of self we know very well. It reminds us that the great thing is not what a man has, but what he is. It reveals in the Person of Christ the true standard of moral excellence. Pride has to come down from its pedestal and take its place in the dust. We see we are not only wrong, but responsible for being wrong. We have been following false ideals. It seems almost impossible to conceive how a proud man can ever have been truly convicted of sin, or brought to receive the salvation of Christ as a free, unmerited gift. It seems more difficult still to believe that such an one is living by the faith of the Son of God, receiving as a sinner daily forgiveness, and as having nothing being indebted to Him for all things. It is hardly to be wondered at that the world should be sceptical of our Christian profession when it sees so much that directly contradicts it. Are we disposed to retract the confession which we made so sincerely when we cried for mercy, that of all sinners we are the chief? Or, are we forgetting what the world really is, as we saw it once in the light of the Cross, when its glory faded till it vanished away, and we cried, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord”? Is it assuming its old importance? “Be clothed,” says St. Peter, “with humility.” And as we read the words we feel how little of this clothing we have been accustomed to wear, how faintly we have realised the nature of the habit in which we should always be found apparelled. The word which the apostle uses here, and which is translated, “Be clothed,” is interesting and somewhat rare. It means literally “to tie or gird on,” and is so rendered in the Revised Version, but apparently it also refers to the peculiar garment that was worn by slaves, and which was the usual mark or badge of their condition.
I. First, St. Peter says, see that your humility is fastened to you as it were so securely nothing shall be able to deprive you of it. He recognises the risk of it being plucked off or laid aside. And among those to whom he wrote the risk was doubtless considerable. In so mixed a community as the Christian Church at that time it would be difficult to subordinate all selfish desires to the common good. And persecution, which was then active, might easily awaken a feeling of resentment or disdain. To be reviled and yet revile not again, to suffer wrong and take it patiently, is never an easy thing. In our ease the danger may spring from a different quarter, but it is no less real. Perhaps we feel our humility to be nothing but a cloak, something put on or assumed which is not natural to us, and in which we pose in a somewhat hypocritical guise. And, of course, a humility which is conscious of itself is no humility at all. It is the most odious of all possible counterfeits. But the girdle or overall of the slave to which St. Peter alludes was his natural dress. It simply indicated his servile condition. There was no inconsistency between the two. And, as we have seen, humility is the natural garb of the Christian, expressing his dependence on Jesus Christ, whose slave he is. Yet the temptation frequently comes to lay it aside, or to give way to a temper which makes it impossible to wear it. It is true, we argue to ourselves, we have much to keep us humble, but not more than these others, or perhaps so much, if they only knew it. Why, then, should we yield to them, or submit tamely to their assumptions? If we give them an inch, they will take an ell, and there is no end to the liberties some may allow themselves, or the length to which they may presume. All this is very natural, but is it Christian? Is it not renouncing the vesture of humility, and finding plausible excuses for the pride that is so ready to assert itself? There are interests that ought to be dearer to us than any personal considerations. Let us be clothed with humility. Let us keep it on firmly. Let our whole life in all its details be ruled by the remembrance that we are not our own, but Christ’s slaves, and bound to act in accordance with our condition.
II. But, secondly, being clothed with humility means that, being girt with this vesture of servitude, we are always to be ready for service. There are some clothes in which a man cannot work. He puts them on for state occasions. So there are some Christians who always seem, so to speak, to be in dress clothes. They would be quite shocked if you asked them to do something that involved even a little hard work. They are much too dainty and refined for that. Or, they strike you as being available only on great occasions. Are we so clothed with humility as to remember that it is not ours to pick and choose, but to be ready at the Master’s call? Do we remember that no act of service is too humble or obscure for us; that we are not to think there are some things for which we are too good, and which we are therefore justified in leaving undone? Whenever we do this, we discard our girdle or cloak of humility. We forget what manner of men we are and the character we wear.
III. Again, St. Peter reminds us that humility is not only indispensable to our serving Christ, but also to our serving one another. The correct text of the passage literally rendered runs thus: “Gird yourselves with humility for the sake of one another.” And truly no better specific could be devised for developing the happiness and strength of a community. For a great part of the misery and confusion of the world pride is responsible. It makes joint effort impracticable, and is the creator of constant discord and misunderstanding. Pride is an insoluble particle. It resists fusion and protests against amalgamation. Humility presents no such obstacle. It facilitates union. It is mutual concession, “in honour preferring one another.” “Be clothed,” therefore, “with humility,” writes the apostle, and as the precept is so confessedly difficult to obey, it may be well to suggest one or two directions.
1. Let us get out of the way of making ourselves the centre of everything. If we are Christians, self has been dethroned, and it must be forbidden all acts of usurpation. We have found a larger and nobler centre for life, and other interests that are greater and more commanding than our own. Let us put these first-the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Let us remember that these are the interests that endure.
2. A second suggestion I may offer is, that we should think most of all of Christ, and of pleasing Him. When He receives the proper place in our lives everything else will surely come right. It is only when He is forgotten, or His presence is faintly and fitfully realised, other things assume a disproportionate importance. We lose our standard of value, our justness of perception, and our whole perspective becomes confused. (C. Moinet, M. A.)
The shadow shortens
Opinion of ourselves is like the casting of a shadow, which is always largest when the sun is at the greatest distance. By the degrees that the sun approaches, the shadow shortens, and under the direct meridian light it becomes none at all. It is so with our opinion of ourselves; while the good influences of God are at the greatest distance from us, it is then always that we conceive best of ourselves; as God approaches the conceit lessens, till we receive the fuller measure of His grace, and then we become nothing in our own conceit, and God appears to be all in all. (Dean Young.)
Humility a beautiful dress
An Irish preacher named Thady Conellan, who greatly assisted Dr. Monck Mason in his labours connected with the revision of the Hibernian Bible Society’s Irish Bible, was eminent not only as an orator, a wit, and a humble unostentatious Christian, but was unmoved by the splendour and gaiety which surrounded him, and retained his simplicity amid it all. A magnificent duchess having one day asked him, “Pray, do you know Lady Lorton?” was quickly answered, “Yes, madam, I do; and she is the best dressed lady in Ireland.” “How very odd! Best dressed lady in Ireland.” What a strange man! “Pray, how is she dressed?” But her grace’s surprise was converted to satisfaction when Thady rejoined, “Yes, madam, Lady Lorton is the best dressed lady in Ireland, or in England either, for she is clothed in humility.”
Vanity, or love of display, is one of the most contemptible and pernicious passions that can take possession of the human mind. Its roots are in self-ignorance-its fruits are affectation and falsehood. Vanity is a kind of mental intoxication, in which the pauper fancies himself a prince, and exhibits himself in aspects disgusting to all observers. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Humility a preparation for heaven
“Humble we must be, if to heaven we go;
High is the roof there, but the gate is low.”
Clothed with humility
Humility is the beauty of grace. “Be clothed with humility.” The Greek word imports that humility is the ribbon or string that ties together all those precious pearls, the rest of the graces. If this string break they are all scattered. (T. Brooks.)
God resisteth the proud.-
The course of things against pride
No one need fail in life, in things temporal or things spiritual, through pride! and yet not be able to know what kept him back. Not temporally, not spiritually, will promotion come-any real progress-while self-conceit is there. The course of the universe is dead against that, and against those who are cursed with it. We do not wonder that the Almighty should “oppose Himself to the proud.” Even we must often have thought how strange it is that man should be proud at all. What have we to be proud of.
I. God “resisteth the proud” in his providence. The course of God’s Providence, as a general rule, does (as a matter of fact) keep back the proud from positions of eminence. In practice, the most conceited persons one has ever known are those who have been the deadest failures. The pride tended to the failure, no doubt: but where other disqualifications rendered success impossible, the self-conceit alleviated the mortification of failure. For it is more pleasant for a man to think that he has been very unlucky, than to think he has been very incompetent and undeserving. But, setting aside the case of incorrigibles, it is very striking, as a matter of historical experience, how, when the sore discipline had been borne, when the old conceit was fairly taken out, the tide turned and great success came. Aye, the man could stand it now: and that which would once have intoxicated, was now taken with lowly thankfulness. True are the wise man’s words, “Before honour is humility!” I know, of course, that the question may be put: Have we not sometimes seen self-conceited people in prominent places? And the answer must be, Not often, but sometimes, no doubt. But it is only in appearance that these cases are exceptions to the principle stated in the text. For God resists such, humbles them in various ways. Perhaps He allows them to get the prominent position and then prove conspicuously unfit for it; which is (to one of any worth) the sorest kind of failure. Or the conceited heart is hourly punished by a host of little mortifications and slights, keenly felt through all its morbidly sensitive texture, from which the humble minded are entirely free. Make him chief minister of the State, like Haman: and the proud man has all the enjoyment killed out of his lot by the slighting looks of one unmannerly Jew. Raise the proud man to the throne itself; and he holds his peace of mind at the mercy of any crowd that may raise the shout, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”
II. How God resisteth the proud in his kingdom of grace. “Where is boasting” here? “It is excluded.” There is but one lowly gate of humble penitence by which anyone can pass into that family of the redeemed in which alone is salvation. And then this repentance is not just once for all: it must be a daily thing, a strengthening habit. Look at the whole design of grace, and see how from first to last it resists all pride, and cuts hard all human self-sufficiency I It sets out by taking it for granted that we are all guilty, all helpless. It goes on to tell that we can be saved only by entire dependence on another. Then, in the design of grace, though we are saved through Christ only, lye are called to the highest degree of purity, truthfulness, self-sacrifice, devotion of heart and of life to God. Only through the communications of the Blessed Spirit are we able to do anything as we ought. He begins, He carries on, He ends our better life! Thus it is that in God’s kingdom of grace there is no room for pride. It is not merely resisted, it is shut out altogether. And now we may humbly believe that we can discern the reason why “God resisteth the proud.” There is not in our Heavenly Father, in our Blessed Saviour, the faintest infusion of that wretched jealousy of their creatures which old heathenism ascribes to its gods; that wretched jealousy of human power and wisdom,-even of human goodness, which we can trace in ancient classic tragedy. It is not a touchiness about His own importance, such as we should judge petty and contemptible in a man, that makes God resist the proud. It is because the thing is bad; because it is unlike us and our place; because it must be got rid of before we shall be fit either for this life or for a better. It is all for our true good and our true happiness that God opposes the ever-growing self-conceit. Thus He trains us for duty here and for rest hereafter. (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)
The proud abased and the humble exalted
I. The folly of pride.
1. Are we proud of our strength? It is far inferior to that of many beasts.
2. Our clothing? It is not so pretty as the peacock’s. What is deficient in the head they put outside.
3. Our beauty? It is inferior to many flowers.
4. Our riches? That man is a fool who prides himself upon these, for he is below a chain of pearls or a knot of diamonds.
5. Our birth? He who plumes himself upon this is proud of the blessings of others, not his own.
II. The wickedness of pride.
2. It is the most diabolical sin with which we are acquainted (1 Timothy 3:6).
III. The destructiveness of pride. It is the forerunner of shame.
IV. The cure of pride-humility.
1. Be convinced of its great excellency.
2. Store your mind with knowledge.
3. Its effects.
(1) It consists not in railing against yourself.
(2) It consists more in feeling than saying.
1. Never be ashamed of birth, parents, trade, or poverty.
2. Let others be praised in thy presence; object nothing; his disparagement increases not thy worth.
3. Nay, exalt thy brother, if truth and God’s glory need it. Cyrus played only with those more skilful than himself, lest he should shame them by his victory, that he might learn something of them, and do them civilities. (J. Summerfield, M. A.)
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God.-
Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God
There is nothing which more peculiarly marks the character of the faithful Christian than the manner in which he submits to the dispensations of God. The worldly spirit either repines under misfortune, or is disconsolate; or, at the best, bears up with a mere animal fortitude; it finds no comfort but such as is afforded by the vain world. Religion is the only source from which true comfort can be drawn, and we see her triumphs manifested in the most remarkable manner when the faithful servant of God is overwhelmed with trouble. “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.” Here we may discover powerful reasons intimated why we should bring ourselves into a state of entire submission to the Divine will, and rest resigned under every dispensation. The hand of God is mighty: He is the sovereign Lord of all; has an absolute right to dispose of His creatures according to His good pleasure, and is alone able both to know and to do what their several necessities require. A wise son yields to an affectionate father, even in points where he cannot comprehend the entire wisdom of his discipline; not only because experience has taught him the benefit of subjection, but also for the sake of obedience to a father, who is entrusted with the guidance of him, and has a right to be obeyed. Another consideration here suggested is that all resistance is vain: “the mighty hand of God” is uncontrollable. Whatever visitation He is pleased to send to a family or to an individual-of sickness, of calamity, of death-there is no keeping it out of the dwelling; it may be softened by resignation, it may be removed, and even blessed by prayer; but we cannot hinder the accomplishment of God’s will. Remark the language of the text; “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God”; it is not enough that we be humbled, in a worldly sense, by the stroke of misfortune; that is a consequence, which may of necessity ensue: the loss of possession may drive us into needy solitude; the loss of health destroy our energy and activity; the loss of reputation bring us to shame; the loss of friends oblige us to mourn, from the very feelings of nature; but all this while there may be no humility of heart. (J. Slade, M. A.)
On humbling ourselves before God
I. First, our text is evidently intended to bear upon us in our Church life. Each one of us should think little of himself and highly of his brethren.
1. True humility in our Church relationship will show itself in our being willing to undertake the very lowest offices for Christ.
2. The next point of humility is that we are conscious of our own incompetence to do anything aright. Self-sufficiency is inefficiency. He that has no sense of his weakness has a weakness in his sense.
3. This humility will show itself next in this-that we shall be willing to be ignored of men.
4. We want humility in our Church life, in the sense of never being rough, haughty, arrogant, hard, domineering, lordly; or, on the other hand, factious, unruly, quarrelsome, and unreasonable.
II. Now I will use the text in reference to our behaviour in our afflictions. Frequently our heavenly Father’s design in sending trial to His children is to make and keep them humble; let us remember this, and learn a lesson of wisdom. The most hopeful way of avoiding the humbling affliction is to humble yourself. Be humble that you may not be humbled.
1. And do this, first, by noticing whether you have been guilty of any special sin of pride. Usually our sins lie at the roots of our sorrows. If we will repent of the sin, the Lord will remove the sorrow.
2. In your affliction humble yourself by confessing that you deserve all that you are suffering.
3. But, more than that, humble yourself so as to submit entirely to God’s will. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you in this act of self-humiliation while you meekly kiss the rod.
III. In our daily dealings with God, whether in affliction or not, let us humble ourselves under His hand, for so only can we hope to be exalted. It is a blessed thing whenever you come to God to come wondering that you are allowed to come, wondering that you have been led to come; marvelling at Divine redemption, astonished that such a price should have been paid that you might be brought nigh to God. Let grace be magnified by your grateful heart.
1. When you are doing this be very humble before God, because you have not made more improvement of the grace that He has given you.
2. Next, humble yourself under the hand of God by feeling your own want of knowledge whenever you come to God. Do not think that you understand all divinity. There is only one body of divinity, and that is Christ Himself; and who knoweth Him to the full?
3. One point concerning which I should like every one of us to humble ourselves under the hand of God is about our little enjoyment of Divine things.
IV. I finish by using my text with all earnestness in reference to the unconverted in our seeking forgiveness as sinners. Do you want to be saved? The way of salvation is, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” “But,” you say, “I cannot understand it.” Yet it is very simple; no hidden meaning lies in the words; you are simply bidden to trust Jesus. If, however, you feel as if you could not do that, let me urge you to go to God ill secret and own the sin of this unbelief; for a great sin it is. Humble yourself. Sit down and think over the many ways in which you have done wrong, or failed to do right. Pray God to break you down with deep penitence. When your sin is confessed, then acknowledge that if justice were carried out towards you, apart from undeserved grace, you would be sent to hell. You have almost obtained mercy when you have fully submitted to justice. Then, next, accept God’s mercy in His own way. Do not be so vain as to dictate to God how you ought to be saved. Be a little child, and come and believe in the salvation which is revealed in Jesus Christ. “Ah,” say you, “I have done this, but I cannot get peace.” Then sink lower down. Did I hear you say, “Alas, sir, I want to get comfort”? Do not ask for comfort; ask for forgiveness, and that blessing may come through your greater discomfort. Sink lower down. There is a point at which God will surely accept you, and that point is lower down. “Oh,” you say, “I think I have a due sense of sin.” That will not do. I want you to feel that you have not a due sense of sin, and come to Jesus just so. “Oh, but I do think that I have been brokenhearted.” I should like to see you lower than that, till you cry, “I am afraid I never knew what it is to be brokenhearted.” I want you to sink so low that you cannot say anything good of yourself; nay, nor see an atom of goodness in yourself. Come before God a criminal, in the prison dress, with the rope about your neck. You will be saved then. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Submission to Divine dispensation
1. We are to submit to the Divine dispensations in reference to our personal condition. Men, for example, of great talents and large opportunities, instead of shrinking from the responsibility they involve, and wishing it had been their lot rather to have been made mere animals or stones, are to be grateful for their distinction, and with the full force of their talent “serve their generation by the will of God.” While those whose talents or circumstances, or both, are characterised by mediocrity or poverty, instead of fretting, as though the dispensations towards them of the great Disposer had been unwise or unkind, are to acquiesce in the Divine appointment, and do their best to benefit man and glorify God.
2. We are to submit to the Divine arrangements in social and civil life. In social life, the husband is the head of the wife; parents have authority over children; masters over servants. In civil life, submission is equally imperative. The language of Scripture on this point is singularly precise and unqualified; pity it should have been perverted to purposes of tyranny (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-3; 1 Peter 2:13-15).
3. We are to submit to the Divine arrangements in the Church. Instead of sulkiness, there should be cheerful compliance; instead of envy, generousness; instead of paltry pride, the dignity of humility; instead of fitfulness, patience; instead of insubordination, Christian submission. In the Church, emphatically, we are to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God.”
4. We are to submit to the Divine dispensations which operate in the way of moral discipline. Afflictions are of necessity the present portion of the servants of Christ.
5. Our encouragement, even as intimated in this one verse, is great. Submission is rewarded in the present world. From how many mental and other evils does it save its subjects. How great is their peace, and their joy in the light of the Divine countenance. The chief reward will be bestowed in the world to come. (S. J. Davis.)
Humbling of the spirit, in humbling circumstances
Objection 1. If we let our spirit fall, we will lie always among folks’ feet, and they will trample on us. No: pride of spirit unsubdued will bring men to lie among the feet of others forever (Isaiah 66:24).
Obj. 2. If we do not raise ourselves, none will raise us; and therefore we must see to ourselves to do ourselves right. That is wrong. Humble yourselves in respect of your spirits, and God will raise you up in respect of your lot; and they that have God engaged for raising them, have no reason to say they have none to do it for them.
Obj. 3. But sure we will never rise high if we let our spirits fall. God will not only raise the humble ones, but He will lift them up on high; for so the word signifies.
I. The bent of one’s heart, in humbling circumstances, should lie towards a suitable humbling of the spirit, as under God’s mighty hand placing us in them.
1. Some things supposed in this. It supposeth that-
(1) God brings men into humbling circumstances (Ezekiel 17:24). There is a root of pride in the hearts of all men on earth, that must be mortified ere they can be meet for heaven. And God brings men into humbling circumstances for that very end (Deuteronomy 8:2).
(2) These circumstances prove pressing as a weight on the heart, tending to bear it down (Psalms 107:12). They strike at the grain of the heart, and cross the natural inclination.
(3) The heart is naturally apt to rise against these humbling circumstances, and consequently against the mighty hand that brings and keeps them on. The man naturally bends his force to get off the weight, that he may get up his head, seeking more to please himself than to please his God (Job 35:9-10).
(4) But what God requires is rather to labour to bring down the heart than to get up the head (James 4:10). Lastly, there must be a noticing of God, as our party, in humbling circumstances. “Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it” (Micah 6:9).
2. What are these humbling circumstances the mighty hand brings them into? These are circumstances-
(1) Of imperfection. God has placed all men in such circumstances, under a variety of wants and imperfections (Philippians 3:2). There is a heap of natural and moral imperfections about us; our bodies and our souls, in all their faculties, are in a state of imperfection.
(2) Of inferiority in relations, whereby men are set in the lower place in relations and society, and made to depend on others (1 Corinthians 7:24). Now, God having placed us in these circumstances of inferiority, all refractoriness is a rising up against His mighty hand (Romans 13:2).
(3) Of contradiction. This was a part of our Lord’s state of humiliation, and the apostle supposes it will be a part of ours too (Hebrews 12:3). Whether these contradictions be just or unjust, God proves men with them to humble them, break them off from addictedness to their own will, and to teach them resignation and self-denial.
(4) Of affliction (Proverbs 16:19). Prosperity puffs up sinners with pride; and oh, but it is hard to keep a low spirit with a high lot. But God by affliction calls men down from their heights to sit in the dust, plucks away their jay feathers wherein they prided themselves, rubs the paint and varnish from off the creature, whereby it appears more in its native deformity. Lastly, of sin as the punishment of sin (Job 30:19).
3. What it is, in humbling circumstances, to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God.
(1) Noticing the mighty hand, as employed in bringing about everything that concerns us, either in the way of efficacy or permission (1 Samuel 3:18). “And he said, it is the Lord: let Him do what seemeth Him good” (2 Samuel 16:10).
(5) A magnifying of His mercies towards us in the midst of all His proceedings against us (Psalms 144:3). Has He laid us low? If we be duly humbled, we will wonder He has laid us no lower (Ezra 9:13).
(6) A holy and silent admiration of the ways and counsels of God, as to us unsearchable (Romans 11:33). Pride of heart thinks nothing too high for the man, and so arraigns before its tribunal the Divine proceedings, pretends to see through them, censures freely and condemns.
(7) A forgetting and laying aside before the Lord all our dignity, whereby we excel others (Revelation 4:10; Luke 18:11). Lastly, a submitting readily to the meanest offices requisite in or agreeable to our circumstances. Use: Let the bent of your heart then, in all your humbling circumstances, be towards the humbling of your spirit, as under the mighty hand of God. This lies in two things.
(a) Carefully notice all your humbling circumstances, and overlook none of them.
(b) Observing what these circumstances do require of you as suitable to them. Let this be your great aim through your whole life, your exercise every day. Motive
1. God is certainly at work to humble one and all of us.
2. The humiliation of our spirits will not take effect without our own agency therein; for He works on us as rational agents, who being moved, move themselves (Philippians 2:12-13).
3. If ye do not, ye resist the mighty hand of God (Acts 7:51). And of this resistance consider-
(1) The sinfulness, what an evil thing it is. It is a direct fighting against God (Isaiah 45:9).
(2) The folly of it. How unequal is the match? How can the struggle end well? (Job 9:4).
4. This is the time of humiliation, even the time of this life. “Everything is beautiful in its season,” and the bringing down of the spirit now is beautiful, as in the time thereof. Consider-
(1) Humiliation of spirit “is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:4).
(2) It is no easy thing to humble men’s spirits; it is not little that will do it; it is a work that is not soon done. There is need of a digging deep for a thorough humiliation in the work of conversion (Luke 6:48).
(4) There is no humbling after (Revelation 22:11). If the pride of the heart be not brought down in this life, it will never be.
5. This is the way to turn humbling circumstances to a good account: so that instead of being losers, ye would be gainers by them (Psalms 119:71).
(1) Humiliation of spirit is a most valuable thing in itself (Proverbs 16:32). It cannot be bought too dear.
(2) Humility of spirit brings many advantages along with it. It is a fruitful bough, well laden, wherever it is. It contributes to one’s ease under the cross (Matthew 11:30; Lamentations 3:27-29). It is a sacrifice particularly acceptable to God (Psalms 51:17). The eye of God is particularly on such for good (Isaiah 66:2). And it carries a line of wisdom through one’s whole conduct (Proverbs 11:2), “With the lowly is wisdom.” Lastly, consider it is a mighty hand that is at work with us; the hand of the mighty God; let us then bend our spirits towards a compliance with it, and not wrestle against it. Consider
(a) We must fall under it. Since the design of it is to bring us down, we cannot stand before it; for it cannot miscarry in its designs (Isaiah 46:10), “My counsel shall stand.”
(b) They that are so wise as to fall in humiliation under the mighty hand, be they never so low, the same hand will raise them up again (James 4:10). Directions for reaching this humiliation.
1. General directions.
(1) Fix it in your heart to seek some spiritual improvement of the conduct of Providence towards you (Micah 6:9). Till once your heart get a set that way, your humiliation is not to be expected (Hosea 14:9).
(2) Settle the matter of your eternal salvation, in the first place, by betaking yourself to Christ, and taking God for your God in Him, according to the gospel offer (Hosea 2:19; Hebrews 8:10). Lastly, use the means of soul humbling in the faith of the promise (Psalms 28:7).
2. Particular directions.
(2) Whatever hand is, or is not, in your humbling circumstances, do you take God for your party, and consider yourselves therein as under His mighty hand (Micah 6:9). Men in their humbling circumstances overlook God; they fix their eyes on the creature instrument, and, instead of humility, their hearts rise.
(3) Be much in the thought of God’s infinite greatness; consider His holiness and majesty, fit to awe you into deepest humiliation (Isaiah 6:3-5).
(4) Inure yourselves silently to admit mysteries in the conduct of Providence towards you, which you are not able to comprehend, but will adore (Romans 11:33).
(5) Be much in the thoughts of your own sinfulness (Job 40:4).
(6) Settle it in your heart that there is need of all the humbling circumstances you are put in (1 Peter 1:6).
(7) Believe a kind design of Providence in them towards you.
(8) Think with yourselves that this life is the time of trial for heaven (James 1:12).
(9) Think with yourselves, how it is by humbling circumstances the Lord prepares us for heaven (Colossians 1:12).
(10) Give up at length with your towering hopes from this world, and confine them to the world to come. Lastly, make use of Christ in all His offices for your humiliation, under your humbling circumstances. That only is kindly humiliation that comes in that way (Zechariah 12:10).
II. There is a due time wherein those that now humble themselves under the mighty hand of God will certainly be lifted up. First, a general view of this point. And consider-
1. Some things implied in it. It bears-
(2) Being cast down by the mighty hand of God, we must learn to lie quiet under it, till the same hand that cast us down raise us up (Lamentations 3:27).
(3) Never humbled in humbling circumstances, never lifted up in the way of this promise.
(4) Humility of spirit in humbling circumstances ascertains a lifting up out of them some time with the goodwill and favour of Heaven (Luke 18:14).
(5) There is an appointed time for the lifting up of those that humble themselves in their humbling circumstances (Habakkuk 2:3). We know it not, but God knows it, who has appointed it.
(6) It is not to be expected that immediately upon one’s humbling himself, the lifting up is to follow. No, one is not only to lie down under the mighty hand, but lie still waiting the due time; humbling work is longsome work.
(7) The appointed time for the lifting up is the due time, the time fittest for it, wherein it will come most seasonably. Lastly, The lifting up of the humbled will not miss to come in the appointed and due time (Habakkuk 2:3). Time makes no halting, it is running day and night; so the due time is fast coming.
2. A word in the general to the lifting up abiding those that humble themselves. There is a twofold lifting up.
(1) A partial lifting up, competent to the humbled in time during this life (Psalms 30:1). This is a lifting up in part, and but in part, not wholly; and such liftings up the humbled may expect while in this world, but no more.
(2) A total lifting up, competent to them at the end of time, at death (Luke 16:22). Then the Lord deals with them no more by parcels and halves, but carries their relief to perfection (Hebrews 12:23). Now there is a due time for both these.
3. The certainty of the lifting up of those that humble themselves under humbling circumstances. And ye may be assured thereof from the following considerations.
(1) The nature of God, duly considered, insures it (Psalms 103:8-9). Infinite power, that can do all things. Infinite goodness inclining to help. He is good and gracious in His nature (Exodus 34:6-9). And therefore His power is a spring of comfort to them (Romans 14:4). Infinite wisdom that does nothing in vain, and therefore will not needlessly keep one in humbling circumstances (Lamentations 3:32-33).
(2) The providence of God, viewed in its stated methods of procedure with its objects, insures it. Turn your eyes which way you will on the Divine providence, ye may conclude thence, that in due time the humble will be lifted up
(a) Observe the providence of God in the revolutions of the whole course of nature, day succeeding to the longest night, a summer to the winter, a waxing to a waning of the moon, a flowing to an ebbing of the sea, etc. Let not the Lord’s humbled ones be idle spectators of these things; they are for our learning (Jeremiah 31:35-37).
(b) Observe the providence of God in the dispensations thereof about the man Christ, the most august object thereof, more valuable than a thousand worlds (Colossians 2:9). Did not Providence keep this course with Him, first humbling Him, then exalting Him; first bring Him to the dust of death, in a course of sufferings thirty-three years, then exalt Him to the Father’s right hand in eternity of glory? (Hebrews 12:2).
(3) Observe the providence of God towards the Church in all ages. This has been the course the Lord has kept with her (Psalms 129:1-4).
(4) Observe the providence of God in the dispensations of His grace towards His children. The general rule is (1 Peter 5:5). Lastly, observe the providence of God at length throwing down wicked men, however long they stand and prosper (Psalms 37:35-36).
(5) The Word of God puts it beyond all peradventure, which, from the beginning to the end, is the humbled saint’s security for a lifting up (Psalms 119:49-50). Consider-
(a) The doctrines of the Word which teach faith and hope for the time, and the happy issue the exercise of these graces will have.
(c) The examples of the Word sufficiently confirming the truth of the doctrines and promises (Romans 15:4). Lastly, the intercession of Christ, joining the prayers of His humbled people in their humbling circumstances, insures a lifting up for them at length. Secondly, I proceed to a more particular view of the point.
1. We will consider the lifting up as brought about in time, which is the partial lifting up. And-first, some considerations for clearing the nature thereof.
(1) This lifting up does not take place in every case of a child of God. Objection, if that be the case, what comes of the promise of lifting up? Where is the lifting up, if one may go to the grave under the weight? Were there no life after this, there would be weight in that objection; but, since there is another life, there is none in it at all. Question, but then, may we not give over praying for the lifting up in that case? We do not know when that is our case; for a case may be past all hope in our eyes and the eyes of others, in which God designs a lifting up in time, as in Job’s (Job 6:11).
(2) However, there are some cases wherein this lifting up does take place. God gives His people some notable liftings up, even in time raising them out of remarkable humbling circumstances. Lastly, all the liftings up the humbled meet with now are but pledges, samples of the great lifting up abiding them on the other side; and they should look on them so. Secondly, the partial lifting up itself. What they will get, getting this lifting up promised to the humbled. Why, they will get-
1. A removal of their humbling circumstances.
2. A comfortable sight of the acceptance of their prayers put up in their humbling circumstances.
3. A heart-satisfying answer of these prayers, so as they shall not only get the thing, but see they have it as an answer of prayer; and they will put a double value on the mercy (1 Samuel 2:1).
4. Full satisfaction as to the conduct of Providence in all the steps of the humbling circumstances, and the delay of the lifting up, however perplexing these were before (Revelation 15:3).
5. They get the lifting up together with the interest for the time they lay out of it.
6. The spiritual enemies that flew thick about them in the time of the darkness of the humbling circumstances will be scattered at this lifting up in the promise. Thirdly, the due time of this lifting up. The humbling circumstances are ordinarily carried to the utmost point of hopelessness before the lifting up. The knife was at Isaac’s throat before the voice was heard (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). Lastly, due preparation of the heart for the lifting up out of the humbling circumstances, goes before the due time of that lifting up according to the promise. (T. Boston.)
The benefit of afflictions
I. The hand of God is an expression used in various parts of Scripture to denote the Almighty’s interference with the sons of men, in a way both of providence and grace. Thus in Acts 4:28 it signifies His eternal purpose and executive power. In Psalms 104:28 it denotes His providential bounty and goodness. In John 10:29 it denotes His mighty power to preserve and defend. It is used likewise with reference to the inspiration of the prophets: “The hand of the Lord was on Elijah.” In other places it expresses the help of the Almighty. Nehemiah and Ezra repeatedly acknowledge the Divine aid which was vouchsafed in these words, “according to the good hand of God upon us.” The Psalmist uses it to denote God’s merciful corrections (Psalms 32:4; Psalms 38:2). It is clearly in this latter sense that we are to regard the expression in our text. Is it asked, then, how God lifts up His heavy hand upon His people, and how they may know that it is lifted up? I answer, in various ways. In all things He consults the spiritual good of His children. He varies therefore the mode of correction, as well as the degree of it, to their peculiar circumstances and situations. Upon some His hand is lifted up in a way which is only known to themselves and to their God. Their comforts are withdrawn. Their evidences are clouded. Perhaps they are reduced to the very brink of despair. But the Lord does not always correct from His own immediate presence. The devil may be the executioner of His chastisement, as in Job’s case. The wicked, too, are spoken of by the Psalmist as the Lord’s hand (Psalms 17:13). They may oppose, they may persecute. Worldly losses, pain, sickness, disappointments, interruptions of domestic happiness, the death of friends and beloved relatives, are all tokens of the uplifting of the mighty hand of God.
II. Our duty under the uplifted hand of God. Humble yourselves, that is, be lowly. Yield to the hand which smites you. Say, “It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth Him good.” The precepts of the gospel go directly counter to our depraved nature. Were it not for the restraining grace of God, there is no length of repining which we should not run. But the believer has been made a new creature in Christ Jesus. Grace has called him back to that Sovereign from whom he had revolted. The expression in our text, “humble yourselves,” seems to imply three things; consciousness of a necessity for the trial, patience under the pressure of it, and a believing expectation of deliverance.
III. The happy effects resulting from this duty of humbling ourselves. “That He may exalt you in due time.” This expression may denote the removal of the trial when it has effected its purpose; or the esteem which the believer frequently obtains, even from an ungodly world, by his firmness and consistency of conduct; or that eminence in the graces and blessed fruits of the Spirit which beautifies his soul and renders him really exalted. For holiness, or, in other words, conformity to the image of the Saviour, is alone true greatness. (W. C. Wilson, M. A.)
Self-abasement and Divine exaltation
I. The kind of suffering which the text represents is that from which there is no present escape. Peter is not referring to very light suffering-to sorrow, that is here during this moment and that will be gone the next. Incurable sickness-incurable disease in the body, is “the mighty hand of God” on a man. Confirmed weakness or infirmity of the body or mind, is “the mighty hand of God” on a man. Inflexible poverty. Persecution, continued and unavoidable. The hand of God is always upon us, but it is not always equally felt, or upon us in the same form. The hand of God is in all our circumstances. Is it not in persecution, where the hand of man is most evident? “If Shimei curse, let him curse, for God hath sent him.” Unless it were better for you to be persecuted for your religion’s sake, God would not permit you to be persecuted. Your wisdom is cheerfully to submit.
II. The text prescribes our behaviour in suffering, and suggests the strongest motives for the adoption and pursuit of such conduct. Do you notice how in Bible teaching God deals with us as wise parents treat little children? Good parents direct little children about everything, for they need such direction. Recognise this, and instead of seeking to have your own way about anything, try to find out God’s way, and follow that way by the leading of the Saviour and by the grace of the Holy Ghost. There is a kind of submission which we cannot avoid. If God put His “mighty hand” upon us, intending to keep us under it, we know of a surety that we cannot escape. But with this inevitable submission there may be great pride of heart, expressing itself in murmuring and unholy rebellion; expressing itself in sinful efforts to get away from the suffering and in a determination not to realise it, and not to be thoroughly loyal in our thoughts and feelings as to our circumstances. A contrary behaviour is prescribed here. We are required to be still, silent. Aaron held his peace. Humility is that chastened emotion which we feel when conscious of our inferiority, our sinfulness, our weakness, our poverty, our helplessness, and our nothingness. Many motives might be suggested.
1. There is one motive springing from the words, “the hand of God.” That sorrow from which I cannot escape is a “hand.” It is not a chance, it is not an accident, there is a “hand” in it. It is connected with thought, feeling, purpose, plan, intention, wisdom.
2. “The hand of God, the mighty hand.” “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” God has a good intent in your depression. He is intent upon exalting you. His love for you involves this. His sending His Spirit to take possession of your nature, to regenerate and sanctify and enlighten, shows that He desires to exalt you. Already, so far as character is concerned, God has lifted you up. But His aim is to exalt your entire humanity, to lift it up in all its states, and in all conditions. And God is making all things work together for this. God desires to exalt, and the exalting must be with Him. It must not be your attempt, your effort.
3. For this exaltation there is a season of which God can only judge. There is a “due time.” This lifting up is never too soon. There is a season for it, and that season is in the soul. The advent of the exaltation is, without doubt, dependent on our self-humiliation. You must mourn, to have your sorrow turned into joy.
4. Some men are ashamed of suffering. That is very much like being ashamed of Christ. Oh, what a change in men’s notions and feelings would be effected if the poverty of Joseph the carpenter’s son were more before them, and if they lived more as in His presence and under His eye. “The mighty hand of God,” is on some of you. Is there not a cause? May not that cause be in certain faults and defects? (S. Martin.)
Humiliation of soul under God’s mighty hand
I. The text insists upon the recognition of the agency of God in all our afflictions. “The mighty hand of God.”
1. Now, observe that this recognition embraces, not second causes, but the immediate hand of God. We must go at once to the First Cause; or else we dishonour God under every trial.
2. Then observe, again, that this recognition must be of the hand, from which there is no escape: “the mighty hand of God.” I see His “mighty hand” in creation, forming the beautiful world in which I live; and in providence I see that same hand regulating every event in the universe. And if I recognise that hand aright, I shall see it no less in, and bringing to pass, every affliction with which I am assaulted. It could not have come to me without a “mighty hand.” And while I see this, it is in vain to resist it.
3. But, then, this recognition must be of the hand of God, “the mighty hand of God.” And how sweet is this! “the hand of God.” Power alone would make me afraid, but it is not the hand of a tyrant-it is the hand of God; my covenant God; my God, who gave His dear Son for me; my God, who has promised to keep and to bless me, and to take me eventually to His kingdom of glory. What infant feels alarmed when its mother’s hand is upon it?
II. The text shows us the spirit in which that Divine agency is to be recognised. “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.” This includes a deep sense of the malignity and evil of sin, which brings all our sorrows, as committed against a holy God and a righteous law, and also especially its aggravation, as against a God of love and of grace, as revealed in the gospel.
III. A promise to encourage and to enforce this recognition of the hand of God: “That He may exalt you in due time.” There is a threefold exaltation, of which the Scripture speaks.
1. The first is an exaltation in the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. To stand complete before my God, with a justification in which His own eye can see no fault; to feel that I am an “heir of God,” a “joint heir with Christ,” and that eternity with all its blessings is my own forever.
2. But, secondly, there is an exaltation also from the deepest woe and trial into which we can be brought, and of which the Scriptures speak. David says, “I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined unto me and heard my cry; He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay and set my feet upon a rock and established my goings; and He hath but a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God.”
3. And then there is exaltation to the throne of glory. And the first is connected with the last; he that is exalted by the imputed righteousness of Christ, shall eventually be exalted to the throne of glory. (James Sherman.)
The mighty hand of God
We might have thought that such a command as this was somewhat unnecessary. We might have supposed that it needed but for God to stretch out His hand, and every creature would go down into the dust before Him. But no one who has accurately watched the working of any affliction upon his own or another’s heart will say this. There are three ways in which the chastening hand of God may be wrongly received. You may not see it all. This is what Israel did when Isaiah put up his plaint-“Lord, when Thy hand is lifted up, they will not see”-but he sternly adds, “They shall see.” Or you may see-but you may think but very little of it. “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord.” Or, at a lower point than both-you may see, and estimate the judgment, and the very sense you have of it may harden your heart into pride and rebellion, irritating your temper and making you more resolute for evil. This is what Pharaoh did and Ahaz. Strange that it should be so! Yet all history bears witness to the fact that times of national suffering, of famine, or plague, have been times of extraordinary wickedness: for “the sorrow of the world worketh death.” All evil that is in the world is traceable at last to one primary cause; the right relationship has been interrupted between God and His creatures. If man goes up too high, or God is put down too low, then evil is sure to follow. Therefore the first thing is to rectify this. We must be lower, and God must be higher. Hence the primary law of all affliction, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God.” Now it is quite certain that no man does really “humble” himself under anything which he does not recognise and feel to be “the hand of God.” No one “humbles” himself to an accident. No one “humbles” himself to a punishment; but to “the hand” which deals it. And the more that “hand” is admired and loved, the deeper will be the abasement, and the easier it will be to make it. Therefore it is all-important, in every trial that comes upon you, nationally or individually, that you should at once see-not natural causes, not even the scourge itself-but only “the hand of God” is upon you. It is a grand image-“the mighty hand of God.” Very “mighty” must it be, when “He measures the water in its hollow, and meets out the heaven with its span.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Bending without breaking
It was an “ice time” in New England. One of those rare days which come once or twice every winter, and, sometimes, even in April, in northern climes, when every bush and every twig of every stately tree trunk is thickly coated with glistening crystals. The whole country is transformed into fairyland, and Aladdin’s cave is outdone by each patch of scrubby oak trees. We noticed, as the engine whirled us through this enchanted land, that the slenderest of all our northern forest trees, the white birch, was prostrated to the very earth, and that thousands of these trees were lying prone, as if felled by the woodman’s axe. “What a pity!” we involuntarily said to ourselves; but on going over that same line of road the next day, we saw that it was not the birches that needed our pity, but the sturdy oaks and the upright elms and the heavily clothed pines. The birches were bent to the earth, to be sure, but the statelier trees were broken and maimed, and sometimes rent in two, by the burden of the ice. The birches bowed their backs, but sprang up again when the burden was removed. The trees of the forest are typical of certain characters. He who bows submissively before God’s providences is not the one who is broken by them. He maybe prostrated by heavy grief for a little time, but he soon springs up when the sun shines again. Only he who strives to bear by his own might, and in his own strength, the grievous ills of life is broken by them. To obsequiously prostrate one’s self before earthly power may be the part of the craven. To bow before the will of God is a sign of inherent strength rather than of weakness, of manliness rather than of pusillanimity. Pride misses the blessing that is always in store for humble submission. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Casting all your care upon Him.-
The pride of care
The two parts of the text, taken together, state this truth, that anxiety carries with it a division of faith between God and self, a lack of faith in God proportioned to the amount of care which we refuse to cast on Him; an excess of self-confidence proportioned to the amount which we insist on bearing ourselves. Therefore the apostle says, “Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand. Confess the weakness of your hand. Do not try to carry the anxiety with your weak hand. Cast it all on Him.” The Revised Version has brought out a very important distinction by the substitution of “anxiety” for “care.” Anxiety, according to its derivation, is that which distracts and racks the mind, and answers better to the original word, Which signifies a dividing thing, something which distracts the heart and separates it from God. The word “careth,” on the other hand, used of God, is a different word in the original, and means supervising and fostering care, loving interest, such care as a father has for a child. I want to show how the spirit which refuses to give up its dividing anxiety to God is allied to pride, and unbecoming a child in the household of a Divine Father who cares for him. Pride, I say-subtle, unconscious pride-is at the bottom of much of this restlessness and worry. The man has come to think himself too important, to feel that the burden is on his shoulders only; and that, if he stands from under, there must be a crash. And, just to the degree in which that feeling has mastered him, his thought and faith have become divided from God. Let us give him his due. It is not for his own ease or reputation that he has been caring. It is for his work. And yet he has measurably forgotten, that, if his work be of God, God is as much interested in his success as he himself can be; and that God will carry on His own work, no matter how many workmen He buries. He divides the burden, and shows whom He trusts most by taking the larger part himself, when God bids him cast it all on Him. God, indeed, exempts nobody from work. We may cast our anxiety, but not our work, on Him. There are few men in responsible positions who have not felt the force of a distinguished Englishman’s words, “I divide my work into three parts. One part I do, one part goes undone, and the third part does itself.” That third part which does itself is a very expressive hint as to the needlessness of our fretting about at least one-third of our work, besides giving a little puncture to our self-conceit by showing that, to one-third of our work, we are not quite as necessary as we had thought ourselves. And as to the third, which the God-fearing man cannot do, and which therefore goes, or seems to go, undone, there is a further hint that possibly that third is better undone, or is better done in some other way and by some other man. A young lady had consecrated herself to the work of missions, and was about to go to India. Just at that point an accident disabled her mother, and the journey had to be deferred. For three years she ministered at that bedside, until the mother died, leaving as her last request that she should go and visit her sick sister in the far west. She went, intending to sail for India immediately on her return; but she found the sister dying with consumption, and without proper attendance; and once more she waited until the end came. Again her face was turned eastward, when the sister’s husband died, and five little orphans had no soul on earth to care for them but herself. “No more projects for going to the heathen,” she wrote. “This lonely household is my mission.” Fifteen years she devoted to her young charge; and, in her forty-fifth year, God showed her why He had held her back from India, as she laid her hand in blessing on the heads of three of them ere they sailed as missionaries to the same land whither, twenty years before, she had proposed to go. Her broken plan had been replaced by a larger and a better one. One could not go, but three went in her stead: a good interest for twenty years. But there is a class of cases where anxiety is clearly prompted by self-interest, vanity, and worldly ambition. Self cannot cast such anxiety on God, because God will not take it. When God bids us humble ourselves, He surely will not minister to our pride. God does not hold out His arms to our burdens unconditionally; He is willing to take the burden on His hand, if we ourselves will come and stay under His hand, not otherwise. He refuses to take the care without the self. If we will put the self into His hand absolutely, He will take it, care and all. But many an one would like to cast the care on God, and keep the self in his own hand. Casting all our care on God is casting self on God, for self is our worst care. It is not merely coming to God with our failures, and asking Him to make them good, but it is confessing also that our unaided self is the worst failure of all, and saying frankly to our heavenly Father, “Without Thee I can do nothing.” God has different ways of teaching this lesson. You know how a schoolmaster will sometimes shut himself up with a dull pupil, and hold him down to a problem. So God Sometimes shuts a man up with himself and his own helplessness. Even then He does not force the man’s will; but He means that he shall for once look squarely at the impotence of self, that he shall for once confess to himself the fact that self has exhausted its resources, that the world cannot help him, that he has nothing in heaven or earth but God. That, as men see it, is a terrible blow to pride. The bitterest draught that ever a man is called on to drink is the confession that he cannot help himself. The world says a man is at his worst then. I am not sure of that. The Bible would say that he is just within reach of his best. The result of this humbling of self, and throwing it with its anxiety on God, is quite contrary to human logic. The world says the man who is humbled is the crushed man, the defeated man. The world is right, if the man is simply crushed into submission by overwhelming power; but the world is quite wrong if the man has voluntarily bowed the high head of his pride, and has cheerfully yielded up his will with his care to God. Such humbling, if Scripture is to be believed, is the way to exaltation: “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” You see something of the same kind in ordinary matters. Now and then you find a man with more conceit than ability, with more self-confidence than resources, who attempts to lead a great movement, or to conduct a great business; and the very position brings out his weakness, and the more men say he is a fool and a weakling. And yet not a few men have had the sense or the grace to see the true state of the case in time, and to swallow pride, and frankly to confess weakness by retiring from a place for which they were unfit. From that moment they began to rise. They never rose to the high position which they coveted at first, but they rose to a true position which they could hold; and that was really higher than the false position which they could not hold. They became respectable and useful men, doing good work in lower places. What is true in some cases in society is true always of men in relation to God. The man is always in a false position, a position he cannot fill, when he ignores God and tries to take care of himself. He is a better man, a more efficient man, by humbling himself under God’s hand and letting God take care of him. Read on a little farther in this same chapter, and you find that thought again: “The God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” Ah! that is exaltation indeed; security, steadfastness, mastery over that which burdens the world, peace which the world cannot give nor take away. (M. R. Vincent, D. D.)
A cure for care
Very comforting has such an exhortation been to suffering saints in all ages. Possibly Peter had in his mind when he penned it Psalms 55:22. The Jewish Church on many a dark and cloudy day entered into the spirit of our text. Luther, we are told, in the trying times of the Reformation, used to say to Melancthon, “Philip, let us sing the forty-sixth psalm, and let them do their best”; and so they sang in their own German tongue that grand old psalm. Thus they “cast all their care on God.” Let us consider this subject of care or anxiety, first, in some of its negative aspects.
1. Christians ought not to make cares for themselves. How many business men, with limited capital and little experience, rush into difficulties.
2. Neither ought Christians to conjure up imaginary troubles, or to anti-date their troubles. How very miserable some people are because of that dreadful tomorrow.
3. Neither ought we to be careless in reference to the future.
Approaching the positive aspect of our subject, and taking it for granted that men are not making cares for themselves, the question presses upon us, “Is there a remedy for care?”
1. So far as many are concerned, the text might just as well have read, “Cast none of you your care on God, for God does not care for you.” So far as even many professing Christians are concerned, the text might have run thus: “Casting your great cares upon God, and so far as daily cares are concerned, do the best you can to bear them.” So far as the burden of sin is concerned, the believing, trusting soul says, “Thank God all is well. I have realised that my blessed Saviour ‘bore the huge burden away’; but it is the little cares of every day life.” Yes, these little cares and daily worries bring the careworn look, and leave behind the wrinkles. Now, here in this text we have God’s own remedy, for, observe, it is not “some of your cares,” or “your great cares,” but “all your care.”
2. Observe the blessed assurance here given, for “He careth for you.” (W. Halliday.)
I. Man’s care. The sources from whence our cares arise.
1. There are frequent misunderstandings with our fellow men.
2. There are our business and family claims.
3. And there are the religious claims that press upon us. Few of us have as much care from this source as we ought to have.
II. God’s care. “He careth for you.” His care cannot be quite like ours. There can be no fretfulness in it, and no sort of fear and despair.
1. His care of all the creatures He has made, and all that is involved in giving to each his “meat in due season.”
2. But we may further think of God’s precise knowledge of our anxieties.
3. But there is something more and better than even this; there is God’s care of us in the midst of our anxieties. He cares for the influence of things on our characters rather than for the things, as the goldsmith cares for his gold rather than for the fire.
III. God’s care of us is a persuasion to cast our care on him. He cares, why should we? Why should we not be as calm as the sailor boy in the wild storm who knew that “his father held the helm”? But it is easier to speak in general terms about our “casting care on God” than it is to explain precisely what it involves. A very simple illustration may help our apprehension. A small tradesman had a case coming on in the county court, on which, for him, every thing depended. A decision given against him meant ruin. Worrying over it day and night, he had become thin, looked haggard, lost appetite and sleep. One day there came into his shop a friend of his boyhood, whom he had not seen for years. This friend was much distressed at his appearance, and said, “Why, whatever is the matter with you? I am sure you must have some grave anxiety weighing on your mind.” The tradesman poured out to his friend all the story of his troubles; and then that friend said, “Don’t you trouble any more about it. I am a lawyer, and practise at the courts, and I have had just such cases as yours. I see where the point of difficulty in your case is, and I have no doubt we shall be able to get you through all right. You trust the matter entirely to me. I will appear for you, and all will be well.” What a relief that tradesman felt! He had lost his burden, for he had cast it on his friend. “O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake Thou for me.” (The Weekly Pulpit.)
Cast care on God
I. Who the persons are to whom the exhortation may properly be addressed. He writes to those “who are born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” He addresseth believers in Christ Jesus, “who loved Him though unseen,” whom he distinguished as “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people.” These are the objects of God’s paternal care, and they only are qualified to east their care upon Him. You cannot cast your care upon God till your acquaintance with Him be begun.
II. The nature and extent of the duty itself. It differs entirely in its nature from that carelessness and insensibility which the bulk of mankind too generally indulge. The character of the persons to whom this exhortation is addressed doth likewise serve to limit the extent of the duty. It is not every sort of care that we are invited to cast upon God, but only the care of those things which the Christian dare avow in the presence of his Father, and humbly ask of Hint by prayer. We must first examine the object of our desire, whether it be good in itself and fit for us; whether it be subservient to our spiritual interest; and if not, we must neither cast the care of it upon God nor keep it to ourselves, but throw it away altogether.
1. A steadfast persuasion that all events are ordered by God; that we and all our interests are continually in His hand, and that nothing can befall us without His permission.
2. To cast our care upon God is to make His will the guide and measure of ours.
3. That we renounce all confidence in the creature, and place our trust in God alone. A divided trust between God and the creature is as foolish and unsafe as to set one foot upon a rock and the other upon a quicksand.
4. To east all your care upon God implies a full and unsuspecting dependence upon His wisdom and goodness; such a dependence as quiets the mind, disposing it to wait patiently upon God, and to accept with thankfulness whatsoever He is pleased to appoint. (R. Walker.)
Earthly and heavenly care
The first difficulty in ridding ourselves of irreligious care is in distinguishing it from that better kind of care which is a duty. While St. Paul bids the Philippians “be careful for nothing,” he commends the Corinthians for their carefulness, classing it with the graces of self-purification and zeal. He says he would have the disciples “without carefulness”; yet there is plainly a limit to this recommendation, for he exhorts them to “be careful to maintain good works,” and takes upon himself the “care of the churches.” How shall we at once have care and cast care away? There must be a principle that reconciles these apparent disagreements. It will not do to answer that the difference is one of quantity. It is common to say that the great mistake about earthly care is in allowing too much of it; that it is innocent in moderate measures. But there are kinds of care so purely selfish, so earthly, so poisoned with envy, avarice, or the passion for admiration, that they are evil irrespective of all questions of more or less. Christ does not form souls into His like ness by such rules. He breathes into them new desires, baptizes them into a new spirit. Equally vain is it to undertake to strike out a Christian course by saying we will distinguish between the objects of our anxiety-as by being careful for the spirit and negligent of the body; careful for faith and hope and charity, but negligent of daily business, household, and society. This is not Christ’s righteousness. Jesus shows us the Father Himself taking care of the fowls of the air, of sheep and oxen, and of the little fibres of our bodily frames. Whatever care is right at all is right here, as well as hereafter. And the burden that we are to cast on the Lord is the burden of the life that now is. At this point precisely we strike the true distinction and the Christian doctrine. All right and lawful care is just that which we can at all times, and in all places, carry with us to our Lord, to rest it on that sympathising heart in Him which has already carried our griefs, and healed the disorder of the world by the stripes of His sacrifice. It is the care which keeps the responsibility of life without despairing under it. It is willing suffering, and unwillingness is the only intolerable burden. Rid of that, nay future care is gone. The forbidden care is that which we cannot carry with us to God or cast contentedly into His keeping. It hinders the affections when they try to rise heavenward. It doubts whether Christ is still near at hand and His grace sufficient. This is earthly care, unprofitable, unreasonable, unholy care-the care that wears out men and women before their time. We can take this principle with us into each of the three great regions where anxiety is most apt to become excessive. We have a world without us, a world within us, and a world before us, where our responsibility is accompanied at every step with care.
1. In the world without us we have seen how carefully we are called to live. Blessed is the man who, having done his best, can settle himself calmly into God’s order for him, put anxiety behind him at the end of each day’s work, reckon results as God’s alone, believe that God takes care of ships and harvests as well as of rituals and revelations, and so cast every burdensome care on Him.
2. There is a world before us. The very mystery of that veiled country seems to tempt the imagination to people it with alarms. Take no thought for the morrow as tomorrow, as something lying outside of our control, held by God’s hand for purposes of His own. Accept the heavenly order. Behold the lilies how they grow.
3. There is a world within us, where the spiritual formation of us goes on and our eternity is making for us every hour. Doubtless there are some minds that never thought of it as possible that any care about their spiritual salvation and the things of religion could be wrong. Yet if you would come to the heights of holy living with Christ and His saints, you must learn that impatience does not cease to be impious because it goes to church, nor does a complaining spirit honour the Redeemer though it uses the vocabulary of piety. If your anxiety is only about your salvation as a selfish and exclusive thing, it is earthly care, and needs to be cast off. (Bp. Huntington.)
Trust in God
I. Some plain illustration of the duty here enjoined.
1. A firm persuasion of His infinite perfections, of His all-governing providence, and of His watchful care.
2. A calm and constant reliance on Him, through Jesus Christ, the only Mediator.
3. An unreserved resignation of our lot to the disposal of that God and Saviour on whom our hopes for eternity are placed.
4. Casting our cares on God not only implies referring our present and future lot to the unerring disposal of His wisdom, but holding delightful intercourse with Him in the various occurrences of our daily pilgrimage through life.
II. Some plain directions for enabling you rightly to cast your burdens on the Lord, even in the time of severest distress.
1. Be sure that you are interested in Christ, and that you rely on His merits and mediation.
2. Live daily by faith on God Himself, as your all-sufficient portion through the Redeemer; and then you may cheerfully leave it with Him either to wound or to heal, to exalt or to lay low.
3. For enabling you to cast all your cares on the Lord, and, in all the trials of life, to maintain a steady trust in Him who reigns omnipotent, live daily by faith on the great and precious promises of His Word; let these promises be your support.
4. If you would live without anxious care, and would maintain habitual trust in God amidst the dangers and trials of life, look on this life as your pilgrimage, and long for heaven as your home. This will prevent your indulging in immoderate attachment to the things of time, and will preserve you from many mortifying disappointments which produce fretfulness and depression.
1. Learn how foolish and arrogant those persons are who trust for safety and success in themselves, independently of God; who rely on their own wisdom, talents, or exertions.
2. Learn that equally foolish and arrogant is confidence in the arm of flesh, or placing your trust in fellow mortals.
3. Learn how well it becomes us to unite in the devotional triumph of David, “Happy is he who hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.”
4. Let me now direct my exhortation to those who have taken the glorious Jehovah for their refuge and their trust.
(1) Mark with care the daily dealings of Providence towards you and yours; treasure them up in your memory for a time of need, and diligently observe the frame of your own mind, both under mercies and trials.
(2) Remember that your trials are all necessary, and are sent in love, to purify you from sin, to wean you from the world, to bring you near to God, and to prepare you for heaven.
(3) Cast all your burdens on the Lord, and both hope and quietly wait for His time and manner of deliverance. (A. Bonar.)
How to dispose of care
There is such a thing as care. Who does not know it by experience? It is a burden, and it has also a sting. There is care both for ourselves and others, which God Himself has cast upon us; and of which it were sinful to attempt to make any other disposition. But over and above this, there is a largo amount of anxiety which is unnecessary, useless, injurious. But what shall we do with it? Divide it with others we may to some little extent. There is such a thing as sympathy. Yet the very etymology of the word “sympathy” evinces that it is no remedy. It is, after all, a suffering together. Mixing tears does indeed diminish their bitterness. There is a better way of disposing of care than to cast it on our fellow creatures. Indeed, what fellow creatures can we find who have not enough of their own to bear? There are some who cast off care without reference to what becomes of it. They sing, “Begonia, dull care.” These are the reckless. Care may go at their bidding, but the worst of it is it is sure to return again, and it comes back a heavier burden. This is not the way to dispose of care. Yet there is a way whereby all excess of anxiety may be effectually removed. It is to cast care on God. He can take the burden, however heavy. You do not doubt that; but you ask, “Will He?-may I cast it on Him? Will such greatness stoop to such littleness?-such holiness come down to such vileness?” Yes, it will, for condescension is one characteristic of greatness. So far is it from being presumption to cast your care on God, it is a sin not to do it. There is a reason given by Peter for casting care on God, that is inexpressibly touching. He follows no flourishing of rhetoric, but says, “He careth for you.” Why should you care for yourself, since God cares for you? What a thought to carry through this vale of tears, and to go down with into the deeper valley of death, that God cares for me! Some poor saints think nobody cares for them. But God does. Is not that enough? (W. Nevins, D. D.)
A cure for care
I. The disease of care.
1. Care even when exercised upon legitimate objects, if carried to excess, hath in itself the nature of sin. Anything which is a transgression of God’s command is sin, and if there were no other command, the one in our text being broken would involve us in iniquity. Besides, the very essence of anxious care is the imagining that we are wiser than God, and the thrusting of ourselves into His place, to do for Him that which we dream He either cannot or will not do; we attempt to think of that which we fancy He will forget; or we labour to take upon ourselves that burden which He either is not able or willing to carry for us.
2. But, further, these anxious cares very frequently lead to other sins, sometimes to overt acts of transgression. The tradesman who is not able to leave his business with God, may be tempted to indulge in the tricks of trade; nay, he may be prevailed upon to put out an unholy hand with which to help himself. Now this is forsaking the fountain to go to the broken cisterns, a crime which was laid against Israel of old, a wrath provoking iniquity.
3. As it is in itself sin, and the mother of sin, we note again that it brings misery, for where sin is, sorrow shall soon follow.
4. Besides this, these anxious cares do not only lead us into sin, and destroy our peace of mind, but they also weaken us for usefulness. When one has left all his cares at home, how well he can work for his Master, but when those cares tease us in the pulpit, it is hard preaching the gospel. There was a great king who once employed a merchant in his service as an ambassador to foreign courts. Now the merchant before he went away said to the king, “My own business requires all my care, and though I am always willing to be your majesty’s servant, yet if I attend to your business as I ought, I am sure my own will be ruined.” “Well,” said the king, “you take care of my business, and I will take care of yours. Use your best endeavours, and I will answer for it that you shall be nothing the loser for the zeal which you take from yourself to give to me.” And so our God says to us, as His servants, “Do My work, and I will do yours. Serve Me, and I will serve you.”
5. These carking cares, of whose guilt perhaps we think so little, do very great damage to our blessed and holy cause. Your sad countenances hinder souls who are anxious, and they present a ready excuse for souls who are careless.
6. I close the description of this matter by saying that in the most frightful manner cares have brought many to the poisoned cup, the halter, and the knife, and hundreds to the madhouse. What makes the constant increase of our lunatic asylums; why is it that in almost every country in England new asylums have to be erected, wing after wing being added to these buildings in which the imbecile and the raving are confined? It is because we will carry what we have no business to carry-our own cares, and until there shall be a general keeping of the day of rest throughout England, and until there shall be a more general resting of our souls and all we have upon God, we must expect to hear of increasing suicides and increasing lunacies.
II. The blessed remedy to be applied. Somebody must carry these cares. If I cannot do it myself, can I find anyone who will? My Father who is in heaven stands waiting to be my burden bearer.
1. One of the first and most natural cares with which we are vexed is the care for daily bread. Use your most earnest endeavours, humble yourself under the mighty hand of God; if you cannot do one thing do another; if you cannot earn your bread as a gentleman earn it as a poor man; if you cannot earn it by the sweat of your brains do it by the sweat of your brow; sweep a crossing if you cannot do anything else, for if a man will not work neither let him eat; but having brought yourself to that, if still every door is shut, “Trust in the Lord and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.”
2. Businessmen, who have not exactly to hunt for the necessaries of life, are often tormented with the anxieties of large transactions and extended commerce. I say, “Brother, hold hard here, what are you doing? Are you sure that in this you have used your best prudence and wisdom, and your best industry, and given it your best attention?” “Yes.” Well then, what more have you to do? Suppose you were to weep all night, will that keep your ship from going on the Goodwin sands? Suppose you could cry your eyes out, will that make a thief honest? Suppose you could fret yourself till you could not eat, would that raise the price of goods? One would think if you were just to say, “Well, I have done all that is to be done, now I will leave it with God,” that you might go about your business and have the full use of your senses to attend to it.
3. Another anxiety of a personal kind which is very natural, and indeed very proper if it be not carried to excess, is the care of your children. Mother, father, you have prayed for your children, you trust you have set them a holy example, you labour day by day to teach them the truth as it is in Jesus; it is well, now let your souls quietly expect the blessing, leave your offspring with God; cast your sons and daughters upon their father’s God; let no impatience intrude if they are not converted in your time, and let, no distrust distract your mind if they should seem to belie your hopes.
4. But each Christian will in his time have personal troubles of a higher order, namely, spiritual cares. He is begotten again unto a lively hope, but he fears that his faith will yet die. As yet he has been victorious, but he trembles lest he should one day fall by the hand of the enemy. I beseech thee, cast this care upon God for He careth for you. Never let anxieties about sanctification destroy your confidence of justification. What if you be a sinner! Christ died to save sinners. What if you be undeserving! “In due time Christ died for the ‘ungodly.” Grace is free. The invitation is still open to you; rest the whole burden of your soul’s salvation where it must rest.
5. There are many cares not of a personal but rather of an ecclesiastical character, which often insinuate themselves and plead for life, but which must nevertheless be put away. There are cares about how God’s work is to be carried on. We may properly pray, “Lord, send labourers,” and with equal propriety we may ask that He who has the silver and the gold may give them for His own work; but after that we must cast our care on God. Then, if we get over that, there will be another anxiety-one which frets me often enough-which is, the success of God’s work. Husbandmen, your Great Employer sent you out to sow the seed, but if no grain of it should ever come up, if you sowed the seed as He told you, and where He told you, He will never lay the blame of a defective harvest to you. And sometimes there is another care, it is the care lest some little slip made by ourselves or others should give cause to the enemy to blaspheme. A careful jealousy is very well if it leads to caution, but very ill if it leads to a carking, weak anxiety,
III. The sweet inducement to leave your burden: “He careth for you.”
1. Believe in a universal providence, the Lord cares for ants and angels, for worms and for worlds; he cares for cherubim and for sparrows, for seraphim and for insects. Cast your care on Him, He that calleth the stars by their names, and leadeth them out by numbers, by their hosts. Let His universal providence cheer you.
2. Think next of His particular providence over all the saints. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him.”
3. And then let the thought of His special love to you be the very essence of your comfort. “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” God says that as much to you as He said it to any saint of old. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Man is made up of soul and body. To accomplish the happiness of such a being it is necessary that both of these should be free from disquietude. It is therefore the great aim of religion to point out the most amiable views of the character of God, and to inculcate the exercise of perpetual hope, and trust in His most beneficent providence as the only effectual instrument of our present felicity.
I. Such a precept as this cannot be supposed to inculcate an entire negligence, or a total inattention, to our external situation in life. Religion expressly forbids us to be slothful in business. It calls us to action. God is concerned for your good, and careth for all your interests.
II. To offer some arguments to enforce this precept.
1. All immoderate care is highly criminal and impious in its nature. Weak must be that faith, and little must that mind have learned of the nature of its Creator, which can observe that He dispenses His bounty in such abundance through all the works of His hands, and still entertain the secret thought that His love is exhausted on the minutest objects, and that there is nothing in reserve for the sons of men.
2. All inordinate care about the events of life is offering an affront to the love and goodness which we have formerly experienced, and deeply partakes of the nature of ingratitude to God.
3. An anxious, a discontented temper of mind, must prove a source of misery, must subject the soul to perpetual uneasiness and pain in all the situations of life. He is blind to every comfortable circumstance that may enter into his lot. His imagination ever dwells upon some disagreeable point; and it is not in the power of all the enjoyments of this world to give it any sort of solace.
4. All such peevish care is utterly unprofitable and impotent, and totally incapable of ever accomplishing its end. The stream of providence perpetually rolls on with an impetuous current; and he who ventures to oppose it shall only fatigue himself and waste his strength and spirits in vain. (John Main, D. D.)
A sermon to ministers and other tried believers
The verse preceding is, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” If we are truly humble we shall cast our care upon God, and by that process our joy will be exalted. Oh for more humility, for then shall we have more tranquillity. Pride begets anxiety. The verse which follows our text is this-“Be sober, be vigilant,” etc. Cast your care upon God, because you need all your powers of thought to battle with the great enemy. He hopes to devour you by care.
I. First, expound the text-“Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” The word used in reference to God is applied to caring for the poor, and in another place to the watchfulness of a shepherd. Our anxiety and God’s care are two very different things. You are to cast your care, which is folly, upon the Lord, for He exercises a care which is wisdom. Care to us is exhausting, but God is all-sufficient. Care to us is sinful, but God’s care of us is holy. Care distracts us from service, but the Divine mind does not forget one thing while remembering another. “Casting,” says the apostle. He does not say, “laying all your care upon Him,” but he uses a much more energetic word. You have to cast the load upon the Lord; the act will require effort. Here is a work worthy of faith. You will have to lift with all your soul before the burden can be shifted; that effort, however, will not be half so exhausting as the effort of carrying your load yourself. Note the next words: “Upon Him.” You may tell your griefs to others to gain their sympathy; you may ask friends to help you, and so exercise your humility; but let your requests to man be ever in subordination to your waiting upon God. Some have obtained their full share of human help by much begging from their fellow Christians; but it is a nobler thing to make known your requests unto God; and somehow those who beg only of God are wondrously sustained where others fail. Cease, then, from man; cast all your care upon God, and upon Him only. Certain courses of action are the very reverse of casting all your care upon God, and one is indifference. Every man is bound to care about his life duties, and the claims of his family. Casting care upon God is the very reverse of recklessness and inconsiderateness. It is not casting care upon God when a man does that which is wrong in order to clear himself; yet this is too often tried. He who compromises truth to avoid pecuniary loss is hewing out a broken cistern for himself. He who borrows when he knows he cannot pay, he who enters into wild speculations to increase his income, he who does aught that is ungodly in order to turn a penny is not casting his care upon God. How, then, are we to cast all our care upon God? Two things need to be done. It is a heavy load that is to be cast upon God, and it requires the hand of prayer and the hand of faith to make the transfer. Prayer tells God what the care is, and asks God to help, while faith believes that God can and will do it. When you have thus lifted your care into its true position and cast it upon God, take heed that you do not pick it up again. Henceforth let us leave worldlings to fret over the cares of this life; as for us, let our conversation be in heaven, and let us be anxious only to end anxiety by a childlike confidence in God.
II. To enforce the text. I will give you certain reasons, and then the reason why you should cast all your care upon God.
1. First, the ever blessed One commands you to do it. If you do not trust in God you will be distinctly sinful; you are as much commanded to trust as to love.
2. Next, cast all your cares on God, because you will have matters enough to think of even then. There is the care to love and serve Him better; the care to understand His Word; the care to preach it to His people; the care to experience His fellowship; the care so to walk that you shall not vex the Holy Spirit. Such hallowed cares will always be with you, and will increase as you grow in grace.
3. And, next, you must cast your care upon God, because you have God’s business to do.
4. You ought to do it not only for this reason, but because it is such a great privilege to be able to cast your care upon God.
5. Let me add that you ministers ought to cast all your care upon God, because it will be such a good example for your hearers. Oar people learn much from our conduct, and if they see us fretting they will be certain to do the same.
6. But the reason of reasons is that contained in our text-“He careth for you.” Because He hath set His love upon us we can surely cast our care upon Him. He has given us Christ, will He not give us bread? See, He has called us to be His sons, will He starve His children? See what He is preparing for you in heaven, will He not enable you to bear the burdens of this present life? We dishonour God when we suspect His tenderness and generosity. We can only magnify Him by a calm faith which leans upon His Word. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The wisdom of God in His providence
I. Consider the nature of the duty here required, which is to cast our care upon God.
1. That after all prudent care and diligence have been used by us, we should not be farther solicitous about the event of things which, when we have done all we can, will be out of our power.
2. Casting our care upon God implies that we should refer the issue of things to His providence, which is continually vigilant over us and knows how to dispose all things to the best.
II. The argument which the apostle here useth to persuade us to this duty of casting all our care upon God, because it is He that eateth for us.
1. That God taketh care of us, implies in general that the providence of God governs the world and concerns itself in the affairs of men and disposeth of all events that happen to us.
2. The providence of God is more peculiarly concerned for good men, and He takes a more particular and especial care of them. And this David limits in a more particular manner to good men: “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain thee; He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
III. Let us now see of what force this consideration is, to persuade to the duty enjoined.
1. Because if God cares for us, our concernments are in the best and safest hands, and where we should desire to have them; infinitely safer than under any care and conduct of our own.
2. Because all our anxiety and care will do us no good; on the contrary, it will certainly do us hurt. (Abp. Tillotson.)
What to do with care
What is care? The word has two shades of meaning. It means simply attention when it is said: “He took care of him.” But it signifies anxiety in the expression: “Ye shall eat bread with care.” Now it is possible to begin with that kind of care which signifies attention, and to go on to that which signifies anxiety. It is there that our danger lies. Attention is an advantage; anxiety is an evil. It is our duty to be attentive; and it is equally our duty to avoid anxiety. A young man, for instance, who has lust closed his school life and gone to business, finds himself surrounded by things new and strange. He applies himself with earnestness to understand his duties, and to meet the approval of his employer. While impelled by a conscientious desire to do right and well, he is in the line which conducts to success; but if he allows a harsh word to discourage him, or a failure or two to throw him into despair, he passes into a state of mind presenting the greatest obstacles to progress. A person conducting his own business must give it attention, or it will cover him with dishonour. It says little for a man’s Christianity if he comes to poverty by his own negligence. But how easily he may pass across the line which leads to over-solicitude I Look, again, to the mother of a family. Is there any human sentiment more disinterested, pure, and fervent than a mother’s love? Have you not known it to grow into an agitating and almost selfish apprehension? What can be said about the care due to the soul? Can that be excessive? In a world which is full of temptations to negligence and hardness of heart, what can be done without intense diligence and application? So long as care is just and healthful, it cannot be too great on this subject. But for this right state of mind many substitute a state made up of doubt and terror. Now how are we to be freed from a burden which is so embarrassing? What are we to do with it? We are desired to cast it all upon God. But how do we know that He will accept our care? From His own assurance that “He careth for us.” “He careth for us.” He has not forsaken the world He made; how is it possible that He should have ceased to think of the creatures He has so wonderfully endowed? The same wisdom which made us capable of perception, judgment, and forethought, watches over all our mental operations. While all men are under this providential charge, there are some whom He has brought into a special relation to Himself. He takes the deepest interest in them. Nothing can affect them which does not affect Himself. How strange that any of them should be crushed with anxiety! It is this confidence in God’s care for us which leads us to cast our care on Him. This assurance will prompt us to tell Him, with all openness of heart, whatsoever oppresses us. We know how much in a time of sorrow we are relieved by the mere communication of our grief; we seem to have parted with much of it when we have simply transferred the knowledge of it to another mind. With much greater reason may we expect such a result to follow from looking to our Father in heaven, and recounting to Him the cause of our dread, and seeking from Him the needed succour. This trust in Him who careth for us, imparts not only relief from oppression and new power for duty, but leads us into the position most honouring to a creature. It brings us into “immediate fellowship with God; it establishes an interchange of thought and trustful love between our hearts and His. We then give Him proof of our confidence, and He responds to the sentiment which His own Spirit had awakened with all the fulness of His nature. (C. M. Birrell.)
Human cares and the Divine care
I. There are those who declare that the words have no meaning. They see no “He” in the universe. True, they speak of nature, not only with deep reverence, but in terms so warmly personal, that we are sometimes tempted to think that their science has found what their faith had lost; but, if we may trust their own assertions, it is not so, for they find no evidence in nature of a living God. Such men can have no resource outside of themselves in times of sorrow and anxiety. No man can cast his care upon an “it.” The materialist’s creed fosters an inhuman quite as much as an ungodly type of character. If ever the pressure of care becomes too heavy for him to bear it alone, one of two results will follow: either the creed will break down or the man will.
II. Although atheism may be no temptation to us, we may still find it difficult to realise that God really cares for us.
1. Easier to believe that He cares for the universe at large, or even for this world and the human race us a whole, than that He takes any interest in us, as individuals. Too prone to think of Him as exercising some kind of care over us as a general does over his troops. But He is not a general, but a Father, and has room in His infinite heart for each one of us. “He cares for me.”
2. Some (me may say, “I cannot think God cares very much for me, or He would not allow me to suffer as I do, and give me this weary burden of care to bear day by day.” Like a child complaining of having hard lessons to learn. But are we not assured that our very trials are the pledge of God’s love? If we had no care, we might begin to doubt whether God cared for us.
III. Then the practical lesson of the text is this, that if we lift the burden of our care at all, we are to lift it for the last time, that we may cast it upon God. Once there it becomes God’s care, not ours. Because God cares for us, He will care for it.
IV. The little word “all” includes even the trivial and passing anxieties of each day. (G. S. Barrett, B. A.)
Confidence in God lubricates life
There is nothing in the teachings of the Bible that tends to remove the stimulus to industry, or to take away the necessity of enterprise. It is neither industry nor enterprise that ever hurts anybody. They are pleasurable and whole: some, and we shall not wish the motive which inspires them taken away. It is with men as it is with machinery. Everybody that knows anything about machinery knows that it wastes faster when it is allowed to stand still than when it is worked, if it is worked aright. If a watch stands still a year, it wears out as much as it would in running properly two years. But where machinery runs without oil, and squeaks and grinds, it gets hot, and wears out speedily. Now anxiety is in human life just what squeaking and grinding are in machinery that is not oiled. In human life, trust is the oil. Confidence in God is that which lubricates life, so that industry and enterprise develop the things we ought to have, and do it in such a way that they bring pleasure with them. (H. W. Beecher.)
Mosquitoes are not nationalised everywhere; but worries are. Their sting is not outwardly perceptible, but it is painful enough within. Some of our foreign friends want to know, as they retire to rest themselves, “How to make outdoor life attractive to mosquitoes?”-a humorous enough puzzle. We know, however, one thing-that mosquitoes come without our consent; but that we are foolish enough to invent worries-to entertain worries-and to do everything else with them but cast them where we know that all our cares may and ought to be cast. (W. M. Statham, M. A.)
Casting all your cares upon Him
“In the summer of 1878,” says Mrs. Sarah Smiley, “I descended the Right with one of the most faithful of the old Swiss guides. Beyond the service of the day, he gave me unconsciously a lesson for life. His first care was to put my wraps and other burdens upon his shoulders. In doing this he asked for all; but I chose to keep back a few for special care. I soon found them no little hindrance to the freedom of my movement; but still I would not give them up until my guide, returning to me where I sat resting for a moment, kindly but firmly demanded that I should give him everything but my Alpine stock. Putting them with the utmost care upon his shoulders, with a look of intense satisfaction he again led the way. And now in my freedom, I found I could make double speed with double safety. Then a voice spoke inwardly: ‘O foolish, wilful heart, hast thou, indeed, given up thy last burden? Thou hast no need to carry them, nor even the right.’ I saw it all in a flash; and then, as I leaped lightly from rock to rock down the steep mountain side, I said within myself, ‘And even thus will I follow Jesus, my Guide, my Burden bearer. I will rest all my care upon Him, for He careth for me.’” (W. M. Statham, M. A.)
Men do not avail themselves of the riches of God’s grace. They love to nurse their cares, and seem as uneasy without some fret as an old friar would be without his hair girdle. They are commanded to cast their cares upon the Lord; but even when they attempt it, they do not fail to catch them up again, and think it meritorious to walk burdened. They take God’s ticket to heaven, and then put their baggage on their shoulders, and tramp, tramp the whole way there afoot. (H. W. Beecher.)
He careth for you.-
He careth for all. “He careth” for the inorganic creation. His care embraceth the smallest atom and the mightiest globe. “He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.” All the changes in the atmosphere are with Him. “He covereth the heaven with clouds, and prepareth rain for the earth.” The sea is under His care. “Thou rulest the raging of the sea; when the waves thereof arise, Thou stillest them” (Psalms 89:9). He careth for vegetable existence. “He causeth grass to grow for the cattle, and herbs for the service of man. He sendeth forth His spirit, and reneweth the face of the earth.” He careth for irrational creatures. “He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.” He feedeth the fowls of the air. Most assuredly, then, “He careth” for man, His intelligent offspring. He careth for you; the race, the nation, the family, the individual; and especially for you, the individual.
I. It is a demonstrable fact.
1. Antecedent reasoning bears testimony to this fact. He is our Creator. Does the artist, who has exerted his genius to the utmost in the production of that which he considers his masterpiece, watch over it with care? That which he produced, is he not anxious to preserve? He is our Proprietor. With what care do men watch over their own property. Is the Eternal indifferent to what becomes of His property? He is our Father. He is our Redeemer. Will He who “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,” cease to watch over us every moment with the utmost care? The very relations which He sustains to us urge the conclusion.
2. The condition in which we were born into this life. We come into this world the most helpless of all helpless creatures. We find the world exquisitely fitted to our organisation in every point. The fitness of the world to us shows that He careth for us.
3. The unequivocal teaching of the Bible. “Can a woman forget her sucking child,” etc. The consciousness of the Christian. Every Christian feels that God careth for him.
II. It is a glorious fact.
1. It encourages the most unbounded trustfulness. Who is He? One who is infinite in wisdom, goodness, and power.
2. It encourages adoring gratitude. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. Its objects.
II. Its nature.
1. Cordial and tender.
2. Active and efficacious.
3. Patient and unwearied.
4. Permanent and lasting.
III. Its evidences.
1. The relation ship He acknowledges.
2. His own testimony and promises.
3. Our own experience.
4. The undertaking for our salvation.
IV. Its inferences.
1. The wonderful nature of our God.
2. The duty and obligation which devolve upon us-to love Him in return.
3. The acknowledgment. (Homilist.)
He careth for you
He careth for you, He careth for us all, for man and for all animate creation. How has God helped humanity to comforts through the ages! If we look at the contour of continents, at ocean currents, at mountain heights and ranges, at plateaus, at rivers as they run, at lake chains, at animal life, at vegetable growth, at rock formation, or at prevailing winds and calms, all of these things speak of a Father’s care for His children, and all of design, as plainly as the intricate mechanisms of loom, or watch, or machine tell of a master mechanic’s plans and work. God loves man. He cares for you and for me, and proves it by climate and soil and by all the aids to commerce and society. Given a little more or less atmospheric pressure, a little more or less of God’s holding, which men have dared to nickname gravity, a few more or less degrees of heat, a variation from God’s physical laws by so much as a fraction of a degree in direction or of a single mile a year in velocity, and wreck and ruin would result. He careth for us, and cradles us carefully, and fans us with pleasant breezes, and feasts us with delicacies, and wafts pleasant odours to us, and makes us glad with beauty and a thousand joys. We are His children. Not a mountain is too high, not a river too swift, not a plain too arid, not a wind too penetrating; for our Father made it so. Not a ray of light, or a flake of snow, or a crystal of frost, or a degree of heat from all eternity, but it hath been His messenger, His loving messenger to our race. Not a bird’s song, not a blossom or fruitage, not a blade of grass but it tells God’s care. May we not go further and trust enough to say, not a poisonous reptile, or devouring beast, or noxious plant, not even sorrow, or pain, or death, but some way He makes it do His will for good to humanity. (H. E. Partridge.)
Christ the Care bearer
I. There is no one to whom these words should not come as a message of comfort and encouragement. For care is one of those things which fall to the lot of everybody, young and old. Poverty and wealth alike entangle us in the meshes of anxiety. This arrangement of Providence by which every man succeeds to a heritage of care has been ordained by God for the wisest and most gracious ends. There is a story told of an ancient king that he stood one day before the door of a husbandman, and called upon the husbandman to come out to him. But being busy with something else he refused to come out, or even to open the door so that the king might come in. And so, to bring the man to his senses, the king lit a firebrand and cast it into the husbandman’s granary. And that brought him out. Now that is the function of our cares. They lead us out to God, and they bring God into us. They show us the poverty of our own resources, and they reveal to us the unsearchable riches of Christ.
II. The great question is, what are we to do with our care? We are to cast our care upon God. Two thousand years ago, this same question was very much debated by the learned men of Greece and Rome. Some of them thought that the remedy for care was to banish from their minds all thought of future trouble, and to enjoy the pleasures of the passing moment as long as they were capable of enjoying them. But what a pagan doctrine that is. It tells a man to enjoy life while he can; but it has no word to say to those who are under the cloud of trouble, and are enjoying it no more. There was another school of those ancient moralists who tried to remedy that defect. They taught that poverty and wealth are the mere accidents of life. If a man becomes poor, the man himself, in his own true nature, is no worse; and if he becomes rich, he is no better. So it is with sickness and health. They are the mere accidents or appendages of life. Man himself is greater than they. The true wisdom of life, therefore, is to be indifferent to them. That doctrine is very much like Dr. Johnson’s cure for toothache-to treat it with contempt-a very good cure when we are not suffering from toothache. Now Peter, in the text, is no speculator nor theoriser. He knows that it is not in human nature to be insensible to these things, and he comes forward, like a practical man, with a definite direction as to how we are to treat a real evil which we cannot ignore, and that direction is that we are to cast our care upon God. But now, how is this to be done? Our cares are manifold, and there are different ways of transferring them to Him who has promised to bear them for us. Some people find that they can best get rid of their cares by carrying them to God through the avenue of prayer. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee.” Some cares will best be escaped by rising above them on the wings of praise. For songs are not always the expressions of gladness, and if you read the Psalms of David you will find that many of them were wrung out of his soul by the visitations of care. There is one other method which will hardly fail to dispel them, and that is, to allow God to speak to us. This is done by reading the Word of God, and the effectiveness of this exercise as a care remover is one of the commonest experiences of the Christian life.
III. The kind of cares which God will bear for us. And we learn from the text that they are not confined to any particular class: for we are enjoined to cast all our care upon Him. Many of our cares are trivial. The greatest care that a man can feel is the burden of sin. God careth for you (Isaiah 1:18; 1 Peter 2:24). If God frees us from the greatest care of all, you may rest assured that He will also free us from every lesser care (Matthew 6:25-34).
IV. We have to notice the reason why we should cast our care upon God. It is stated in the text, and is both intelligible and satisfactory. Peter boldly asserts that we are the objects of the Divine solicitude. There is no truth of which men of faith have been more firmly assured than this same truth of the loving kindness of God, and of His tender care for His children. It sheltered Abraham when, in the greatest trial of his life, he said calmly to his son, “The Lord will provide.” It was to Moses the secret place of the Most High when, in the prospect of death, he exclaimed, “The Eternal God is a refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” And nowhere more than in the Psalms of David do we trace the cheering, and soothing, and strengthening influence of a firm faith in God’s loving care. (J. L. Fyfe.)
God not an abstraction
(with Ephesians 4:30):-The first of these texts speaks of the Spirit of God as being hurt by frivolous speech, or wrathful passion, or irritable temper in Christians; so that He would be grieved into silence or distance by such offences. The second text speaks of God as entering into all the anxieties of our life. Thus we see that each of these great apostles, St. Paul and St. Peter, was accustomed to think of God, not as a Being too distant or impassive to be affected by our conduct or emotions, but as an ever-present, sensitive, Almighty Spirit-a living Holiness and a living Love. Such a notion of God thus disseminated throughout Europe and Asia by the apostles of Christ was new to both continents. As for the Greeks, Aristotle, the very chief thinker amongst them, says that anyone would laugh if a man were to say that he loved Jupiter. The work of Jupiter was to shake the heavens as the Thunderer, not to draw near to men, to enter into their joys or woes. What the Greeks did not know, the Romans knew not. Equally unknown to Asia was the idea of a God with feeling, one who could be grieved by men, one who could suffer with and help us. In Brahminism, the grand old religion of India, the Supreme God is always represented as lost to man in the depths of His own infinity, absorbed in the dreams of His own glory, too high and too holy to have the slightest concern for the vile universe which lesser gods had called into existence between them. In Buddhism, a comparatively modern reformation, God is removed still further from man; He loses even His personality. There is no living God at all, says today the religion of two hundred millions of mankind-only one eternal order; and the final reward of right-doing is to lose one’s personal existence and become impersonal parts of the Eternal Force. Just as debased a belief in necessity, in the form of extreme Augustinianism, has prevailed among the common people of Europe. But why this reference to Asia with its errors? Because the very same influence which has been the ruin of Asia is at work around us in Europe, in Christendom. The far larger part of English thought respecting God is affected by the very same delusions as to the insensibility of the Divine nature; for is not the prevailing notion among all the ranks of our people, especially when they wish to be philosophical, that all the popular and Scriptural language respecting God as a living person near at hand, and full of active thought and feeling respecting ourselves, is only an accommodation to the weakness of the lowest order of mind? Now, if this be true, it is obvious to remark, first of all, how uninteresting a thing the worship of such a God must be! One to whom you bring thought, anxiety, emotion, passion, praise, affection, gratitude, the agonies of prayer, and who in return looks upon you as might a great marble colossus, with one calm eternal gaze of infinite power, but without the slightest approach to a responsive sympathy or fatherly love. Now, the whole of the Divine revelation which culminates in Christ is directed to the establishment of a better knowledge of Him who is not far from anyone, and who is “acquainted with all our ways.” “Truly, our communion is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” Now, consider how strange it would be if God were not such a Being as this; if He, the Creator of all sensibility, were the only Spirit who was devoid of earnest sense and feeling. Is this world the work of a Father who has no delight in His children, in their work, in their play, in their troubles, or in their joy? Is His goodness only such an attribute as withered theologians might talk of, like a dry flower in a traveller’s book, only a mockery of the beautiful living reality? Is it nothing better than an abstraction? Then consider next what an effort seems to be made in nature to convey to our minds on all sides the impression of there being feeling ii, God. Does not every beautiful form in plants or flowers breathe forth the very feeling of some great work of art? But the senses do not reveal enough for the soul; the heart asks for a richer and fuller communion. We have it in Christ. Christ calls on us to unlearn that false lesson of the impassive God. Now you cannot fail to notice the bearing of such thoughts as these on all our views of God’s work, both in nature and in redemption. The English pagan, the modern Buddhist, with his exalted conception of a Deity who transcends thought, and soars in his infinity far above any genuine feeling, takes what comes of outward benefit as the result of so much physical machinery guided by man’s intelligence. He feels no more thankful to God for his daily blessing than he would feel thankful to a cotton engine for pouring out its endless yarn. But let a man once see through the hateful falsehood of this philosophy, and learn to believe in the all-sensitive nature which pervades the world, then how differently will he recognise the source of his daily blessings! Just as we should appreciate any entertainment given us by a friend-as a table covered with fruit or flowers-so shall we then acknowledge the ever-present love which is daily loading us with benefits. And, as we should abhor a crowd of English vagrants who might hurriedly snatch up the benefactions of some cheerful giver, and depart from his door without even a word of thankfulness or affection, so hateful will then appear the conduct of mankind who take God’s gifts in daily life and depart without a look of gratitude. Much more in all that relates to Christ, the unspeakable gift. The whole lesson of the Atonement by the death of Christ is lost for those whose philosophy leads them to disbelieve in the sensibility of God to pain or to sacrifice. “He that spared not His own Son, but freely gave Him for us all.” Every word here speaks of a self-crucifying compassion, a self-exacting benevolence. Once more, it is easy to see the bearing of this line of thought on our own habitual feeling towards God if we live surrounded by this all-sensitive Spirit. (E. White.)
He careth for you
I. I prove that God takes care of you by showing what he has already done.
1. He has created us.
2. He has died for us.
3. He has, also, risen from the dead for us.
4. He has called us to be His children.
5. He has redeemed us.
6. He has changed our nature.
7. He has cleansed us.
8. He has directed the steps of our life.
II. Let us prove that our Father cares for us by what he is now doing.
1. He is living for us.
2. He is dwelling in us.
3. He is showing mercy to us. Is not the preservation of your life a proof that God careth for you?
4. He is bearing with you.
III. I would prove that God careth for you by what he has undertaken to do. The Lord has undertaken to be your Father. (W. Birch.)
The Lord careth for you
“One very hot summer’s day I was driving along a dusty road, when I overtook a woman with a heavy basket on her arm. I did not want to feel like the priest in the story that Jesus told, who ‘passed by on the other side,’ so I offered her a ride. She gladly accepted it, but as she rode still carried the heavy basket on her arm. ‘My good woman,’ I said as kindly as I could, ‘your basket would ride just as well in the bottom of the trap, and you would be much more comfortable.’ ‘Ah, so it would, sir, thank you; I never thought of that,’ she said, as she put her burden down. ‘That is very much like what I often do,’ I remarked after a little while. ‘Like you do, sir?’ and the woman looked up inquiringly. ‘Yes; I, too, often carry heavy burdens when there is no need for it.’ She waited for my explanation. ‘The Lord Jesus has taken me up into His chariot, and I rejoice to ride in it, but very often I carry a great burden of care on my back that would ride just as well if I put it down, for the Lord would carry me and my cares too.’ ‘Yes, bless the Lord!’ said she, with a joy that told that she had found the cure for care. ‘It is true, sir, when He takes us up in His chariot, He taken cares and all.’ Here is the cure for your cares, for all the little daily worries and the burdens of anxiety that oppress you-the Lord careth for you.” (M. Guy Pearse.)
Away in my native town lived an old woman, very poor and very wretched. Sickness and poverty and age together had made her as wrinkled and soured as she could be. Everybody had heard her long tale of troubles over and over again, and she made the most of them, as folks generally do, and invariably ended with the doleful moan, “I’m old, and lone, and poor and I’ve got nobody in all the world to give me a bit of care.” One day she came hurrying up to our house as fast as her stiff joints could carry her; her face seemed to have lost half its wrinkles, her eyes actually shone with delight. “What can have happened?” thought everybody, as she came near. Everybody soon knew. “Bless ye,” she cried, “I’ve got a letter from my boy in California-and I thought he was dead years agone-and he’s doing well, and he says I mustn’t fret, for he’ll care for me as long as I live.” She had lost her care-somebody cared for her. (M. Guy Pearse.)
God’s regard for individuals
It is said that the great Duke of Wellington, before one of his earliest campaigns, had a soldier, with his full marching accoutrements, accurately weighed. Knowing what one soldier of average strength had to carry, he could judge how far his army might be called to march without breaking down. Our God does not deal in averages. He, with infinite wisdom, knows the powers of each individual and all the events which affect us. (A. Reed, B. A.)
God’s care for us
When a tiny boy, trying to help his father move his books, fell on the staircase beneath the weight of a heavy volume, his father ran to his aid and caught up in his arms boy and burden both, and carried them in his arms to his room. And will God deal worse with us? He cannot fail or forsake. He can smite rocks, and open seas, and unlock the treasuries of the air, and ransack the stores of the earth. Birds will bring meat, and fish coins, if He bid them. He takes up the isles as a very little thing; how easily, then, your heaviest load, while there is nothing so trivial but that you may make it a matter of prayer and faith. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
The Divine oversight
The seaman is in the storm; he has furled the sails and thrown out the anchor; he has done what he could-the rest is with God. Nor will anxious thought, or foreboding care, save him; fresh effort itself may only land him on the rocks-his strength is in sitting still. There is a story told of John Rutledge, sailing on the American lakes, when the ice gathered around the ship, and destruction seemed inevitable, for the immense masses were gradually closing in, and the captain told them that no human effort could save them; how that he knelt down and prayed, and as he prayed, the wind which had been against them changed, and blew behind, and opened a way through the ice, pushing it back from the ship and widening a passage, so that she was saved. And when they came to the captain and said, “Shall we put on more canvas?” his reply was, “No! don’t touch her! Someone else is managing this ship.” We need to learn that lesson daily. Some one else is managing these lives of ours. Do we believe in God? Shall we not live and act, then, as if we did so?
Be sober, be vigilant.
The advantages of moderation in the enjoyment of sensual pleasure
Christianity in its precepts and commands, as well as in its doctrines, is precisely suited to our nature and our necessities.
1. The temperate man preserves his health of body, health of mind, and alacrity and vigour both of the one and of the other.
2. Moderation in the enjoyment of sensual pleasure enhances the very enjoyment of that pleasure in various ways. The moderate man knows nothing of that languor and disgust which generally treads on the heels of the voluptuary, so frequently embittering his pleasures, rendering them insipid to him, and so seldom allowing him to enjoy them completely. How much more taste does the moderate, the industrious man find in the simplest meats, in the most natural drinks, than the intemperate have in all the delicacies of luxury! And how completely he enjoys the innocent pleasure it offers! He has no need artificially to prepare nor previously to devise means for sharpening his pallid appetite and render himself susceptible of pleasure.
3. Moderation in the enjoyment of sensual pleasure exalts and dignifies the mind. It in a manner spiritualises it; by divesting it of the degrading that is connected with mere animal gratification; by teaching us to use it as a means to higher ends. Thus may we connect spiritual and sensual pleasures together, and give a value to the latter by the former. All then becomes to us the gift of our gracious Father in heaven, the effect and demonstration of His all-comprehending love, and the pledge of still greater benefits and pleasures in the world to come. (G. J. Zollikofer.)
is all that duty that concerns ourselves in the matter of meat, and drink, and pleasures, and thoughts; and it hath within it the duties of-
5. Content. (Bp. Jeremy Taylor.)
Ready for temptation
“I fell in an unguarded moment; the temptation came so suddenly.” How often such excuses are made! But why were we off our guard? Because we live in spiritual things too much like the Saxon king who earned for himself the inglorious surname of the Unready. (King’s Highway.)
Our vigilance must be comprehensive
Many a city has been taken on its strongest side, which was counted so strong that no watch was kept, even as no danger was dreaded there. We think that we are not exposed to one particular form of temptation; let none be too sure of this; and in resisting one form of evil, never let us forget that there are others in the world. Fleshly sins may be watched against, and yet room be given in the heart for spiritual wickedness, pride, self-righteousness, and the like. The victories gained over the lusts of the flesh may minister to those subtler mischiefs of the spirit: and our fate may be like that of the hero in the Maccabees, who was crushed by the falling elephant himself had slain. There is a white devil of spiritual pride as well as a black devil of fleshly lusts; and if only Satan can ruin us, it is all the same to him by what engines he does it; it is all the same to him whether we go down into hell as gross and carnal sinners, or as elated self-righteous saints. Set a watch, therefore, all round your heart; not on one side only, but on all; for you can never be sure on which side temptation will assail. (Archbp. Trench.)
Watch against little sins
The truly pious is never at rest in his mind but when he stands upon his guard against the most minute and unobservable encroaches of sin, as knowing them upon this account more dangerous than greater; that the enemy that is least feared is usually the soonest felt. For as in the robbing of a house it is the custom for the sturdiest thieves to put in some little boy at the window, who being once within may easily open the doors and let them in too, so the tempter, in rifling the soul, despairs for the most part to attempt his entrance by some gross sin, and therefore employs a lesser, that may slide into it insensibly; which yet, little as it is, will so unlock the bars of conscience that the most enormous abominations shall at length make their entrance and take possession of it. Let no man measure the smallness of his danger by the smallness of any sin; for the smaller the sin the greater may be the stratagem. Some have been choked by a fly, a crumb, a grape stone; such contemptible things carry in them the causes of death; and the soul may be destroyed by sinful desires, idle words, officious lies, as well as by perjuries, blasphemies, and murders. Those who consider in how many ways a soul may be ruined, will not count it scrupulosity to beware of the least and slenderest instruments of damnation. (R. South, D. D.)
Watch against our old sins
The embankment is weak where it once gave way; and though the breach has been repaired, it must be diligently watched. The flames have been put out, but the ashes are still smouldering; and, if the wind rises, the fire may burst forth anew. The rebellion has been put down; but though its armies have been scattered and its prince dethroned, many traitors lurk in secret places, watching for opportunities to renew the struggle. Our old sins are conquered, but not quite killed. (Newman Hall.)
The devil, as a roaring lion.-
The devil a roaring lion
There is a lion at your doors-such an one as hath none to equal him in power and in fierceness. Are they active in pursuit of prey? He is infinitely more so. They go but a little distance from their dens, but his circuit is the world itself. Other lions roam abroad at certain seasons only-night is their busy time; but “when the sun ariseth they gather themselves together and lay them down in their dens” (Psalms 104:22). But this spiritual lion is perpetually in motion. The day and night are both alike to him. Other lions are bloodthirsty and savage; but he hath no measure in his fury. He cannot possibly be satisfied unless all men are his prey. But mark some other points of contrast which show how far more terrible this lion is than the lions of the forest. They are visible, can be more easily avoided; but he is an invisible being. He springs upon his prey unseen and unsuspected. The natural lion attacks his prey by open violence; but this spiritual lion deals rather by secret craft. The natural lion seeks only to devour the body; the spiritual lion aims at the destruction both of soul and body in hell. The natural lion’s strength is far greater than the strength of man, yet man has found out ways of overcoming him; but no power, no skill, no contrivances of man can enable him to overcome the spiritual lion our text speaks of. How then may this roaring lion be resisted and overpowered? Our text returns an answer to it. St. Peter is evidently speaking to believers, who, having been snatched already out of Satan’s jaws, have now only to resist him to the end. How is a poor sinner, who “has been carried captive by Satan at his will,” to “escape out of the snare”? Now to this the whole gospel is an answer. Why, you must look to the Cross. “For this cause the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” It is a most important question for the true believer, “How am I to resist this fearful adversary of my soul? Though I must not hope, on earth, to be free from his temptations, yet how am I to tread him under my feet?”
1. He exhorts us to sobriety-“Be sober.” “Be moderate-be self-denying-make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Let the Christian but entangle himself in things of this life, and Satan has him at a great advantage.
2. “Be vigilant.” They then who have such a watchful and unwearied enemy have need to be upon the watch themselves. Let your eye but rove a little towards some forbidden object, and he will take occasion from it to inflame your heart with evil passions. Once say of any sin, “Is it not a little one?” and suffer yourself, on that ground, to indulge in it-immediately the lion is upon you! He will make this breach much wider, and it will “increase unto more ungodliness.” We must not go to sleep ourselves under the notion that the Lord will guard us. It is the wakeful, not the slothful servant who has a warrant for God’s protection.
3. But the apostle’s third direction is one of such immense importance that we can neither be “sober” nor “vigilant” without it. He bids us be “steadfast in the faith.” Let us keep but faith within our bosoms, and we keep Satan at a distance off. We are proof against the lion. Yet a little while and we shall remove out of the lion’s reach. In the meanwhile, if there is a lion seeking to devour, there is another Lion standing on our part; for it is under such an emblem that our mighty Saviour hath vouchsafed to represent Himself. He is “the lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). (A. Roberts, M. A.)
The roaring lion
I. Satan’s perpetual activity. Only God can be omnipresent; hence, Satan can only be in one place at one time. Yet, if you consider how much mischief he doeth, you will easily gather that he must have an awful degree of activity.
1. We know that he is to be found in every place! Wherever the breath of life is inhaled, the poisonous miasma of temptation is a thing familiar.
2. Then, remember, that as he is found in all places, so you have often found him in all your duties. You have sought to serve God in your daily avocations, but strong temptations, furious suggestions of evil, hath followed you there. When we wished to be wrestling with the angel of God, we have had to contend with the fiend of hell.
3. We must observe also how ready Satan is to vent his spite against us in all frames of heart. When we are depressed in spirit-perhaps some bodily illness has brought us low, our animal spirits have ebbed and we feel ready to sink, then that old coward Satan is sure to attack us. On the other hand, if we are joyous and triumphant, then Satan knows how to tempt us to presumption-“My mountain standeth firm, I shall never be moved”; or else to carnal security-“Soul, take thine ease, thou hast much goods laid up for many years”; or else to self-righteousness-“My own power and goodness have exalted me.” Or else, he will even attempt to poison our joys with the spleen of evil forebodings.
4. And ah! remember how well he knows how to turn all the events of Providence to our ill. Here comes Esau, hungry with hunting; there is a mess of pottage ready, that he may be tempted to sell his birthright. Here is Noah, glad to escape from his long confinement in the ark; he is merry, and there is the wine cup ready for him, that he may drink. Here is Peter; his faith is low, but his presumption is high; there is a maiden ready to say “Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.” There is Judas, and there are thirty pieces of silver in the priestly hand to tempt him, ay, and there is the rope afterwards for him to hang himself withal.
II. Satan’s roarings.
1. Perhaps Peter here alluded to the roaring of persecution. How Satan roared with persecutions in Peter’s days! There were racks and gibbets; there was the sword for beheading and the stake for burning; there was dragging at the heels of the wild horse; there was smearing over with pitch and then setting the body still alive to burn in Nero’s garden. There was nothing for the Christian then but banishment and imprisonment; these were the lowest penalties.
2. But there is another kind of furious attack, the roaring of strong and vehement temptation. This some of us have felt. Do you know what it is to be caught hold of by some frightful temptation which you detest, grid yet the clutch of the hand is seconded by an arm so terrific in its strength that it drags you right on against your will.
3. Satan can roar also in the Christian’s ears With blasphemies. Oh! the terrors which Satan has sometimes caused to God’s people by saying, “Ah, you are not a child of God, or you would not have so vile a nature.” Whereas you never thought it at all. It was his suggestion, not yours; and then, having laid his sin at your door, he has turned accuser of the brethren, and has sought to cast down your faith from its excellency, by making you imagine that you had committed the unpardonable sin. Now, if he roars against you, either with persecution or with temptation, or with diabolical insinuations, take the language of our apostle here-“Whom resist steadfast in the faith,” etc.
III. Satan’s ultimate aim-“Seeking whom he may devour.” Nothing short of the total destruction of a believer will ever satisfy our adversary. If the battle were between Satan and man, then, indeed, woe to us! We might quit ourselves like men and be strong, but before this giant all the host of Israel must flee. But the battle is not ours; it is the mighty God’s. Yea, and Christ Himself must be defeated, the glory of His Cross must be dimmed, the crown of sovereignty must be snatched from His head, ere one of those for whom He died should ever be given up to the power of His adversary.
IV. What we should do in order that we may overcome this adversary.
1. “Whom resist, steadfast in the faith.” But how resist him? “Steadfast in the faith.” Seek to obtain a clear knowledge of the doctrines of the gospel, and then get a good grip of them. This will make you strong. Then take hold of the promises of God, which are yea and amen in Christ Jesus.
2. But there is another word added for our comfort “Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” This is well sketched by John Bunyan. “As Christian was going along the exceedingly narrow pathway, with a deep ditch on one side, and a dangerous quag upon the other, he came to a stand, and he had half a thought to go back; and then again he thought he might be half way through the valley; so he resolved to go on. And while he pondered and mused, he heard the voice of a man as going before him, saying, ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.’ Then he was glad, and that for these reasons. He gathered from thence that some who feared God were in this valley as well as himself; that God was with them, though they perceived Him not; that he hoped to have company by and by. So he went on, and called to him that was before, but he knew not what to answer for that he also thought himself to be alone.” “I did not think that anybody ever felt as I feel.” And though I tell you these things, and know that many of you have heard Satan roar, I am compelled to confess that I have frequently said in my own heart “I do not believe that any other man ever had this temptation before me.” Well, this text stands to refute our supposition, “The same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The personality and agency of evil spirits
When an army is on active service, there is no effort which its commander will spare, to get accurate information about the army which is opposed to him. He uses all the means in his power: and his emissaries are content to run the most fearful risks; that he may learn what is the number of the force arrayed against him; what is its position, what its probable movements. And if any skilful spy could so far penetrate the councils of the hostile commander, as to be able to procure a sketch of his plan for conducting the campaign, we can all understand that such a plan would be worth almost any price. For to be forewarned is to be forearmed. It is part of our religious belief, that a host of beings, with power and skill far more than human, are hourly exerting all their power and all their skill for our eternal ruin. It is a part of our religious belief, that at the head of this host of foes there is one miserable, yet powerful being: a being inconceivably malignant, crafty, wretched: whose great desire is to dishonour God, and to make us human beings as sinful and as wretched as himself. Now there is no doubt at all, that we have all to contend with a certain amount of lurking unbelief in regard to those evil spirits of which we are to think. You will find men who will tell you that the existence of Satan and his angels is an antiquated doctrine, fitted for a ruder age, but not suited to our growing intelligence: they will tell you that it is not to be supposed that God would suffer such beings to exist and to assail us: and that all that was said by Christ and His apostles with regard to evil spirits must be understood as having been said in compliance with the vulgar way of thinking. As to the notion that the Almighty would not suffer such, why, there is no greater difficulty in understanding why He permits evil spirits, than in understanding why he permits evil men. And we know that God not only allows evil men to exist; but allows them to tempt and mislead other human souls to evil. And as for the notion that Christ and the apostles in speaking of evil spirits were merely complying with the vulgar way of thinking-merely to put that notion plainly before our minds is enough to set it aside. See what it comes to. That there are no evil spirits: that people, however, generally fancied there are: and that our Saviour, for fear of shocking their prejudice, gave in to that foolish error, and countenanced it. Now, is that conceivable? Would that have been worthy of Him who is the Truth? In leading our spiritual life, we have to contend with real, personal beings, striving to lead us wrong: there is something more against us than merely the force of circumstances, and the current of events in a fallen world; these are seconded and used by real persons of the greatest power and craft. Ought we not to seek to know something of the nature and the wiles of our great adversaries? We all know that the Bible contains many references to evil spirits, unclean spirits, or devils: and in the New Testament there is very much more frequent mention of evil angels than of good angels. For whatever advantages we may ever derive from the aid of good angels, we gain by the direct intervention of God: and we are not to think of making any application to any good spirit for his help. But it is different with evil spirits. Against them we are called personally to guard. We may, by our own evil thoughts and ways, tempt them to tempt us. To them we may open our hearts. And them we may by God’s grace resist, and drive away. We are exposed to great perils from them, against which we need to be guarded. But the thing of practical moment for each of us, is the manner in which they make their attack upon us. And it is not too much to say that we may be quite sure that they will attack us in the most crafty way. And will not the most crafty way of an evil spirit be the way in which we least expect him? Satan is too cunning to present himself in his own black colours when he can veil himself in a more engaging form. Do you think a fraudulent trader would go about proclaiming that he was a rogue, and theft if you dealt with him he would be sure to cheat you? If a man were trying to get you to buy his bad wares, would he be likely to take pains to tell you how bad they were? No: the evil one and his angels are not weak enough to announce to us how evil they are, and how bent upon our destruction. It is in our own growing worldliness of spirit-our own disposition to put off the care of religion to the more convenient season which never comes-in our own temper of careless easy mindedness, forgetful of the awful realities of heaven and hell, and vaguely trusting that through God’s mercy things will somehow go right for eternity with little thought or pains on our part-it is in symptoms like these that we may read the fearful indications that the devil and his angels are working too successfully upon our hearts. I do not mention the stimulus of unholy passion, of covetousness, of envy. You fancy that the bitter, angry spirit that grows up within you at some slight offence is but the working of your own natural temperament: ah, you do not know how it may be encouraged by some dark being, specially devoting himself to the task. In brief, it is reasonable and right for us to suspect the presence and influence of an evil spirit, in every temptation we ever feel to sin or error: in every intellectual process that would cast doubt upon God’s revealed religion, in every impulse that would prompt to any deed or any thought that varies from the mind and example of our blessed Saviour Himself. Not by the mere natural working of our fallen mind does the evil suggestion arise: but weaving in with that, mysteriously cooperating with that, reinforcing and aggravating that, comes the baneful influence from the prince of perdition! And yet, though this truth be most awful, it is salutary: it is one which it is good for us to reflect upon. Is there not something here to fill us with the greater detestation of sin: to lead us to the more resolute battling with temptation? Think that every time you sin, you are doing the very thing that your most malicious enemy wishes you to do! Is not that a motive to hate sin: to battle with temptation? (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)
Of the being, enmity, fierceness, and cunning of the devil
Satan allows you as much religion as you please for the carrying on of his designs; and yet, if you please, you may have none at all. Some who are easily to be won, he tempts to downright villainy, only helping out their dull wits to more exquisite and genteel achievements. Others who are more cautious of notorious sins he draws to offences which seem less, but are equally serving his interest.
I. That there is a devil was the opinion of the heathen themselves that ever acknowledged a God. But most commonly they were mistaken in the nature of his being, and altogether as to his origin and power. Now as the agreement of all nations in the confession and worship of a God is a powerful argument to prove the same, so the same agreement in the general notion of this malignant being may be of the like force. And truly it seems agreeable to reason that since there is so much evil in the world there should be some sovereign patron of it. He also that shall consider the impetuous current of wickedness which has run down throughout all ages from the beginning of the world, which could never flow from infinite mercy and goodness, hath reasons sufficient to convince him that there must of necessity be some powerful being which manages this kingdom of darkness; some chief promoter of evil and subtle contriver of our ruin.
II. That satan is our inveterate adversary, with the origin of his malice, and the reasons of God’s permission and sufferance. It is very natural to those that are ambitious, when their designs of rising are thwarted, but much more when they are also degraded from that high and happy estate they once enjoyed, to fall into the deepest extremity of malice and eagerness of revenge, not only towards that power that frustrated their ends, but also with an endeavour to hinder all those who are in any possibility of obtaining that felicity which they by their rebellion have lost. And this is the case of the angels that fell. But since their power is still subject to God, how comes it to pass that He tolerates so vehement an adversary both to His honour and the works of His hands? Besides His unsearchable will and pleasure, I may presume to offer two reasons.
2. In relation to mankind. God purposing to advance those only to His kingdom whom neither the principalities nor powers of the air could shake, nor any subtle allurements could draw aside.
III. From experience and ordinary observation we may conclude, that there must of necessity be some such enemy by whose instigation chiefly and not altogether by the propensity of our own natures we commit most sins.
1. If we consider the nature and quality of most sins, how unanswerable to that earnestness with which men commit them, we shall find that the incitement proceeds, not so much from their own inclinations, or the fairness of the objects, as the secret subtle suggestions of Satan.
2. From that general and otherwise unaccountable averseness to religion, and other miscarriages in the duties thereof, which we cannot but charge ourselves withal. (J. Cooke, M. A.)
I have heard divines say that it is very hard to convince men of the existence of a devil, that they scarcely know whether they are convinced of it themselves. I think they are mistaken. An opinion, a fear, a fancy-call it what you will-must have prevailed long, must have taken possession of men’s minds, before it could find its way so readily to their lips. Are there no other signs? Does not each man complain of some incubus which he wants to throw off? One may find it outside of him; if he could have better or less stupid beings to work with, all would be well. Another feels as if it were altogether within him. It is a miserable solitary strife, of which no one knows anything but himself. Intelligent travellers and zealous missionaries know that in barbarous countries the difficulty is not to convince men of this doctrine, but of any other. We may acknowledge that our Lord’s words were none of them directed to prove the existence of evil spirits. He found their existence acknowledged. Sickness, pain, death, were the demonstrations to the hearts of men of their presence. What has been said of Christ’s words is true also of His acts. He who encountered sickness, madness, death, was certainly not setting forth the power of evil spirits. He was proving their weakness. He was, say the Evangelists, “casting them out.” When the apostles went forth to preach, they too had no occasion to persuade men of the existence of evil powers. That was assumed; the Jews and Gentiles were agreed so far. Their theories were different; the witness which the facts of this world and of their own experience bore to their consciences was essentially the same. Can there be a deliverer from these evil powers?-that was the only question which it was important to get answered. The apostles went into all lands to proclaim that there was such a Deliverer. They said that Christ had overcome the diseases of men here upon earth; that by death He had overcome death; that He was every hour overcoming some principality and power in high places, which was claiming men as subjects and captives. This was their gospel. Having such a one, they spoke of necessity concerning the principalities and powers. But the apostles, like their Master, used the singular number as well as the plural. They too were obliged to speak of an adversary, of a tempter. The moment the complete unity of the Divine Nature was proclaimed-the unity of the Father with the Son in one Spirit; the moment that men had been baptised into this perfect, loving, all-embracing Name, they must be told, “There is an adversary of this Name, a self-seeking, self-concentrated, self-worshipping adversary, who is seeking to draw you out of communion with it, and therefore out of communion with each other. You must be sober, for he seeks to make you drunk with the pleasures of this life, with your own self-conceit, that you may lose all thoughts of your Father’s house. You must be vigilant, for he seeks to stupefy you with opiates, to keep you asleep.” St. Peter felt that a picture as living as this was necessary, that his next words might not be idle words: “Whom resist, steadfast in the faith.” Once believe that you have an adversary-that the conflict is not a sham one, and you can repulse him. You have not to win a position, but defend one. You belong to God. You can tell the adversary that you owe him no allegiance; that you scorn his promises and his threats; that it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you His kingdom of heaven, and that you do not choose to exchange it for the kingdom of hell. The members of the Christian Church were very likely to take up the notion that they and the world around them were under quite different laws; that they were not subject to the passions which other men were subject to; that they were out of the range of the influence of the evil spirit. A more plausible delusion, or a more perilous one, cannot be imagined. An apostle had no higher duty than to shatter it. He was to assure his disciples that the privilege of their brotherhood in Christ exempted them from no assault which threatened those who had not asserted that privilege. This advantage he had, that being one of a society, of a brotherhood, he felt that his enemy was the enemy of his brethren, and the enemy of that world which he wished to claim as part of his family. He was fighting for all men when he was fighting for himself. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)
The roaring lion
Dr. Livingstone tells us of an African native who was struck down and torn by a lion, that periodically the dreadful pains returned to the old wound, as if again the monster gnawed at the bone. So was it, I think, with Peter. The old lion had struck him down and fixed his teeth in his prey. Snatched from the jaws of the destroyer by David’s greater Son, yet the scar throbbed with vivid reminders of the peril, and brought again before him the memory of his great deliverance. Let us turn and look upon this terrible man slayer.
I. Here is a very real enemy. He is an old doctor, as Latimer calls him, and well versed in arts and crafts; but his master stroke has been reserved for these times. There is a fable of a fox that caught its prey by pretending to be dead. That is the last of Satan’s devices. A hundred years ago everything was put clown to him-storms, earthquakes, eclipses, plagues, diseases; there was ascribed to him a power and activity that were almost infinite. Thanks to science, she has cast the devil out of the hailstorm and the thundercloud, and has taught us at least some of the laws which regulate these things. So he has altered his tactics, and with a humility which his betters might imitate he has announced his own decease. “I am dead”-saith the devil-“indeed there is no devil. I am passed away with witchcraft and ghosts and all the silly nonsense of the dark ages.” No, no. We have a more sure word of prophecy to which we do well to give heed. This old adversary is as real for you and for me as he ever was. As real for us as he was for Adam, or for Job, or for Judas. Your adversary-says the apostle, as if he had marked us out for his prey. We dare not ignore him. We dare not make light of him. He tracks our steps and seeks us as his prey. Be sober, be vigilant.
II. He is a mighty foe. The glimpses we have of him in the Bible reveal one of vast dominion and of amazing power; probably of all God’s creatures one of the first in the order of time and highest in rank; amongst the foremost of the angels that do excel in strength. There is a majesty about him as of one conscious of vast power. Think of his triumphs. Away up in the mountain caves is the den of the lion, the mouth and floor of it all strewn with the bones of his victims; Skulls and ribs lie thickly scattered. But what a sight it were to look into the den of this old lion the devil, and to see the mischief that he hath wrought!
III. He is a subtle foe. Think of his knowledge of human nature. How perfectly he understands us! As an old Puritan says, “He taketh the measure of every man’s foot; and then he fitteth him instantly.” Therefore let us put up a double guard on the side of our weakness. Be sober, be vigilant, and, most of all, be sober and be vigilant where the peril threatens most. It is then that the devil can do most harm when he finds a traitor wish within the soul-into whose ear he can whisper, a traitor that he can bribe. And not only of our besetments does he make use. Our very virtues he tries to turn into handles for his malice. Here is a pleasant, genial, good-hearted fellow-ah! the devil leads him on and tumbles him into the ditch of self-indulgence, or fetcheth him away by evil company. This man is thrifty and saving: and the devil elbows him on year after year until he casts him into that horrible pit of miserliness. This man is generous, but the devil puffs him up with the sense of his importance. This man is very humble, and the devil pushes him down so far in the valley of humility that he begins to climb up the other side and is proud of being so humble. This man is resolute and determined, and the devil eggs him on until he is overbearing and tyrannical. And this man is modest and retiring, and the devil keeps him lazy and useless by assuring him that he has no gifts. He can do almost as much with our virtues as with our vices. For all conditions and for all circumstances the tempter has his attack. Turn to the great temptation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, again, he seeks to turn our very mercies to our mischief. The lusciousness and beauty of the fruit in Paradise is made to awaken Eve’s desire; and when she wished for it, lo! there it was hanging within reach. He is a cruel foe. A lion for his might, he is also a lion for his savage cruelty. His name is Apollyon, the destroyer. To worry if he cannot overthrow; to annoy if he cannot destroy. “Oh, sir,” said one to me one day, as gentle and loving a man as ever lived, “I loved my wife better than my life, but when I was drunk it was as if the devil was in me, and I always began knocking her about. I beat her one night so that she could eat nothing but spoon meat for eleven days. And then when I saw what I had done I had to get drunk again just to forget it.” He is a cruel monster, a hard master, driving his poor slave to lowest depths.
IV. Lastly, this old lion can be overcome. “Be sober, be vigilant.” The first word suggests our peril from over-eagerness. People who go rushing into anything and everything, rush into the lion’s den and thrust their heads into his very mouth. There are some people that the old lion must hunt for, bat the over-eager he can get by lying still. Be sober. Take a right estimate of things. Measure things by God and by eternity. Don’t be too thirsty-that is the meaning of the precept-too thirsty for pleasure; too thirsty for money; too thirsty for honour; too thirsty for your own way in everything. Travellers tell us that there are certain places where you may generally trace the steps of the old lion and expect to find him waiting about. They are the drinking places, where he can spring upon his prey in a moment. Be sober. And yet be vigilant. The too anxious are in peril; but so are the too careless. Be vigilant. But is that all? What is the good of telling the little lamb to be sober and vigilant when the old lion is about? We must go further back and further forward for the instructions as to our safety. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God.” Be so little and so weak that you have no faith in yourself at all-and creep for your safety in under that mighty hand. “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” Beneath that hand I cannot know a fear. Here am I as within a fortress whose walls can neither be scaled nor undermined. That Presence alone is our safety. “Whom resist, steadfast in the faith.” Be bold because thine hand is in the hand of thy God. (M. G. Pearse.)
The devil and humanity
I. We have here the devil at work in humanity. He is “going about,” not outside men, but in men, going about in the regions of human thoughts, human passions, human impulses, human activities. “He worketh in the children of disobedience.” As a worker-
1. His inspiration is malignant. “He is a roaring lion.” He is not a sleeping lion, nor a lion crouching down, satiated with food, but a lion roaring with hunger, savage for food.
2. His purpose is destruction. “Seeking whom he may devour.” The devil is a devourer physically. The devil is a devourer spiritually. He is a devourer of purity of heart, peace of conscience, confidence in and fellow ship with the everlasting Father. The devil is a devourer socially. He is a devourer of domestic harmony, social order, prosperity, and peace. The devil is a devourer politically. He is a devourer of civil freedom, national progress, inter national harmony.
II. We have the devil here counteracted by humanity. Three things are necessary to counteract him-
1. Thoughtfulness-“Be sober.” This does not mean mere physical sobriety, although, of course, it includes that-it means sobriety of soul, a state of mind opposed to all volatile excitement. Were men to think whence they came, what they are, whither they are tending, the devil would not easily influence them.
2. Diligence-“Be vigilant.” Be vigilant in building up moral fortresses around your soul, so as to resist his entrance.
3. Steadfastness-“Whom resist, steadfast in the faith.” Is it wise in a town to ignore the pestilence that has entered its streets and carried death to its homes? How infinitely more unwise is it to ignore this roaring lion! (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The devil and humanity
I. What the devil really is in relation to men. First, He is an “adversary.” Secondly, He is a malignant “adversary,” ravenous and savage. Thirdly, He is a prowling adversary. “Walketh about.” He is always on the move. He walks about the markets, the governments and churches of the world; about the public streets and secluded alleys, and about the chambers of every human soul. He has no rest.
II. What men really should be in relation to the devil.
1. They should be serious. “Be sober.” As calm, serious, and self-possessed as a soldier who waits the blast of the trumpet for war.
2. They should be watchful. “Be vigilant.” He is wily, always plotting.
3. They should be resisting. “Whom resist.” Do not yield an inch, but advance.
4. They should be reflective. “Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren.” (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The same afflictions are accomplished.-
The wide diffusion of trials a motive to steadfastness
Ordinarily, if we speak of afflictions, or sufferings, you presently think of the bereavements or sorrows which fall to us through the dispensations of Providence. But the apostle, when he here uses the term, is speaking only of spiritual assaults-of the attacks of Satan, acting on the corruptions of our nature, and soliciting us to sin. Are these indeed afflictions to us? Happy the man who, though he have to reckon among his sore things “persecution, and peril, and nakedness, and sword,” can yet say, “The sorest thing of all is, that I am continually wrought upon by an invisible foe, who, seconded but too readily from within, places me in peril of deserting my profession and dishonouring my Saviour.” Yes, the greatest affliction to us should be the not finding affliction in sin. What is there to encourage the Christian warrior in the knowing that the same afflictions are the lot of others as well as himself? Really at first sight, and with reference more especially to the assaults of the devil, it might be said that this was calculated to discourage us. It seems almost like investing Satan with omnipresence, to exhibit him as afflicting simultaneously the whole body of Christians. Suppose it were the registered course of God’s proceedings that there should be comparative freedom from the assaults of Satan, so that the “roaring lion” were not allowed to come against the Christian. What a fearful thing it would then be for a believer to find himself attacked by the devil! It would not be the amount of the attack, so much as the unusualness, that would distress him. His inference would be-“Surely I am not one of the people of God: if I were, He would not deal with me in so uncommon a way.” Or, if again, in place of exemption generally from spiritual assault, there were any one form of temptation which was seldom allowed to visit the righteous; would not the being invaded by this form distract the godly man, not because the form itself might be more terrific than he had known before, but because, being novel, it would seem to bring proof that he had deceived himself with regard to his spiritual condition? But now take the opposite, which is the actual case, namely, that the Christian has nothing strange to undergo. Do you not perceive that this very circumstance will do much to encourage him to resist the devil and keep steadfast in the faith? The believer has perhaps to undergo a large measure of domestic trial; death makes frequent inroads into his family; his circumstances become straitened; his children requite him with ingratitude; but he looks into the history of the righteous, and he finds that there is nothing singular in his portion. Or again-and here, it may be, Satan has the greatest advantage-the believer has seasons of spiritual darkness; and he loses all comfortable sense of love of God and the atonement made by Christ. But is he peculiar in this? Has nothing like this been experienced by the believer? He turns to the Book of Psalms. What does he find? Unmingled joy? unclouded assurance? Oh, no! he finds constant alternations, as though night followed day-depression succeeded in necessary order to exultation. There is, however, one more, and an equally important view, which may justly be taken of the passage before us. If we are to resist the devil with good prospect of success, we must prepare to resist the devil; and, in order to this preparation, we should be observant of what has happened and is happening to others. An old writer justly says, “Things certainly fall the lighter upon us when they first fall upon our thoughts.” It is the being taken by surprise which makes sorrow so hard; and we want you not to be taken by surprise. Oh, the experience of the Church is not an experience which merely proves the frequency of trouble; it proves also the advantageousness of trouble; it proves that affliction “yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby”; it proves that the devil may be resisted; that, with all his subtlety, and malice, and might, he is more than matched by the believer, who takes to himself the whole armour of God. And for this simple truth we would gain, if we could, a strong hold upon your minds. The devil is not irresistible-not one of his temptations is irresistible. Will ye, then, yield, as though it were useless to withstand? Your brethren, in whom the same afflictions have been accomplished, met the devil and vanquished him, but not in their own strength; and you, too, may vanquish the devil. The promised aids of the Holy Spirit-aids which no Christian seeks in vain who seeks in faith-will always suffice to carry you safely, yea, triumphantly through the conflict. What warning, then, is there, that we slumber not at our post! what encouragement that we shrink not from conflict! (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Sympathy with saints and martyrs
When people are sick, and in bad pain, we know how apt they are to imagine, Surely never anyone was so afflicted as I am. Thus St. Peter encourages his suffering brethren, when a time of trouble was coming on; much as St. Paul had before encouraged the Corinthians. “There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man”: nothing that is beyond human strength, assisted by the grace of the Holy Ghost, to bear. This is the answer to those who think the commandments of the gospel too strict, too pure to be obeyed. “Your Father which is in heaven will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.” And if that be not enough, look at the lives of the saints: look and see how good and penitent persons, from time to time, have really been helped to keep these commands which you think too hard, and to resist these temptations which you think too strong. On the other hand, that roaring lion, who is ever seeking whom he may devour, will be busy encouraging in you just the contrary of these good thoughts. If you are in trouble he will try to make you feel as if no other person was ever in so bad a condition. If he can, he will persuade you that all or a great part of your trouble arises from such and such a person’s ill-usage, and so he will make you spiteful and envious. Other persons, who are not so ill-used, may do well to be forgiving and meek: but your case, he will whisper, is really too hard, too bad. What is the use, they will say, of such exact goodness? you may as well give it up; for you see it does not save you from ill-usage and suffering. Thus the enemy moves us to discontent, when we are afflicted or ill-used: but still more does He encourage us to sin, when we are in strong temptation from our own passions, or the evil example of others. He will at such times set us on thinking, that surely our passions are stronger than other men’s, and therefore there is more excuse for our giving way to them. This is how the devil would beguile us, and a very serious temptation it is: he would have us believe, either that there never were any saints, any persons really good and holy, or that if there have been any, they were such by a kind of miracle. To be afflicted, then, is a mark of Christian brotherhood: it is a token that we belong to God’s family. If anyone were quite exempt, he would almost feel it unfair: might he choose, he would rather take his share, relieving, if so it might be, his brethren. Or take the case of comrades and fellow soldiers-what sort of a spirit is he thought to have who draws back and spares himself when the rest are entering upon labour and danger? And here comes in the other word, by which, as I said, St. Peter in the text would stir us up to a godly jealousy of the saints. The word I mean is “accomplished.” Their afflictions are accomplished, ours but just beginning. To conclude: whereas the apostle’s word is, that whatever we suffer, the same afflictions are accomplished “in our brethren that are in the world,” we understand that when they are once out of the world, there is an end of their affliction and care forever. (Plain Sermons by Contributors to the “Tracts for the Times.”)
The God of all grace.
The Revised Version makes two changes of some importance in this passage. The word “settle” is removed to the margin. And the form of the whole passage is changed from that of a prayer to that of an assurance: “The God of all grace shall Himself perfect, stablish, strengthen you.” It may be taken as a revelation.
I. First of all, what God actually is-a “God of all grace”; that is, of grace for all men, and of every kind of grace. Its contents may perhaps be defined best as unmerited goodwill, showing itself in act or waiting in perpetual eagerness for an opportunity to show itself. Now it is one of the peculiarities of the Christian religion that it represents God as in eternal possession of such grace, and as always ready and disposed to exercise it towards man. Other religions are apt to confine the goodwill of the God within the limits of the country, or the tribe, or the association of tribes, or to represent the God as gracious only to some men, although ungracious and His heart entirely closed against others. To all our dull questionings whether God really loves us, the one reply the New Testament makes is simply that He is “the God of all grace,” in such a sense that no higher degree of grace on the one hand, and on the other no defect or arbitrary restraint of grace, can be conceived of Him.
1. That reply is worth lingering upon, in order that we may teach ourselves more confidently to adore. Through all nature it is easy to trace God’s grace or effective goodwill towards man, nor is it necessary to suppose that it is altogether confined to man. That He Himself feels pleasure at the beautiful things He makes, whether they spring into being as the product of a fresh creation or evolve their glories out of some “closely packed germ,” may be inferred from the phrase in Genesis (He “saw that it was good.”) In the shapes of the leaves, the colours of the flowers, and all the fragrance of the garden, it is possible to see not only the skill of the Creator in providing for the vital purposes of nature, but His generosity also in weaving beauty and use in His processes and decking His handiwork with glories that are almost superfluous but for pleasure.
2. It is much the same with history, God’s providential administration of the world. Grace of every kind and degree, of patience, and discipline, and spiritual help, may be traced all through it, vindicating the interests of righteousness, leading men on to ever clearer moral perception and completer moral attainment. To that statement it is questionable whether any exception can be taken. On the part of some men, indeed, it is customary to hold that the testimony is divided, that whilst in certain places the race has declined and fallen, in others only has it risen and advanced. But there is a distinction, of primary importance in human affairs, which does not seem to warrant such a conclusion. Man’s progress through the centuries appears at times to be confused and slow. But that is exactly what might have been expected from man; and if any long period is taken, and his condition at the close compared with his condition at the beginning, as far as morality and the highest and innermost interests of the man are concerned, it will not be easy to question either that the progress has been very real and great, or that the cause of it all has been the overflowing grace of God.
3. But no manifestation of that grace in any other sphere can compare with its manifestation in religion. “Who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” This states that the grace is so great as to be able to satisfy itself with nothing less than that we should be with God, partakers of His nature and sharers through eternity of His glory. Of course the apostle added “by Christ Jesus,” for no Christian with the thought of God’s grace in his mind can keep it separate long from its companion thought of the Saviour. For that there are at least two reasons. Whenever a man wants to know the heart of God, the best mode is to dwell upon the kindliness and patience and love of the Saviour amongst men, to trace them all back to the Divine source from which they come, and to regard them as but sparks and emanations, dulled in their passage earthwards, of the ever-glowing Love that sits upon the throne of the heavens. Secondly, and chiefly, the gift of Jesus Christ is at once the most magnificent and the most irrefragable proof Jehovah could give that His grace is like His justice, without defect and without limit.
II. Let us turn now to the revelation the verse contains of what man may become.
1. The same second phrase, “called to His eternal glory,” sets it forth in part, but is almost too ideal dud even inconceivable for exposition. For what the glory of God is, in the sense in which the word is used here, His own state of blessedness, the eternal beatitude that fills and surrounds Him, of necessity no man can tell. It must include all the gratifications that pure spirit is capable of receiving, with no liability to interruption or loss, and with all kinds of associated joys, each of which exceeds man’s highest imagination. And all this glory is to be ours-the discord and strife of our natures forever quieted; the whole moral nature beatified, perfected, assimilated to God. In that respect, too, the Christian religion does not believe in limitations.
2. The other part of the revelation of what man may become can be more easily understood. God “shall Himself perfect, stablish, strengthen you,” writes the apostle; and he may also have added “settle you.” The first word implies such adjustment as issues in exact fitness to relationship-the making a man precisely what he ought to be in regard of his attitude towards God, towards his fellow men, towards his own conscience and sense of duty. The second word means radically power to resist and stand firm; and the third, power of effective strength by means of which conquests are made and obstacles overborne. The last word, “settle,” denotes the laying of a firm foundation, like the rock of which our Saviour speaks, whereon if a man build, his house will be able to defy the vehemence of wind and weather. There is thus a triple perfectness, set before us and even pledged to us in this verse, as the revelation of what man may become; fitness to all moral relationships, strength to resist every assault of Satan, power of progress and triumph which nothing can hinder, and all this resting upon, nay, built into a foundation so firm that the might of hell cannot shake it. There are, however, two or three facts frequently familiar to the thought of every one, which make the prospect opened up by St. Peter very blessed, but sometimes very dubious. The one is our almost constant consciousness that the motives of our best acts are mixed, some right, but others in every way unworthy. That “alloy of impure motive”-at times it seems to be a defect we cannot escape from, “tainting our best moments,” turning men’s mistaken praise into the parent of humiliation and self-reproach. But that is not the worst. Moralists teach that the range of man’s duty is “co-extensive within the range of his moral consciousness”; or, in other words, that the standard at which he aims should contain the completeness of everything, which his conscience when most sensitive recognises as dutiful and right. Two miserable results immediately follow. Every one knows that his performances day after day insist upon lingering a great way behind his standard; and every one must occasionally fear that the standard itself has shrunk, because the conscience has been dulled by past trifling and sin. The emphatic positiveness of this verse will not, however, permit itself to be overlooked. And instead of giving way to doubt and questioning the possibility of our perfecting, it is better that we should set ourselves to find out how such a blessing may be certainly ensured and enjoyed. St. Peter does not hesitate in his teaching or qualify his words in any way. He says distinctly that only God can do it for us, and that He will do it because His grace is complete and full. We must therefore get the Spirit of God into our hearts by trust in Him, and become possessed of Him, or the thing remains of necessity hopeless. There are indeed at the present day, as there have ever been, strong tendencies to look in other directions for the power that will confer the greatest benefit upon society anal upon the individual. Sometimes it assumes the shape of the study of some form of art or branch of science, of devotion to an impossible equality or an unreasonable hierarchy, of a kind of progress that slaughters the unit and passes on to a remote and general triumph, of culture, or combination, or the coercion of the will. Doubt, however, is long-lived and hard to kill; and still it may be our fears are whispering to us, Can He perfect me, and will He? It is almost certain that Peter was an old man when he wrote these words; and an old man’s counsel and assurance, especially when they are based upon his own actual experience, are not to be despised. In his youth and earlier manhood he had lacked steadfastness. If, therefore, reason and experience have any validity at all, there is no room left for doubt. It is an argument in which no possible flaw can be found; the grace of God is not liable to exhaustion or abatement, and therefore whatever it has actually done for others it can do for us. The God of all grace will do it for us. That grace of His will go with us wherever we go, constantly compassing us about, sustaining our hearts, preparing us for blessedness. (R. W. Moss.)
The God of all grace
Our first experience in reading this verse is amazement that borders on bewilderment. The whole is a perfect blaze of diamonds. Keep your eyes upon the verse, and see what words we have: “God,” “all grace,” “called,” “eternal glory,” “Christ Jesus,” “dominion forever.” And, as if these were not enough, we find also perfection thrown in as well: “make you perfect.” And these marvellous words daze us all the more because of their contrast to that which has gone before. “The devil,” “a roaring lion,” “suffering,” “adversary,” “God,” “grace,” “eternal glory,” “perfection.” Now we will seek to put the words in order, and link them together. And observe that, though this text reads as a prayer, it is really a promise. Instead of the first word being “but,” it should be “and.” In the previous verses the Holy Ghost has been telling us what we have to do. Now He tells us what God has promised to do. We must never separate the things that God has joined together. If God says in one line, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” He says in the next, “for it is God that worketh in you.” And so, if here I am told that I am to be sober and vigilant, and that I am to resist a roaring devil, and I say, “How can it be? It is more than I can do,” He who bids me do it tells me what He will do: “And He Himself shall perfect, strengthen, and stablish you.” The words, you see, are beginning to fall into order. But there is one important point which I question whether many of you have seen, because in nine cases out of ten that sentence, “after that ye have suffered a while,” is linked with the last clause of the verse, whereas it belongs to the first; and if you look you will see what a difference it makes. The God of all grace who hath called us, after that we have suffered a while, to His eternal glory, will Himself, whilst we are suffering-during this little interval that lies between the grace and the glory-so sanctify the suffering, that it shall perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle us. The sufferings come between the grace and the glory.
I. Who shall rise to the height of this first expression, “the God of all grace”? It does not mean that God is gracious in His tendency, or simply gracious by His nature, but that He Himself is the reservoir, the home, the source, the supply, of grace in all its manifestations. Need I recapitulate them to you? Divine choice with all its inscrutable mysteries. Redemption by a dying Christ. Justification also in all its wondrous harmony between mercy and perfect equity. Yes, and regeneration too, with its heaven-born purity, and its new-created tendencies within the soul. All these are covered by the word “grace.” These things are only different manifestations of one and the same sublime attribute. But, when I mention these, I have only just touched the spray of the wave. There are deeps that lie beneath in this expression, “the God of all grace,” for it contains all the graces which the soul must possess before it can enter eternal glory. Most certainly there must be the grace of repentance. The cry of “God be merciful to me” is a cry that comes down from heaven before ever it can break from my lips. “The God of all grace.” But repentance must ever be followed by faith. It is the gift of God. Then there are other graces yet to be manifested. “Faith worketh by love.” But love is born of God, for God is love, and if I love Him, it is because He first loved me. But no man can see the Lord apart from holiness. How can this poor, sin-stained man become holy? And the answer is, that it is the Spirit of the Lord that worketh holiness; and so, whilst He is the God of all manifestations of grace, He is the God of all the graces that I possess. But I have hardly begun yet with this enumeration. This text covers much more, for it includes all the supplies of grace that are needed along the road. It is a weary road: I need refreshing grace. It is a sorrowing path, because it is a sinful one: I need comforting grace. As a wandering sheep, I need restoring grace. Being weak as a babe, I need upholding grace. And everything that a saint can need from the moment of my new birth to that ecstatic instant when I stand before His eternal glory, without spot or wrinkle, lies centred in God.
II. This God of all grace calls us to eternal glory. Let us begin at the beginning. He has called you. The call that is intended here is, as Archbishop Leighton beautifully puts it, that call which goes deeper than the ear, touches the heart within, throws open the door, and admits the Christ. And consequently you will find that the word “called” becomes the title of the true Christian. A man of God is one who has been called. But how is he called? It is “unto His eternal glory in Christ”; not simply, mark you, for Christ’s sake. That is true, but it is not the truth here taught. He has called us to eternal glory “in Christ.” He called Christ into glory, and, when He called Christ into glory, He called me, because I am in Christ. The call that I receive is a call that sounds in the Son’s ear. It is a call “to His glory.” We share His blessedness. God’s glory is Himself. There is nothing more glorious about His glory than Himself. The only way in which God can glorify Himself is to reveal Himself. Come, lave thy spirit in the eternal blaze of Deity. Come, be at home with Me. That one word “glory” covers all joy, all blessing, all bliss. God has called us unto His eternal “glory.” But this is only the beginning of the theme. You have to put the word “eternal” into the scale. It is not a call for an age or for a millennium. Oh, fools that we are to weep our eyes out over earth’s sorrows, and to grumble our spirits into wretchedness because of a passing moment of care!
III. He allows a little interval of suffering which is itself full of blessing. Ah, we too often want to leave that bit out, “After that ye have suffered a while.” The call comes, but the glory does not come immediately after the call. The suffering is part of the call, as well as the glory. It is not a haphazard thing that comes in. It is all a part of the plan. When God calls you to glory, He calls you to come to glory through a little while of suffering. How this takes away all the acidity of one’s sorrows! It is part of the road to the eternal glory. It is just as much included in the plan as all the rest, And then, you see, it says that it is only a “little” while. Really the word “while” is not there. It is “after ye have suffered a little”; and you can choose, if you like, whether it means degree or duration. You say, “But why can I not go to heaven at once?” The answer is found in the last line of our text. He Himself will “make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” He will do it through this little interval of suffering. He will perfect you. Ah, there is nothing about us that is not imperfect. There are many little rents in us, and the Lord allows us to go through this little while of suffering so that He may repair the imperfections. Bad as you are, you would be worse if you had less trouble. There is not here, today, a child of God who is not the richer and the holier for the little while of suffering. The next word is “stablish,” and that implies fixity. Oh, we are very prone to fluctuation. Some times nothing but a heavy heart will give weight to a character, and so God says, “I cannot let that light and frivolous child remain like a piece of thistledown floating at the dictation of every breath of air. I must pass him through a little while of suffering.” That is stablishing. The word “settle” does not appear in the R.V. The last word there is “strengthen,” and the meaning of the word is “made powerful to resist attack.” There is the devil. He is roaring. Do you think you can resist the great adversary? Never! But the Lord steps ill, and says, “If I bid you meet the roaring lion, I will pass you through a little season of suffering which shall repair and stablish you, and put spiritual thews and sinews into you, so that in My strength you may overcome.” (A. G. Brown.)
Grace all in all
I. First, we are taught that the true conversion of the soul to God is a divine work, a work which the mercy of Heaven must begin, and the power of heaven carry forward, otherwise it never can be performed.
1. As to the source from whence conversion proceeds. St. Peter distinctly acknowledges it to be of God; he refers expressly to Him as the Author of that great change which had taken place in his own soul, and in the souls of those to whom he was writing. Consider in how many ways grace must be bestowed upon us in order to our salvation: we want grace to draw us, grace to enable us to believe, grace to strengthen us, grace to make us persevere; grace was wanting to contrive the scheme of our redemption; grace to carry it into execution, and grace to finish that glorious work.
2. As to the manner in which we are made partakers of this inestimable mercy: it is by calling “God, who hath called us.” Here is another proof that this change is “not of the will of man, but of God.” He makes ready, and He invites; we ourselves have no more to do with the preparing of that rich provision which is made for our souls in the gospel, than the guest has with the feast set before him by some hospitable entertainer. Nay, we have not naturally even the wish to partake of it.
3. As to the means by which it is accomplished: it is “by Jesus Christ.” That the children of God are called, that they are converted, that they are justified, that they are sanctified, that they shall be glorified, is all owing to, is all accomplished by, our blessed Lord and Saviour.
4. As to the end to which it leads: that end is God’s eternal glory. It is “His,” His own glory, His brightest gift, His choicest possession: it is that gift of God which Christ shed His precious blood to purchase. It is “eternal”; it is not like our poor fleeting pleasures; not like earthly riches, which make themselves wings and flee away; not like the pomps of this world, of a fashion which is always changing; but a glory which is without change, without end; a sun of brightness which shall never set.
II. That they in whom this work of grace is going on, called as they are to eternal glory, are by no means to consider themselves as free from sufferings or trial; on the contrary, the apostle seems to speak of these things as if they were certain to befall them; or rather, I should say, he addresses his converts as being, for the present, actually under tribulation.
1. They find their spiritual good thereby promoted.
2. They find that when trouble is nigh, God is also present.
3. They find not only that their troubles will soon be over-past, but far over-paid.
III. That what grace has begun we should be very earnest that the same grace will perfect. This is the blessing which the apostle asks for in his prayer. And now let me address-
1. Those who are under the influence of that grace of which the apostle is speaking; who have felt its power in turning them from their sins, in drawing them to Christ for salvation.
(1) Learn to prize the grace you have received; remember from whom it cometh; at what a price it was purchased; remember how it is conveyed to your souls by that blessed Spirit whose office it is to sanctify all the elect people of God,
(2) Be careful how you quench or slight it; do nothing contrary to its suggestions; endeavour to do all things according to its guidance.
(3) Endeavour to improve it; strive to show that you have not received the grace of God in vain; do not “take the beginning of a Christian life for the end of it, and sit down at the entrance,” when you ought rather to be pressing forward on the way; go on from strength to strength; aim high.
2. I would address myself to those whose consciences tell them they are as yet strangers to this grace, or, at least, are not living under its power.
(1) Oh, I will not endeavour to set before you the vanity of a life spent in search of things temporal; there must be some moments of seriousness. Point to that glory which you think so little about, and in preference to which you choose earthly things as your portion.
(2) Let me also remind you that to this glory, with all its brightness and all its reality, and all its eternity, you are invited. (F. Lear.)
The God of all the graces
You know that the word “grace” has many meanings, both in the original language of the verse and in our own language. As we use it familiarly, it is often “beauty.” So that we have it, “The God of all beauty.” And when you are admiring the gracefulness of some human form, in its finished delicacy; or looking upon the loveliness of nature-never forget that He is “the God of beauty.” Let us look at it in another of its meanings. “Grace” is, properly, a free gift, arid since every good thing is utterly undeserved by us, every good thing is of “grace.” All that raises and gladdens life-all goes to make “the grace of God.” But we generally accept the word as having reference to spiritual good, For instance, we take it as relating to the Christian virtues, “the fruits of the Spirit”; and we call them “the graces.” And He is “the God of all the graces.” Now, there are some “graces” that, at this moment, you feel that you particularly need. Remind yourself, and remind God, that He is the God of that “grace”; that it is all His: His to give; a part of His province; an attribute of His sovereignty. But “grace” is more distinctly the pardon of sin. The pardon of sin is a “grace”; a privilege; not purchased-by anything we can say, or do, or think, or pray, or believe. But pardon is not all you want. From the spiritual cradle to the gate of heaven, it is all of “grace.” You may safely, then, reason thus: “Lord, Thou didst call me. Thou didst it of Thy free favour. Therefore carry on, and perfect Thine own work.” And in life, as it goes on, your providences want their “graces.” And every providence requires its own appropriate and comforting “grace.” Sorrow and joy, bodily health and sickness, successes and disappointments-all want their own proper, rectifying, effectual “grace.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Who hath called us unto His eternal glory.-
I. What, then, is the destiny of the saints? God has “called us unto His eternal glory.” “Glory!” does not the very word astound you? Think of glory for us who have deserved eternal shame! Glory for us poor creatures who are often ashamed of ourselves!
1. This glory has been promised. What said David? (Psalms 73:24).
2. It is to this glory that we have been called. We are called to repentance, to faith, to holiness, we are called to perseverance, and all this that we may afterwards attain unto glory. We have another Scripture of like import in 1 Thessalonians 2:12.
3. And we are not only called to it, but glory is especially joined with justification (Romans 8:30). If you are justified by the righteousness of Christ, you shall be glorified through Christ Jesus, for thus hath God purposed, and so must it be. Do you not remember how salvation itself is linked with glory? (2 Timothy 2:10). The two things are riveted together, and cannot be separated.
4. The saved ones must partake of the glory of God, for this are they being prepared every day (Romans 9:23). This is the process which commenced in regeneration, and is going on in us every day in the work of sanctification. We cannot be glorified so long as sin remains in us; we must first be pardoned, renewed, and sanctified, and then we are fitted to be glorified.
5. Thus, then, it seems we are called to glory, and we are being prepared for it; is it not also a sweet thought that our present fellowship with Christ is the guarantee of it? (Romans 8:17). “No cross, no crown”: but he that has shared the battle shall partake in the victory.
6. I have not yet done, for there is a text, in Hebrews 2:10, which is well worthy of our consideration: we are to be brought to glory. We might despair of ever getting into the glory land if we had not One to bring us there, for the pilgrim’s road is rough and beset with many foes.
7. This glory will be for our entire manhood, for our body as well as for our soul. It will be rendered perfect. The body of a child will be fully developed, and the dwarf will attain to full stature. The blind shall not be sightless in heaven, neither shall the lame be halt, nor shall the palsied tremble. The deaf shall hear, and the dumb shall sing God’s praises.
II. Wherein doth this destiny consist?
1. Reckon that glory to a saint means, first of all, purified character. God’s Holy Spirit, when He has finished His work, will leave in us no trace of sin; no temptation shall be able to touch us, there will be in us no relics of our past and fallen state.
2. Next, I understand by “glory” our perfected manhood. Hero we are but in embryo: our minds are but the seeds, or the bulbs, out of which come the flower and glory of a nobler manhood. Your body is to be developed into something infinitely brighter and better than the bodies of men here below: and as for the soul, we cannot guess to what an elevation it shall be raised in Christ Jesus.
3. Further, by “glory” and coming to glory I think we must understand complete victory.
4. An invaluable ingredient in true glory is the Divine approval. One approving glance from the eye of Jesus, one accepting word from the mouth of the Father, will be glory enough for any one of us.
5. But this is not all: children of God will have the glory of reflecting the glory of God. When any of God’s unfallen creatures shall wish to see the greatness of God’s goodness, and mercy, and love, they that dwell in heaven will point out a glorified saint. Whenever any spirit from far off regions desires to know what is meant by faithfulness and grace, some angel will reply, “Go and talk with those who have been redeemed from among men.” Oh, this shall be our glory, that God shall shine through us to the astonishment of all.
6. In certain cases a man’s glory lies in his relationships. If any of the royal family should come to your houses you would receive them with respect; yes, and even as they went along the street they would be spied out, and passers-by would say, “That is the prince!” and they would honour the son of our good Queen. But royal descent is a poor business compared with being allied to the King of kings.
7. Then there will be connected with this the fact that we shall be connected with Jesus in everything. For do not you see it was because of our fall that Christ came here to save men; when He wrought out a perfect righteousness, it was all for us; when He died, it was all for us; and when He rose again, it was all for us? And what is more, we lived in Christ, we died in Him, we were buried in Him and rose in Him, and we shall ascend into heaven to reign with Him.
8. And yet this is not all, for there in heaven we shall dwell in the immediate presence of God. We shall dwell with Him in nearest and dearest fellowship! All the felicity of the Most High will be our felicity.
9. Highest of all our glory will be the enjoyment of God Himself. He will be our exceeding joy: this bliss will swallow up every other, the blessedness of God. “The Lord is my portion,” saith my soul. “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” Our God shall be our glory.
10. Yet bear with me, I have left out a word again: the text has it, “Unto His eternal glory.” Ay, but that is the gem of the ring. The glory which God has in reserve for His chosen will never come to an end: it will stay with us, and we shall stay with it, forever. It will always be glory, too; its brightness will never become dim; we shall never be tired of it, or sated with it.
III. What influence should all this have upon our hearts?
1. I think it ought to excite desire in many here present that they might attain unto glory by Christ Jesus.
2. This ought to move us to the feeling of fear. If there be such a glory as this, let us tremble lest by any means we should come short of it.
3. If we are right, how this ought to move us to gratitude! What a contrast to our deserts!
4. It should move us to a dauntless courage. If this glory is to be had, do we not feel like the heroes in Bunyan’s picture? Before the dreamer there stood a fair palace, and he saw persons walking upon the top of it, clad in light, and singing. Around the door stood armed men to keep back those who would enter. Then a brave man came up to one who had a writer’s ink horn by his side, and said, “Set down my name”; and straightway the warrior drew his sword, and fought with all his might, until he had cut his way to the door. Will you not draw your swords and fight against sin till you have overcome it? (C. H. Spurgeon)
After that ye have suffered a while.-
The consolations and sufferings of the believer, and their effects upon his character
I. The consolation here set before us. “God hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” In such wonderful terms the Word of God expresses the blessed remedy which His mercy hath provided for the evils of man’s fallen state; and you cannot fail to observe how much more they express than a mere relief from such evils. It is a call to a state of actual happiness. It is a call to a state of positive excellence or holiness. It is, finally, a call to a state which we have no language to describe, nor material of thought to imagine-namely, a state of “glory.”
II. The course through which you must pass. “After that ye have suffered a while.” Men have sometimes made it an objection against the goodness of God, that there is so much suffering in this world. This they might do with more reason if they could show that men are innocent in this world and deserve no correction, or even that they are, willing to be prepared for the happiness of another world and need no such calls to serious consideration; but, in the present sinful state of fallen man, the very goodness of God requires that there should be suffering. That suffering is indeed, in justice, the punishment for sin, but at the same time it is, in mercy, the corrective of our wanderings. “God hath called us to His eternal glory”; but how little do men naturally care even for eternal glory, so long as they can find their pleasure elsewhere? The very bounties of their Creator unhappily rather drive them to a greater distance from Him, instead of drawing them nearer. He needs to wither these comforts, or to interrupt our enjoyment of them, before we can see their insufficiency and remember the better blessings awaiting us. It is generally, in short, only after we have “suffered a while,” that we think of “the eternal glory” to which God hath called us. You cannot indeed be supposed to wish for “afflictions, or to welcome them as your choice. This is always your best consolation under them, that they are neither sent idly nor borne uselessly. They not only serve to show you more dearly the true value of the eternal glory which awaiteth you, but also to prepare your souls the better for its enjoyment. In this view they bring a blessing which compensates for their evil.
III. The effect to be produced both by your consolations and sufferings as Christians, viz., that you may be “made perfect, stablished, strengthened, settled.” (J. Brewster, D. D.)
The Church’s present and future
I. The church’s present lot. “After that ye have suffered a while.” It seems a strange thing to say that there is a necessity for suffering while here. The Church’s lot is not here intended to be anything else; not that it is always the same in amount of suffering, but that it never is wholly free from it. The suffering may be inward or it may be outward. But mark, the apostle says it is “a little while.” We read of “much” tribulation and “great” tribulation, but here it is for a little. “Our light affliction which is but for a moment.” Perhaps it may seem long to us.
II. The church’s perfection, completion, or consummation through means of suffering. “Make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” “Make you perfect.” As if thus-“Make you perfect”: that is to say, “stablish, strengthen, settle you.” “Perfect.” The word is, literally, “fully equip you,” equip you as a soldier is equipped for warfare. There are many things that go to equip a soldier: not merely his armour, not merely his sword and his shield, but his bodily frame. Now the word first of all is a full fit out, and a full equipment, so that he shall in the end, when the process is completed, be fully ready for that which is before him. “Make you perfect” is the meaning of every trial.
1. “Stablish” is more exactly rendered by “firm,” “consolidate,” “make firm.” This, I should say, is the first part of the threefold part of the process which these three words describe: the consolidation of the Christian character, making him firm in all parts of his spiritual frame.
2. Strength. There is strength as well as consolidation needed. There are many things that are firm and consolidated that are not strong. God’s object is to make us strong.
3. The third thing here specified is settling, that is, firmly rooting and grounding, so that we shall not be moved. These words describe the process that is going on through the discipline which God is exercising through every son that He receiveth. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
Suffering and perfection
Peter speaks of our “having suffered a while,” and then being made “perfect.” What a consolatory juxtaposition have we here-suffering first, and perfection afterwards. To make me enjoy heaven, He causes me to weep a while here. Music is all the more delicious when preceded by discord; peace is the more prized after war; health after sickness; and life, in all its beauty and vigour, will be only truly enjoyed “after that we have suffered while.” Thanks to Peter for that little word “awhile.” It is not always “night.” It shall be day when the sun gets up. It shall not be always suffering with us. No-no; already the handkerchief is shaken out, wherewith tears are to be wiped away. (John Macfarlane, D. D.)
An apostolic prayer
It is the first duty of Christian minister to endeavour to convert sinners to God. The second object of the Christian ministry is the improvement of those already converted. Those trees of righteousness are not only to be planted in the garden of the Lord, but to be watered also.
I. The character of jehovah. He is called “the God of all grace.”
II. As operation. “Who hath called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” This glory is eternal. A future state of being is intended to develop all our spiritual excellences, and therefore it is called glory.
III. We have here a prayer. “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” Peter here has a pleonasm which shows how earnestly he felt it in his own mind; he was deeply impressed, but could hardly find words to express his meaning and desire. “Do for you exceeding abundantly above all that ye can ask or think.” There are, however, in this prayer three things which we may distinctly observe.
1. First, it includes much progress ill religion: “Make you perfect.” Christians should never be satisfied. In your secular affairs you wish not only to go on, but to prosper. Why not show the same concern in your religious affairs? A little does not satisfy you in temporals, why should it in spirituals? especially since the latter is much more necessary and desirable; and you are commanded not only to have the Spirit, but to be “filled with the Spirit.”
2. Another thing to be observed in this prayer is confirmation. For it is to little purpose to gain unless you retain also. “Stablish, strengthen, settle you.”
3. But observe, thirdly, the Divine agency necessary for this. Peter not only admonishes, but prays for them. Who is to make them so? “Why,” said he, “the God of all grace, who hath called us to His eternal glory.” Who is to be the finisher but He who is the Author? “He who hath begun a good work in you will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ.” “He shall fulfil in you all the good pleasure of His will, and the work of faith with power.”
IV. Consider the concession. “After that ye have suffered a while.” First, a suffering state is to precede their finishing their course with joy. Yes, before you reign with Him you are to suffer with Him. In the beginning of the gospel the sufferings of Christians arose much from persecution. I have known persons who have probably suffered more than many of the martyrs. The martyr has had public excitement; these have suffered in obscurity: the martyr’s sufferings have soon ended; but here the melancholy experience stretches out from week to week, and even from year to year. These sufferings are needful: God, who loves His people infinitely, would not allow them to suffer without some gracious design. Yes, the fallow ground requires the ploughshare to prepare it for the seed. Even the vine needs the pruning knife, that it may bring forth fruit. (W. Jay, M. A.)
Stablish, strengthen, settle you.-
The good and means of establishment
Some think these words are spoken in the way of a promise from God; others think they are spoken in the way of prayer to God.
1. The mercy and blessing prayed for. It is expressed in four words: “Perfect, stablish, strengthen, and settle you.” The first word, which we render “perfect,” should, I think, be translated otherwise. It is the same word that is used in Matthew 4:21 and Mark 1:19 for mending of their nets; and the same that is used in Galatians 6:1 : “You that are spiritual ‘restore’ such an one with the spirit of meekness”; and it signifies such a restoring as is of unjointed members. Now these Christians being scattered, the apostle prays that God would please to joint them again. Thus the God of all grace, after you have suffered and been shattered, bring you into order, restore and repair you. It is a great blessing of God, and worthy of all our prayer, to be established and settled in the truth and good ways of God. Settling grace and mercy, in opposition both to outward and inward trouble, is a great mercy and well worth praying for.
1. First, it is a great mercy and blessing for a nation or kingdom to be in a settled state and condition outwardly; for it is the mercy promised, and promised mercies are no small mercies (Jeremiah 24:6; Jeremiah 32:37; Jeremiah 32:41; 2 Samuel 7:16).
2. Secondly, as it is a mercy for a nation to be settled and established, so for the Church of God; for when the Church hath this rest, then it is edified, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost (Acts 9:31). Establishment is the mercy promised to the Church also (Isaiah 2:2). It is that mercy and blessing which the apostles laboured for continually (Acts 14:21). This they also prayed for; and therefore as the Apostle Peter shuts up his Epistle with this prayer for the dispersed Christian-Jews, so the Apostle Paul doth close up his Epistle to the Corinthians with the same desire and prayer for them (2 Corinthians 13:1-14) And Romans 16:25. And as it is the mercy prayed for, so sometimes it is made the signal mercy whereby the Church is declared to be the Church of Christ: “Whose house ye are,” saith the apostle to the Hebrews, “if you hold fast the confidence of your rejoicing stedfast to the end.”
3. But especially it is a great mercy for a particular soul to be settled in the truth and established in the good ways of God. It is the ground of all our fruitfulness: ye know how it is with a tree or plant, though in itself it be never so good, yet if it be not settled in the earth it bringeth forth no fruit: if the plant be good and the soil good, it may bring forth good fruit; but if you be always removing it from one place to another, it cannot bring forth fruit. It is the bottom of all our praises. The birds do not ordinarily sing till they be set; they do not usually sing flying; but when they are fixed: so saith David, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed”; and what then? then saith he, “I will sing and give praise”; but not till then. And what is the reason that many pass so many years of their lives in doubtings and fears, never praising God for any love or mercy to them? but because they are unsettled in their spiritual estate and condition. It is the beginning of our perseverance: then I begin to persevere when I begin to settle and to be established. As instability is the beginning of apostasy, so settledness is the beginning of perseverance. It is that good thing which pleaseth God exceedingly. God was so pleased with Jehoshaphat upon that account that He passed by his infirmities, even because his heart was fixed and established (2 Chronicles 19:2). And it is also the character of a good and gracious person, whereby he is distinguished from the ungodly of the world. A good man lives and dwelleth at the sign of a settled conversation; he is planted by the rivers of water (Psalms 1:1-6); the wicked are as the chaff that is driven to and fro, not settled, not planted.
II. It is worthy of all our prayers. It is a great blessing, and worthy of all our prayers, to be settled and established in the good ways of God. It is that mercy, grace, and blessing which we all need. It is God only who doth give out this grace, it belongs unto Him alone to establish nations, churches, and persons. He is able to establish those who do come to Him for it: “Now to Him that is of power to establish you,” etc. (Romans 16:25). He is willing to do it: “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and keep you from evil” (2 Thessalonians 3:3). He is engaged to do it, for He hath promised to do it, as hath been proved already, and it is His prerogative: “Now He which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God” (2 Corinthians 1:21). What shall we do, then, that we may be established?
1. As for a nation or Christian state. It must first settle religion, for religion is the mainmast, and if that be not strengthened all the tackling will be loose (Isaiah 33:23). Then must there be care taken for a succession of godly magistrates. And therefore let them and all the people remember the good counsel of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:20).
2. As for a Church. If particular churches would be settled and established, they must have all the officers and ordinances of Christ then; as a ship under sail, with all its sails out, is beautiful and doth move evenly, so shall they also do. Oh, that churches therefore would take heed of these great sins, pride, and covetousness, which will always keep them in an unsettled condition. But especially it is the duty of all the churches to pray much for this great mercy of establishment (Isaiah 62:6).
3. As for particular persons. Wouldst thou be established in the truth and good ways of God? Then observe what those things are which do make others unsettled, and take heed thereof. Surely either it is because they do want primitive breakings; for the stony ground comes to nothing at the last, though it hath much joy at the first, because it wants depth of earth. The stick that is thrust into the earth is more easily pulled up than the plant which is rooted in the earth. So are all those who have no root in themselves. Or because they take up great resolutions without answerable pre-deliberations; whereas we know that the needle must play about the polar point before it comes to stand and settle; he that would hit the mark must take his level before he parts with his arrow. And if men resolve before they have fully considered, they will ere long be unresolved again. Or because men do not walk by a settled rule: he can never be settled that doth not walk by a settled rule. So long as I want the Divine counsel of the Word, my heart is like a vagrant that is most unstable, said Bernard; for whilst I am not subject to God, I am contrary to myself. Or because they are divided in their own hearts. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways-a heart for the world, yet a good mind to Christ; how is it possible but they should be most unsettled? Or because they are too confident of their own strength and judgment: whereas the only way to be firm and stedfast is to be sensible of one’s own infirmity. Or because men do forsake the ministry which Christ hath given to the churches for their edification, perfection, and establishment (Ephesians 4:11-14). Or because they have too fair an opinion of those that are erroneous, thinking that they may be godly, though they be never so unsound in their judgments. Or because that men do not improve their Christian communion for the life and power of godliness, but for light only, and discoursing notions: whereas Paul saith (1 Timothy 6:20-21). Or because they have not been built on the rock Christ, but on some sandy foundation: whereas the Psalmist saith, “He set my feet on a rock, and established my goings” (Psalms 40:2). But what shall I do that I may be more settled in regard of my judgment, and that I may be established in the present truth? Get a clear and distinct understanding in the things and truths of the gospel: labour, not only to know, but to get a clear and judicious apprehension and clearness in the truths of Christ. Be sure that you do not make any impression the rule and square of your judgment; judge not doctrines by impressions. “We have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye shall do well that you take heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place” (1 Peter 1:19). The Word of God without is my rule, the light within is my help to understand that rule; but if I judge of doctrines by impressions of the Word on my heart I can never be settled; therefore take heed of that. Get into the house of God; God’s house is an house of establishment; there He commandeth His blessing, and life forever more; there the Lord hath promised to make men pillars for stedfastness (Revelation 3:12). Whatever truth you know do not only know it in a spiritual way, but put the same into practice; the way to be established in the truth is to walk therein (Colossians 2:6-7). But what shall I do that 1 may be more settled in my life and established in the good ways of God? You must be very sensible of your own unsettled ness, and be humbled for it; he is not far from establishment that is very sensible of his own unsettledness. Labour for a solid and a serious spirit: a serious spirit and an established heart go together (Proverbs 4:26). Be sure that you do not live upon your condition itself, but on the God of your condition; that is perpetual which hath a perpetuating cause. The more delight and contentment that you find in the good ways of God, the more your hearts will be fixed, established, and staked down to them; comfort and establishment go together (2 Thessalonians 2:17). Do you desire to be fixed and established? labour more and more, then, to make your way to heaven easy and comfortable to you. (W. Bridge, M. A.)
Christian stability, strength, and establishment
Through “suffering,” and alter the “suffering” will come four things: “Make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”
1. By the first, I understand theft God will knit you together, one part with another. So that, as we say of anything which is entire and unbroken, “It is perfect,” so it will be with you. Your mind, your affections, and your soul, and your body one-living for the same end, living the same life, by the same Christ. Yourself one man, a whole, “perfect.”
2. Then, made one with yourself, His one Spirit animating the whole being, He will “stablish” you, give you firmness and stability. Now is not it exactly what you want? Not feelings, principles-“stability.” You shall feel your foundation under you deeper than the everlasting hills!
3. He will fulfil His beautiful promise. “Will He plead against me with His great power? No; but He will put strength into me.” You will become-that which in such a world as this you need-that which is the secret of all peace, of all decision, of all usefulness in life-a strong character.
4. And so we travel to the highest, the last, and the best-“He will settle you.” He will give you rest. Heaven has been beautifully defined “the rest of desire.” But how is “settling,” rest? To “settle,” is to repose upon your foundation; to “settle,” is to have an attraction, and to that attraction always to point. The ship “settles” to her anchor; the mountains “settle” to their base; the magnet “settles” to its pole. So God will “settle” you on Christ. And not only that. Every brick put into the wall, every storey added to a well-built house, “settles” the whole structure. In like manner God, enabling you to add work to work and usefulness to usefulness, will so “settle” you, by your increase, while He “builds you up in your own most holy faith”; and then “settled” on Christ, in Christ, to Christ, for Christ, with Christ, you will not be the restless creature you once were; you will not need to go about here and there for satisfaction, for you have a resting place, and in that place of your rest you will understand the wisdom and the order of the arrangement and the exquisite completeness of the Divine plan. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
A New Year’s benediction
Peter turns from exhortation to prayer. Having exhorted believers to walk stedfastly he bends his knee and commends them to the guardian care of Heaven, imploring upon them one of the largest blessings for which the most affectionate heart ever made application.
I. What the apostle asks for all to whom this epistle was written. He asks for them: perfection, establishment, strengthening, settling.
1. Perfection. Indeed, though this be a large prayer, and the jewel is a diamond of the first water and of the finest size, yet is it absolutely necessary to a Christian that he should ultimately arrive at perfection. What were a Christian if he were not perfected? Have you never seen the human face divine starting out from the chiselled marble? You have seen the exquisite skill of the sculptor, and you have said within yourself, “What a marvellous thing will this be! what a matchless specimen of human skill!” But, alas I it never was completed, but was left unfinished. And do you imagine, any of you, that God will begin to sculpture out a perfect being and not complete it? Hath God cease from sin--
The fixity of habit
Having eyes full of an adulteress.” All who possess eyes at all have them full of something. I have heard one of exquisite aesthetic sensibility, who had seen some of the glorious painted glass at St. Gudule, in Brussels, on a summer day, declare that for days his eyes were “full of those colours, especially the blue.” The eye of the woman of “meek and quiet spirit,” wherever circumstances may lead her, is full of love. Even so the sensualist’s eye is “full of an adulteress,” filled full, so that it can hold no more. The eyes are fixed in an evil expression which they can never lose. They give signal to all whom it concerns that they are ever on the watch. That which is choke-full often means, in the original, satiated. But such eyes are insatiate and insatiable. This is one of God’s terrible voices of mortal judgment, one of those hints which tell us what a man may become. Let us consider that law of human character which is the foundation of the law of Divine punishment, without which, indeed, the latter cannot be spiritually construed to the spiritual nature. Character, then, as the derivation of the word implies, has a tendency to become, and frequently does become, absolutely stereotyped, from a practical point of view. Generally speaking, up to a certain date, a man may issue a second edition of his moral life, revised and corrected, perhaps even entirely recast. Still a day comes when the second edition, with the “errata” expunged, is not possible any longer. The eye once “full of an adulteress “may be filled with dust, but the ineradicable image has been carried to, and abides for ever in, that “inward eye,” which is the “bliss “or bane, the heaven or hell of “solitude.” This is a solemn argument for youth, when the vapour of imagination and passion are beginning to condense into habit; for that portion of manhood during which habit is becoming of insoluble density. Let us beware of the lust of the eyes. Be ours the prayer, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken Thou me in Thy way.” Nor let any who ponders this argument turn from it with a sigh of despair, “For me it is too late.” If we have enough of will left to desire earnestly a new mind, it is not too late. Such can still hear the voice--“Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.” (Abp. Wm. Alexander.)
Some of us may remember the fable of a covetous man, who chanced to find his way one moonlight night into a fairy’s palace. There he saw bars, apparently of solid gold, strewed on every side, and he was permitted to take away as many as he could carry. In the morning, when the sun rose on his imaginary treasure, borne home with so much toil, behold! there was only a bundle of sticks, and invisible beings filled the air around him with scornful laughter.
Oh do not so marry yourselves to money that you are resolved nothing shall part you but death; be not like the medlar, which is never good till it be rotten. A covetous man may be compared to a Christmas-box--he receives money, but parts with none till death breaks this box in pieces; then the silver and gold comes tumbling out. (T. Watson.)