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GROWTH IN GRACE IS TO BE DESIRED
1 Peter 2:1-3. Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby; if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
A STRANGE opinion has obtained amongst some, that there is no such thing as growth in grace. But the whole tenour of Scripture, from one end of it to the other, proclaims the contrary. We will go no further than to the passage before us, and to the context connected with it. In the beginning of his epistle, the Apostle had spoken of Christians as “begotten by God the Father to a lively hope [Note: 1 Peter 1:3.].” To stir them up to walk worthy of their high calling, he says to them, “Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end, as obedient children; not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in your ignorance; but, as he who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy [Note: 1 Peter 1:13-16.].” This injunction he enforces by a great variety of arguments. He urges, first, the consideration, that God the Father will judge them according to their works [Note: 1 Peter 1:17.]; then, that they have been redeemed by God the Son [Note: 1 Peter 1:18-19.]; and then, that they have been born of God the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of the preached word, which unalterably inculcates and requires holiness [Note: 1 Peter 1:23-25.]. From these premises he deduces the exhortation in our text: “Wherefore, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby; if so be ye have tasted, (or as it should rather be translated, since ye have tasted,) that the Lord is gracious.” Here the idea is kept up of their being children of God, though children but newly born; and they are urged to desire and feed upon that blessed provision which God has made for them in his word, and which alone can secure their growth in the divine life.
The words, thus viewed, will lead us to consider,
The character of God’s children—
Many are the descriptions given of them in the Holy Scriptures; but there is not one in all the inspired volume more simple or more accurate than this: “They have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” This, I say, is,
Their universal experience—
[There is not a child of God in the universe to whom this character does not belong. The very instant that a child is born of God, this is his experience. Indeed it is of “new-born babes” that it is spoken. As to their knowledge of God, his nature, his perfections, his purposes, it may be extremely limited and imperfect. Even of the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of “the exceeding riches of God’s grace as displayed in him,” they may know but little: but they have “tasted that the Lord is gracious,” and they do assuredly know it by their own happy experience. If the person be young or old, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, he has learned this, and knows it, and feels it in his inmost soul. He has heard of the Saviour; he has sought for mercy through him; and he has received into his soul a sense of God’s pardoning love and mercy in Christ Jesus: and in this he does rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. He may indeed have received but a taste: but a taste he has received: and it is “sweeter to him than thousands of gold and silver.” The most uncivilized savage, when born of God, is in this respect on a footing with the most enlightened philosopher: he has believed in Christ; and he “makes Christ all his salvation, and all his desire.”]
Their exclusive distinction—
[Simple as this is, there is not a creature upon the face of the whole earth of whom it can with truth be predicated, but of one who has been “begotten of God,” and “born again of the Holy Spirit.” Others may be very wise and learned, and may be able to descant with accuracy upon all the deep things of God. They may in words and in profession greatly magnify the grace of God: but they have never had a taste of it in their own souls. And the reason is plain: they have never felt their undone state by nature: they have never been sensible of the immense load of guilt which they have contracted by their own actual transgressions. Consequently, they have never trembled for fear of God’s wrath, nor with strong crying and tears sought deliverance from it through the atoning blood of Jesus. Hence the grace of God has never been extended to them; and consequently they have never “tasted that the Lord is gracious.” They, as I have before said, may descant learnedly upon the subject of divine grace; but their discussions proceed from the head only, and not from the heart. As a man who has never tasted honey, however conversant he may be with its qualities, has no just conception of its flavour, so none but he who has experienced the grace of God in his soul can know really what it is. He knows it, because he has tasted it: and others know it not, because they have not tasted it.]
The Apostle addressing these declares to them,
He teaches them,
What they are to put away, as injurious to their welfare—
[The unconverted man, though he may appear righteous before men, is in reality full of the most abominable evils. He may not indulge in any gross sins; but he is full of “malice” towards those who have injured him in any tender point; and would feel gratified, rather than pained, at any evil that should befall him. His whole converse with mankind, too, is for the most part little better than one continued system of “guile and hypocrisy,” which are the two chief constituents of what is called politeness. If a rival surpass him in any thing on which his heart is set, and gain the honours which he panted for, he will soon find that the spirit which is in him lusteth to “envy.” Moreover, whether he be more or less guarded in his general conversation, he will find in himself a propensity to “evil speaking,” as if he felt himself more elevated in proportion as others are depressed. Now these dispositions are more or less dominant in the natural man, as St. Paul has strongly and repeatedly declared [Note: Ephesians 2:3.Titus 3:3; Titus 3:3.] — — — and, after a person is converted to the faith of Christ, he needs to watch and pray against them with all imaginable care: for as inveterate disorders in the constitution will impede the growth, and destroy the vigour, of the body, so will these hateful dispositions “war against,” and, if not subdued and mortified, prevail to the destruction of, the soul. These things therefore must be “put away.”]
What they must seek after, as conducive to their growth—
[As “the word is the incorruptible seed of which they are born [Note: 1 Peter 1:23.],” so is it the food, upon which, as “new-born babes,” they must subsist. In the inspired volume, they have truth without any mixture of error. The writings of men take partial views of things, and all more or less savour of human infirmity. Nor can the soul live upon them. If we have read a human composition two or three times, we are weary of it: but this is not the case with the word of God: that is ever new, and ever sweet to the taste of a regenerate soul. A little infant affects nothing so much as its mother’s breast. From day to day it prefers that before every thing else that can be offered to it: and it thrives with that, better than with any food that human ingenuity can devise. So in the “sincere” and unadulterated “milk of the word,” there is something more sweet and nutritious, than in all other books in the universe. In the inspired volume, God is presented to the soul under such endearing characters; the Lord Jesus Christ is set forth in such glorious views; the precepts, the promises, the threatenings, the examples, are all so harmoniously blended; in short, truths of every kind are conveyed to the mind with such simple majesty and commanding force, that they insinuate themselves into the whole frame of the soul, and nourish it in a way that no human composition can. This therefore we should desire, in order to our spiritual growth. We should read it, meditate upon it, delight ourselves in it: we should embrace every truth contained in it; its precepts, in order to a more entire conformity to them; its promises, in order to the encouragement of our souls in aspiring after the highest degrees of holiness. In short, we should get it blended with the whole frame and constitution of our souls, so that, to all who behold us from day to day, our growth and profiting may appear: nor should we be satisfied with any attainment, till we have arrived at “the full measure of the stature of Christ.”]
Let me further improve this subject,
In a way of inquiry—
[I am not now about to inquire, Whether you have mode a great proficiency in the divine life, but Whether you have ever begun to live, or whether you are yet “dead in trespasses and sins?” In all the book of God, there is not a more simple, or more decisive test, than in the words before us. The extent of your knowledge or attainments is at present out of the question. The only point I wish to ascertain is this; “Have you been born again?” If you have not made any progress in the divine life, are you “as new-born babes?” Have you been brought, as it were, into a new world? and are you living altogether in a new way? I do not ask whether, in “passing from death unto life,” you have experienced any terrors of mind; or whether the change has been so sudden, that you can fix on the time when it commenced? but this I ask, Whether you have attained such views of Jesus Christ, that he is become truly “precious to your souls [Note: ver. 7.]?” You cannot but know, that, however you may have been accustomed to call Christ your Saviour, you have not really found any delight in him in past times. But if you have been “born again of the Spirit,” a change has taken place in this particular, and you have been made to feel your obligations to him, and to claim him as “the Friend, and the Beloved of your soul.” I entreat you to examine carefully into this matter; for, if this change have not taken place within you, ye are yet in your sins. Oh, reflect on what our blessed Lord has so solemnly and so repeatedly affirmed; “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God [Note: John 3:3; John 3:5.].” If you ask, What shall I do to attain this experience? I would say, Search out your sins, in order that you may know your need of Christ; and then go to him as the friend of sinners, who casts out none who come unto him. In a word, I would refer you to the words of our text, as contained in the 34th Psalm, from whence they are taken; “O taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man that trusteth in him [Note: Psalms 34:8.].”]
In a way of affectionate exhortation—
[You have reason, I will suppose, to believe that you have been born again; and that, though of no great stature in the divine life, you are new-born babes. If this be so, you have more reason to be thankful than if you were made possessors of the whole world: and I therefore call upon you to bless and magnify the Lord with your whole souls. But be not contented to continue in a state of infantine weakness, but seek to grow up into the stature of “young men, and fathers [Note: 1 John 2:12-13.].” Some imagine that, as children, they may stand excused for the smallness of their attainments; but this is a grievous error. See with what severity St. Paul reproved the Corinthian converts for their want of progress in the divine life. Their continuing babes in their attainments proved them to be yet carnal, instead of spiritual; and prevented his feeding them with stronger meat, that would have nourished and strengthened their souls [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:1-4.]. See also how he condemned the same in the Hebrew converts, who by their infantine weakness were incapacitated for the reception of those sublime truths, which he would gladly have imparted to them [Note: Hebrews 5:12; Hebrews 5:14.]. Be afraid then of standing still in religion: for if you make not progress in it, you will speedily go backward; and if you decline from God’s ways, O, how terrible will your state become! The Apostle tells us, that “if, after having tasted of the heavenly gift, and tasted of the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, you fall away, it is impossible for you ever to be renewed unto repentance, seeing that you will have crucified the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame [Note: Hebrews 6:4-6.].” Seek then to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and, by a constant attention to the suggestions in my text, so increase with the increase of God, that you may grow up into Christ in all things as your living Head, and finally attain the full measure of the stature of Christ.”]
THE TEMPLE A TYPE
1 Peter 2:4-5. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
AS in the natural life, so in the spiritual, a state of maturity is attained by a slow and gradual progression; but every one should be aspiring after a further growth in grace, in order that he may reach the full measure of the stature of Christ. For this end the Apostle exhorts those who had tasted that the Lord is gracious, to covet the sincere milk of the word; and to come continually to Christ, in order to their more abundant edification in faith and love. His allusions to the material temple are worthy of our attentive consideration: he compares Christ to the foundation-stone, and believers to the other stones built upon it; thereby shewing, that the temple had a typical reference to them,
In its foundation—
Christ is here represented as the foundation-stone on which all are built—
[When personally considered, Christ is represented as the temple itself, in which dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead [Note: John 2:19-21.]: but, as considered in relation to his people, he is the foundation-stone, that supports the whole edifice [Note: Isaiah 28:16. 1 Corinthians 3:11.]. The quality ascribed to this stone is indeed singular; but it is perfectly suited to him of whom it is spoken. Christ is called “a living” stone, not merely as being of distinguished excellence (as he is also the “living bread,” and “living water”) but as having life in himself, and being the author of life to all who depend upon him: a quickening energy proceeds from him, which pervades and animates every part of this spiritual fabric [Note: John 5:21; John 5:26.].]
In this situation He is precious to all who know him—
[He has indeed in all ages been “disallowed of men,” who, blinded by Satan and their own lusts, neither “saw any beauty in him for which he was to be desired,” “nor would come to him that they might have life.” The very persons appointed to build the temple have been the first to reject him [Note: Acts 4:11.]: they could not endure that so much honour should be put upon him; or that they should be constrained to acknowledge him as the one source of all their stability. But he was “chosen of God” from all eternity, as the only Being capable of supporting the weight of this vast edifice; and, so perfectly is he suited to his place, that “he is precious” to God, and precious to all who are built upon him. If all the angels in heaven were ordered to fill his place but for a moment, the whole building would fall to ruins: but in him there is a suitableness and sufficiency, that at once delights the heart of God [Note: Isaiah 42:1.], and inspires his people with implicit confidence.]
Nor is the foundation only of the temple typical; there is a typical reference also,
In its superstructure—
Believers are the stones of which the temple is composed—
[Every man, in his natural state, is as the stones in a quarry, ignorant of the end to which he is destined, and incapable of doing any thing towards the accomplishment of it. But the great Master-builder, by the instrumentality of those who labour under his direction, selects some from the rest, and fashions them for the places which he intends them to occupy in this spiritual building. But, as the temple of Solomon was built without the noise of an axe or hammer, or any other tool [Note: 1 Kings 6:7.], so are these brought in a silent manner [Note: Job 33:15-16. Acts 16:14.], and “fitly framed together for an habitation of God through the Spirit [Note: Ephesians 2:21-22.].”]
By “coming to Christ” they are gradually built up upon him—
[Believers, quickened by Christ, become “lively,” or living “stones,” like unto Christ himself: “they live by him,” yea, he himself is their life [Note: Colossians 3:4.]. Notwithstanding therefore they have of themselves no power, through his quickening Spirit they become voluntary agents; and though it is true that they are “drawn to him by the Father [Note: John 6:44.],” yet it is also true, that they “come to him,” willingly and with strong desire. And this is the way in which “they are built up a spiritual house:” by “coming to him” they are placed upon him; and by coming to him yet again and again, they derive “more abundant life” from him; they are more and more fitted for the place they occupy; they are more closely knit to all the other parts of this sacred building, and more firmly established on him as their one foundation. It is thus that the fabric itself is enlarged by the constant addition of fresh materials; and thus that “every part of the building groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.”]
A similar view must yet further be taken of the temple,
In its services—
The same persons, who before were represented as the stones of the building, are now, by an easy transition, spoken of as the priests officiating in it.
Believers are “an holy priesthood”—
[None could officiate in the material temple but those of the tribe of Levi: but, in the spiritual temple, all are priests, whether Jews or Gentiles, male or female: “The chosen generation are also a royal priesthood [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.];” who are not only entitled, but bound, to transact their own business with God. This honour also they attain by “coming unto Christ:” by him they are “made kings and priests unto God;” and “through him they have boldness to enter into the holiest,” and to present themselves before the majesty of heaven.]
Nor shall the sacrifices which they offer be presented in vain—
[They come not indeed with the blood of bulls and of goats; but they bring the infinitely more precious blood of Christ. On account of his atonement, their prayers and praises, their alms and oblations, yea, all their works of righteousness come up with a sweet savour before God, and their persons as well as services find a favourable acceptance in his sight [Note: Hebrews 13:15-16.]. Nor though, through the infirmity of their flesh, their offerings be very imperfect, shall they therefore be despised: if only they be presented with an humble and willing mind, God, even under the law, and much more under the Gospel, has promised to accept them [Note: Lev 22:19-23. 2 Corinthians 8:12.].]
Let us learn from this subject,
[Whatever be our attainments in the divine life, we have one daily and hourly employment, to be “coming to Christ:” by these means we shall be advanced and established; but, if we neglect them, we shall fall and perish. Nor must the opinions of men be of any weight when opposed to this duty: whoever despise, we must “choose” him; whoever abhor, we must account him “precious:” if the whole universe should combine against him, we must be firm in our adherence to him. Nor must we rest in cold uninfluential professions of regard. We must devote ourselves to him, while we build upon him; and present ourselves, and all that we possess, as living sacrifices unto our God and Father.]
[Being brought nigh to God by the blood of Christ, it is our privilege to maintain fellowship with him as our reconciled God. We should banish all doubts about the acceptance of our feeble endeavours; and come, like the high-priest himself, even to his mercy-seat, there to make known our wants, and obtain the blessings we stand in need of. Methinks our state on earth should resemble, in a measure, the state of those in heaven: we should possess the same humble confidence, the same holy joy: and our sacrifices, enflamed with heavenly fire, should ever be ascending from the altar of a grateful heart, that God may smell a sweet savour, and “rejoice over us to do us good.”
Thrice happy they who so walk before him! Let it be the ambition of us all to do so: then shall we indeed be “temples of the Holy Ghost [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:19.]:” we shall “draw nigh to God, and God will draw nigh to us;” we shall “dwell in God, and God will dwell in us;” and the communion, begun on earth, shall be carried on and perfected in glory.]
THE SECURITY OF THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN CHRIST
1 Peter 2:6. It is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
THE Scriptures universally speak the same language with respect to Christ: in every part he is represented as the only Saviour, and the all-sufficient help of sinful man. In this respect the Old Testament prepares us for what is contained in the New, and the New reflects light upon the Old; and thus they mutually illustrate and confirm each other. This observation naturally arises from the frequent appeals made by the Apostles to the prophetic writings; and particularly from the manner in which St. Peter introduces the passage before us: he seems to intimate not only that the prophet had been inspired to declare the same truth, but that this prophecy had been given of God on purpose to prepare the way for the more direct injunctions of the Gospel. His words declare to us,
The excellency of Christ—
Christ is often spoken of as a foundation, because he supports the spiritual temple of God; but here he is represented as a corner-stone laid by the hands of God himself—
[The excellency of the chief corner-stone, which lies also at the foundation, consists in this, that while it supports the building, it also connects the different parts of it together. Now Christ has united together, not only Jews and Gentiles, but men and angels, in one spiritual building: and while they all derive their strength from him, they all feel, through him, an union with each other [Note: Ephesians 2:14; Ephesians 2:20-22.]. For this purpose “God laid” him in Sion from the beginning; he laid him, I say, in types and prophecies, and declarations, and promises; and he requires all hoth in heaven and earth to honour him as the one source of their strength, and the one bond of their union.]
In this view he is “elect and precious” in the eyes of God—
[God has appointed him to execute this office from all eternity, and determined that there shall be “no other name whereby any shall be saved.” And, as qualified for it, as discharging it in every respect, and as saving man in perfect consistency with the honour of the Divine perfections, God esteems him “precious;” He declares that “in this his beloved Son He is well-pleased;” and He acquiesces fully in the salvation of all who shall approve of this appointment.]
Nor will he be less precious in our eyes, if we consider,
The security of those who “believe in him”—
To believe in him, is, to feel an entire dependence on him ourselves, and to have such an union with him as produces a correspondent union with all the other parts of his spiritual temple. They who thus believe in him shall never be confounded,
[Much there is in their experience, which might well confound them, and which nothing but their union with him could enable them to support. How should they endure a sense of guilt, or bear up against their indwelling corruptions? How should they sustain the fiery trial of persecution, or stand composed in the near prospects of death? These are things which disconcert and confound others; and drive them like a ship from its moorings. But they have “an anchor both sure and steadfast.” They are not agitated, and driven to hasty conclusions, or ill-advised methods of deliverance [Note: Compare the text with the passage from whence it is taken, Isaiah 28:16.]. “Their heart standeth firm, trusting in the Lord.” “Being justified by faith, they have peace with God.” The promise that “sin shall not have dominion over them,” encourages their hope. Their present consolations, and future prospects of reward, soften all their trials, and enable them to “glory in tribulations.” And, knowing in whom they have believed, the sting of death is taken away, and they are “delivered from their bondage to the fear of death.”]
[Terrible indeed must be the apprehensions of an unbeliever, when first dismissed from the body and carried into the presence of a holy God; and at the day of judgment how will he stand appalled! But the believer will go as a child into the presence of his Father, with love, and joy, and confidence. He will not be confounded at the glory of the Divine Majesty, because he is washed in the Redeemer’s blood, and clothed in his righteousness. Even Mary Magdalen, or the dying thief, know no terror in the presence of their God, because they are “complete in Christ:” it is on this account that they shall have confidence before him at his coming, and great boldness in the day of judgment [Note: 1 John 2:28; 1 John 4:17.]. Nor is this the privilege of a few only, who are strong in faith, but of “all that believe,” whether their faith be strong or weak.]
How great is the difference between believers and unbelievers!
[The world perhaps may not in some instances discern much difference; but God, who sees the heart, gives this glorious promise to the one, while there is no such promise in all the sacred oracles to the other. Let us then believe on Christ; and make him “all our salvation and all our desire.”]
How unreasonable is the unbelief of sinful men!
[God has laid his Son for a chief corner-stone in Sion, and declared him to be precious to himself in that view: why then should he not be “elect and precious” unto us also? Have we found a better foundation, or a surer bond of union? Or can we produce one instance wherein any person that believed in him was finally confounded? O let us consider what confusion will probably seize us here, and certainly hereafter, if we continue to reject him. And let us without delay “flee for refuge to the hope set before us.”]
CHRIST PRECIOUS TO BELIEVERS
1 Peter 2:7. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious.
THERE is a great difference between the views of natural and spiritual men. This exists even with respect to things temporal; much more in those which are spiritual and eternal. It appears particularly with respect to Christ. Hence St. Peter represents him as disallowed of some, but chosen by others. This was designed of God, and agreeable to the prophecies; and it justifies the inference drawn from it in the text.
Confirm this saying of the Apostle, that Christ is precious to believers—
We might suppose that Christ would be precious to all men; but he is not so. Nevertheless he is so to all that truly believe.
The history of the Old Testament affords abundant proof of this—
[Abraham rejoiced to see his day, though at a distance [Note: John 8:56.]. Job delighted in the thoughts of death as introducing him to his presence [Note: Job 19:25-27.]. Moses esteemed reproach for his sake [Note: Hebrews 11:26.]. David regarded nothing in earth or heaven in comparison of him [Note: Psalms 73:25.]. Isaiah exulted in the prospect of his incarnation [Note: Isaiah 9:6.]. All the prophets contemplated him as the Messiah, the Saviour of the world.]
The New Testament Scriptures confirm it—
[The Virgin, while he was yet in her womb, sang his praises [Note: Luke 1:47.]—The angels congratulated the shepherds on his incarnation [Note: Luke 2:10.]—The just and devout Simeon after seeing him, could depart in peace [Note: Luke 2:29-30.]—John Baptist, as the bridegroom’s friend, rejoiced in his voice [Note: John 3:29.]—How precious was he to that Mary who was a sinner [Note: Luke 7:38.]—St. Paul counted all as dung for the knowledge of him, was willing to be bound, or to die for him, and knew no comfort like the expectation of being with him [Note: Philippians 3:8. Acts 21:13. 1 Thessalonians 4:18.]—The glorified saints and angels incessantly adore him [Note: Revelation 5:12-13. This and all the foregoing passages should be cited in whole or in part.]—]
The experience of living saints accords with that of those who have gone before [Note: There are many to whom he is τιμὴ, preciousness itself; who account him as the pearl of great price, desire to know more of him, grieve that they cannot love him more, welcome every thing that leads to him, and despise all in comparison of him.]. The world even wonders at them on account of their attachment to him.
Account for the fact, and shew why he is so precious to them—
They have reason enough for their attachment:
They love him for his own excellence—
[He is infinitely above all created beauty or goodness. Shall they then regard these qualities in the creature, and not in him? Whosoever views him by faith cannot but admire and adore him.]
They love him for his suitableness to their necessities—
[There is in Christ all which believers can want; nor can they find any other capable of supplying their need: hence they delight in him as their “all in all.”]
They love him for the benefits they receive from him—
[They have received from him pardon, peace, strength, &c. Can they do otherwise than account him precious?]
We may rather wonder why all do not feel the same attachment.
Shew why this regard for him is found in them exclusively—
There certainly exists no reason on his part; he is good to all. But unbelievers cannot love him:
Because they have no views of his excellency—
[The god of this world has blinded them that they cannot see him [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:4.]. How then should they esteem him, whose excellency they know not? They must of necessity be indifferent to him, as men are to things of little value.]
Because they feel no need of him—
[Christ is valuable only as a remedy [Note: Isaiah 32:2.]; nor can any man desire him as a physician, a fountain, a refuge, unless he feel some disease, some thirst, some danger.]
[All, who have any spiritual discernment, feel a love to Christ: he is beloved of the Father, of angels, and of saints. None but devils and unbelievers despise him; and shall any, who do not account him precious, be objects of his regard? Surely his final decision will correspond with that declaration [Note: 1 Samuel 2:30.].—Let all then believe in him, that he may become precious to them; nor let any be dejected because they cannot delight in him as they wish. The more we love him, the more shall we lament the coldness of our love. In a little time all the powers of our souls shall act without controul. Then shall we glory in him with unrestrained and unabated ardour.]
THE DIFFERENT STATES OF BELIEVERS AND UNBELIEVERS
1 Peter 2:7-10. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
THERE is a great and manifest difference put between men in respect to the advantages they enjoy, and the endowments they possess. Some are born to great possessions, while others from their birth experience nothing but penury and want. Some are blessed with a strength of intellect, that qualifies them for the deepest researches; while others are so limited in their capacities, that they can scarcely comprehend the plainest and simplest things. A still greater difference obtains in respect to the opportunities which men have for spiritual instruction. As of old, the light of divine truth was confined to one single nation, so, at this present moment, there is but a small part of the world who hear any thing of Christ, and a very small part indeed to whom the Gospel is preached in its purity. Such being unquestionably the dispensations of God’s providence, we must not wonder if a similar exercise of sovereignty appear in the dispensations of his grace. To draw the precise limits, where human agency concurs with the operations of God’s Spirit, or where it resists and frustrates them, is beyond our power; but of this we may be well assured,—that all evil is from man; all good from God. We shall have strong evidence of this in the passage before us; in which we see the difference that exists between different men,
In their regard for Christ—
Mankind may be divided into two classes; believers, and unbelievers.
Now of all the things which may serve to distinguish these, there is none more decisive than their different regard to Christ.
To the believer, Christ is “precious”—
[We need not enter into all the grounds of a believer’s love to Christ: suffice it to say, that he feels himself indebted to Christ for all his hopes in this life, and for all his prospects in the next. He has washed in the fountain of the Redeemer’s blood, and has been cleansed by it from all sin: he has lived by faith on the Son of God, and has received out of his fulness all needful supplies of grace and peace. Hence he looks upon Christ, not merely as a friend and benefactor, but as a Saviour from death and hell. He esteems him, not only as precious, but as preciousness [Note: τιμὴ.] itself. In comparison of him, all other things are considered as dung and dross [Note: Philippians 3:8.].]
To the unbeliever, Christ is “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence”—
[Unbelief and disobedience are so nearly allied, that they are, in the Greek language, expressed by the same word [Note: ἀπειθεία. Compare Romans 11:32. with Ephesians 2:2.]. Indeed unbelief is the highest act of disobedience; for “this is God’s commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son, Jesus Christ [Note: 1 John 3:23.].”
To exercise faith on Christ is the duty of all. He is “the stone which is laid in Zion,” and on which we are to build all our hopes. But “the builders themselves, the heads of the Jewish Church, rejected him:” and notwithstanding “he is become the head of the corner,” “the disobedient” still reject him. It was foretold that this would be the treatment shewn him by the generality [Note: Psalms 118:22.]: and the event has fully justified the prediction. The grounds indeed on which men reject him, are altered; but their conduct towards him is the same as was observed in the days of old. The Jews were offended at his mean appearance, and his high pretensions; and particularly at his professing to supersede the Mosaic law: and, on these accounts, they crucified him as an impostor. We on the contrary, profess to honour him as the true Messiah; but are offended at the salvation which he has revealed: we think it too humiliating in its doctrines, and too strict in its precepts: we cannot endure to give him all the glory of our salvation: nor can we submit to walk in those paths of holiness and selfdenial which he has trodden before us. On these accounts many reject his Gospel: they cry out against it, as discouraging the practice of good works, as opening the very flood-gates of iniquity, and (Strange as the contradiction is) making the way to heaven so strait and difficult that no one can walk in it. Thus, instead of building on Christ as the foundation-stone, they make him only “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence [Note: Isaiah 8:14.].”]
How far this is to be traced to any antecedent purposes of God, will appear more distinctly, while we mark the difference between them,
In their states before God—
In the words of the text there is a double antithesis, which is rather obscured by the present translation, but which should be noticed in order to a clear understanding of the passage [Note: The words in Italics, ver. 8. should be left out; and Οἱ be translated “these.” The double antithesis will then be clear:—Υμῖν, he is precious; ἀπειθοῦσ δὲ, he is a stumbling-block. Οἰ, these, stumble through their own depravity; Ὑμεῖς δὲ, enjoy your privileges as a chosen generation.].
“These (the unbelievers) stumble at the word, being disobedient”—
[In what manner they stumble at the word, has been already noticed. We must now endeavour to trace their stumbling to its proper causes.
It is certainly, in the first instance, owing to their own “disobedience.” Men are filled with pride, and are unwilling to embrace any sentiment that tends to abase them. They are also full of worldly and carnal lusts, which they cannot endure to have mortified and subdued. In short, their prejudices and their passions are altogether adverse to the Gospel: sc that, when the word is preached to them, they instantly set themselves against it. In vain are proofs adduced; in vain are motives urged; in vain are all human efforts to conciliate their regard to Christ: the language of their hearts is, “I have loved strangers, and after them will I go [Note: Jeremiah 2:25.].” The contempt which the Pharisees poured on Christ, on account of his prohibiting the love of money, is traced by the Evangelists to this very source; “The Pharisees were covetous, and they derided him [Note: Luke 16:14.].” And our Lord expressly recommends obedience as the best preparative for receiving the knowledge of his Gospel; “If any man will do God’s will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God [Note: John 7:17.].”
But, according to the words of the text, it seems as if men’s unbelief was to be traced ultimately to the decrees of God respecting them. We cannot however understand them as establishing so awful a doctrine: nay, we cannot think that the doctrine of absolute reprobation can ever be established, while those words remain in the Bible, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner [Note: Ezekiel 33:11.].” Nevertheless we are not disposed to explain away the words of the text; for they certainly have a very awful and important meaning, to which it becomes us to attend. God has decreed, that they who will not receive the Gospel for the illumination of their minds, shall eventually be blinded by it; that they who are not softened by it, shall be hardened [Note: Isaiah 6:9-10.]; that they to whom it is not “a savour of life unto life, shall find it a savour of death unto death [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:16.].” The Gospel is certainly so constituted, that it shall produce these effects. Christ is “set for the fall, as well as for the rising, of many in Israel [Note: Luke 2:34.].” “He is for a sanctuary,” to protect and save the humble; but he is also “for a stone of stumbling,” yea, “for a gin and a snare, that many (even all that are proud, perverse, and obstinate) may stumble and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken [Note: Isaiah 8:14-15.].”]
“But ye” (believers) are exalted to the highest privileges by the Gospel—
[The various terms here used were originally intended to mark the privileges of the Jewish nation [Note: Exodus 19:6. Deuteronomy 7:6.]: but they are applicable to believers in a higher and more appropriate sense.
Believers are “a chosen generation:” they have been “chosen of God from before the foundation of the world [Note: Ephesians 1:4.].” Though the misery of unbelievers is owing, not to any absolute decrees of reprobation, but to their own pride and wickedness, we must not imagine that the happiness of believers is owing to their own inherent goodness: for they have no good qualities which they have not first received from God [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:7.]; and consequently their good qualities are the effect, not the cause, of God’s kindness to them. Though therefore we cannot accede to the doctrine of reprobation, we have no doubt whatever on the subject of election; since both by Scripture and experience it is established on the firmest grounds.
Believers are also “a royal priesthood:” they are now made both “kings and priests unto God [Note: Revelation 1:6.].” They are chosen of God to reign over their own lusts, and to have the nearest access to him in all holy duties. There is no difference now between Jew and Gentile, or between male and female: but all are permitted to approach unto the mercy-seat of their God, and to offer to him the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise.
Moreover, they are “a holy nation, and a peculiar people.” All are united under the same King; all obey the same laws; all participate the same interests. They are all separated by God, and “set apart for himself:” they are not of the world, though they are in it: they are mere “pilgrims and sojourners” here; and are travelling to “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
All these distinctions they enjoy; and they owe them all to the sovereign grace of God.]
[You need only to examine your regard for Christ, and you will soon find with which class you are to be numbered. You may easily discover whether Christ be supremely precious to your souls, or whether you are averse to the doctrines and precepts of his Gospel.
Think with yourselves, what guilt you contract, and to what danger you are exposed, while you remain insensible to all the love of Christ: your guilt is greater than that of the very persons who crucified him, because you sin against greater light, and contradict your most solemn professions. O provoke not God to give you over to judicial blindness; nor make God’s richest mercy an occasion of your more aggravated condemnation!]
[You see in the latter part of the text how infinitely you are indebted to your God: once you were in darkness; now you are “brought into the marvellous light” of his Gospel: “once you were not the people of God; now you are: once you had not obtained mercy; now you have obtained mercy.”
And for what end has God vouchsafed to make this alteration in your state, and to distinguish you thus from millions, who are still left in the very condition in which you so lately were? Was it not “that you should shew forth the praises, yea the virtues [Note: ἀρετὰς.] too, of Him that called you?” Entertain then a becoming sense of your obligations: and endeavour to “render unto the Lord according to the benefits” conferred upon you. Shew forth his praises by frequent and devout acknowledgments; and shew forth his virtues by following his steps and obeying his commandments.]
SUBJECTION TO CIVIL GOVERNMENT
1 Peter 2:13-17. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
THE great duty of a Christian minister is, to exalt the Saviour, and to call men to submit to his government. But we must not imagine that this is neglected, when our minds are led to the consideration of human governments, and the duties we owe to them: for there is a manifest connexion between the two subjects; the latter being, in reality, a branch of the former. We cannot truly submit to Christ, unless we yield obedience to all his laws—to those which relate to our conduct in civil life, as well as those which are given to regulate the inmost workings of our souls towards God. And we should be essentially wanting in our duty as Christian pastors, if we did not take occasion, especially from the interesting events of this day [Note: The Coronation of George the Fourth, July 19, 1821. But it might be applied to the King’s Accession, or 30th of January.], to open to you a subject of such great and universal importance. The words which I have read will lead me to shew you,
Our duty in relation to civil government—
Civil government is an ordinance of God—
[It is called, in my text, “an ordinance of man:” and so it is, as far as relates to the particular form of government established in any particular kingdom. In some countries absolute monarchy is established: in our own, a limited monarchy. In some, there are republics; in others, the power is vested in an aristocracy. In fixing the precise mode in which the affairs of any nation shall be administered, the agency of man has been altogether employed: God having never interposed by an authoritative mandate from heaven, except in the case of the Jewish people. The history of our own nation sufficiently informs us, that the changes which take place in human governments are the result of human deliberation, or of human force. Yet, in its original appointment, civil government proceeds from God himself. He has ordained, that man shall not be left in the state of the brute creation, every one independent of his fellow, and every one at liberty to follow the bent of his own inclinations, without any regard to the welfare of others: but that power shall be vested in some for the good of the community; and that every one shall be responsible to that power for his own conduct, as far as the welfare of the community is concerned. St. Paul expressly tells us, that “there is no power, but of God; and that the powers that be, are ordained of God [Note: Romans 13:1.].”]
To it we are to submit, “for the Lord’s sake”—
[Power must, of course, be delegated to a great variety of persons, and in different degrees: and to it, in whomsoever it is vested, or in whatsoever degree, we are to yield that measure of submission which the laws require. We owe allegiance, primarily, “to the king, as supreme;” and, subordinately, to all other classes of magistrates or governors, who are appointed by him for the exercise of his authority in their respective jurisdictions. The obedience which we are to pay may be rendered more easy, or more difficult, by the personal character of him who exacts it: but it is due, not to the man, but to the office; and therefore it must be paid, even though the man who executes the office may be far from deserving the homage he requires. If only we recollect that Nero was the governor of the Roman empire at the time that the Apostle wrote his epistle to the Church at Rome; and that towards him, notwithstanding his great cruelty and his bitter persecution of all who bore the Christian name, the Apostle required all to shew the utmost reverence and submission; we shall see that there is no room for any person to withhold allegiance from the reigning monarch on account of any thing that there may be offensive in his personal character. The words of the Apostle are most decisive on this point: “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power, but of God: the powers that be, are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power,” even though it be exercised by a very Nero, “resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation [Note: Romans 13:1-2.].” Nor does this observation extend to the supreme governor alone; but to all, according to the measure of authority that is vested in them: and it is not only from fear of their displeasure that we are to render them this homage, but “for conscience’ sake [Note: Romans 13:5.],” or, as my text expresses it, “for the Lord’s sake.”]
How “the Lord” is interested in our performance of this duty, will appear, whilst we consider,
The grounds and reasons of it—
We are bound to yield submission to civil government because of,
Its being altogether of God’s appointment—
[The institution of government is from him, as has already been shewn. Moreover, the power that is exercised by earthly governors is God’s authority delegated to men, who are constituted his vicegerents upon earth. It is not man therefore, but God, whom we are called to obey: it is God, I say, in the person of the civil magistrate [Note: Num 16:11. 1 Samuel 8:7. with. Romans 13:4.]. We are to “submit” ourselves to man; “for so is the will of God:” and, in rendering to man the service that is due, we are to consider ourselves, not as the servants of men, but “as the servants of God.”
What need we further than this, to evince the indispensable necessity of submitting to civil government, and of obeying implicitly the laws which are enacted by the constituted authorities of the realm? If we are to obey God in the duties of the first table, so are we in those of the second also: and if, “for the lord’s sake,” we are to submit our-selves to the religious ordinances of God, so are we, with equal readiness, for his sake, to submit ourselves to every civil ordinance of man.]
Its conduciveness to the public welfare—
[Though authority may not always be exerted for the best ends, it is committed to men solely with a view to the public good. It is ordained for the restraining and “punishing of evil-doers,” and for the protection and “benefit of those who do well.” I need not occupy your time with shewing how great a mercy it is to under an equitable and active magistracy, who are engaged in enforcing the observance of the laws. Let us suppose only that the law were suspended through the land for the space of three days, and that every one were left to follow the bent of his own will without fear and without restraint: what misery, even during that short space of time, would pervade the whole kingdom! What scones of rapine, and violence, and lust, and cruelty, would pervade the whole country [Note: An awful picture of this state, when there was no king in Israel, “but every one did that which was right in his own eyes,” may be seen in Judges 17:5-10; Judges 19:1-2; Judges 19:22-30; Judges 20:1-48; Judges 21:1-25. A juster picture cannot be conceived.]! Who would not be crying out for the restoration of legitimate authority, and bless God the very moment that he was permitted once more to experience the benefits of civil government? Who would not then feel happy in discharging his duty to that government, by a just payment of tribute and of custom, for the support of the legitimate authorities, and of the public weal? Then should we need no arguments to prove, that partial restraint is universal liberty; and that true freedom can be found only in such an exercise of our powers, as will consist with the freedom and happiness of all around us.]
Its tendency to recommend religion—
[God has special respect to this; as we should have also: “It is His will” that we should fulfil this duty, “that by well-doing we may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” The Jews were generally considered, and with great justice too, as averse to civil government, especially as maintained by heathens. They had received a civil code from God himself: and they could not endure that any thing should be withdrawn from it, or added to it. They had also been under a Theocracy [Note: 1 Samuel 12:12.]; even their kings being, as subordinate magistrates, appointed by him. They judged, therefore, that all other authority was an usurpation; and they were ready at all times, if possible, to throw off a foreign yoke. This being the known character of the Jews, (though it was in direct opposition to the command which God himself had given them, to “seek the peace of the cities to which they should be carried captive, and to pray for them [Note: Jeremiah 29:7.],”) it was supposed that the same character attached to them after they became Christians, and that, in fact, it was the habit of the whole Christian world. It was in vain that Christians denied this imputation: their enemies were ignorant, wilfully ignorant, of their principles; and continued, in spite of all remonstrances, to load them with this reproach. ‘Now,’ says the Apostle, ‘it is the will of God that you should cut off all occasion for this calumny; and though you cannot hope to convince “ignorant” people, who do not know, and “foolish” people, who will not learn, yet you may, “by well-doing, put them to silence;” and so “muzzle [Note: φιμοῦν.]” their ignorance and folly, that they may not be able to open their mouths against you.’
This should be an object near to the heart of all the Lord’s people; and they should labour to accomplish it, “for the Lord’s sake.”]
After viewing your duty in this light, you will be prepared to consider,
The manner in which it should be performed—
It should be performed,
With integrity of mind, as unto the Lord—
[Christians were “free,” and had a right to assert their freedom. But, from what were they free? from obedience to civil magistrates? from those bonds which hold all society together? No: God forbid. They are, in these respects, under the same restraints as all other people under heaven. But, as Christians, they were free from the yoke of bondage, to which they had been subject in their Jewish state; and the command of God to them was, “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage [Note: Galatians 5:1.].” In like manner, those who had been converted from heathenism were freed from the various superstitions which, under their former state, they had been bound to observe: and though they should be under heathen governors, yet were they absolved from all allegiance to them in this respect, being now placed under the higher authority of God himself. Daniel, and the Hebrew Youths had done well in resisting the authority that would have kept them from honouring the true God, or have compelled them to transfer his honour to any created object. And the Apostles, when forbidden to preach in the name of Jesus, did well in answering, “Whether it be right to hearken unto you, more than unto God, judge ye [Note: Acts 4:19.].” The same liberty is transmitted to us also [Note: That Christians are free from guilt and condemnation, and from the power of sin, is all true; but nothing to the present purpose.]: and from whatever quarter a command may come, to omit what God enjoins, or to do what he forbids, our answer must be, “We ought to obey God rather than men [Note: Acts 5:29.].” But we must be careful not to make this liberty of ours “a cloak for wickedness, [Note: κακέας.]” and, under pretence of asserting our Christian liberty, to withhold from our civil governors that reverence which is their due. This is an observation of vast importance. There is in the human mind a restlessness and impatience of controul: there is also a proneness to enlarge or contract the bounds of duty, and the consequent demands of conscience, according as interest or inclination may bias our minds. Who does not see this as exhibited in others? and who has not reason to suspect this, as harboured in himself? I am well aware that this is a delicate subject, and especially when promulgated amongst persons who live under a free constitution, and have been taught to venerate the very name of liberty with an almost idolatrous regard. But the caution is the more necessary, on that very account: for, in proportion as we are tenacious of liberty, we are in danger of transgressing the bounds which God has prescribed, and of deluding ourselves with an idea, that we are only exercising the rights of British subjects, when we are, in fact, indulging a restless and factious spirit; a spirit, which, if it were opposed to us, we ourselves should be the foremost to condemn: for there are no persons more ready to cry out against the exercise of liberty in others, than those who are most clamorous for the maintenance of it in themselves. Let the Apostle’s caution, then, be well received, and duly attended to. We are all concerned to “know what spirit we are of,” and to do that only which God himself will approve: and let me not be thought to be advocating the cause of a party, whilst I declare what is really and truly the mind of God. We are greatly exposed to self-deception in this matter. And we have seen it prevailing, to a very awful extent, in this kingdom, not only at the time of the French revolution, but at more recent periods. We have seen religious persons uniting with those who were openly regardless both of God and man, and with an unhallowed zeal countenancing the most lawless proceedings. Surely, if the true character of God’s people be, that they are “the quiet in the land [Note: Psalms 35:20.],” these persons would do well to consider whether they are not carried by a partyspirit beyond what Christ or his Apostles ever practised, or ever sanctioned, and whether they would not honour their profession more by attending to the caution given them in my text. And I the rather say this, because religion has of late been grievously scandalized by the departure of multitudes from Christian duty in this particular.]
With an harmonious attention to all other duties—
[In all Christian duties there is a perfect harmony: no one of them is in any degree opposed to any other. In the pursuits of earthly men, it is necessary to check one propensity, in order to indulge another. A man who is ambitious, and yet covetous, must sacrifice, in a measure, his love either of honour or of wealth; because the line he must pursue in the prosecution of the one, must impede him in the pursuit of the other. But the Christian, in the performance of his duties, finds no such counteracting influence: he may serve God in the utmost perfection, and yet not be defective in any duty which he owes to man. Let no duty then be neglected: but, as all are compatible with submission to civil government, so, if performed in their proper manner, they will all contribute to advance, rather than obstruct, the best possible execution of our social obligations.
“Honour all men.” There is no man who does not claim at our hands a measure of respect. Those who excel in wisdom and goodness are doubtless entitled to a larger share. But even the most unworthy object is not to be despised; forasmuch as he was “made after the similitude of God [Note: James 3:9.],” and has been redeemed by the blood of God’s only dear Son, and may, for aught that we know, become a child of God, and an heir of his eternal glory.
Yet, doubtless, we must with a more especial affection “love the brotherhood.” The saints, to whatever nation or sect they belong, ought to be dear to us: for with God there is no respect of persons: there is neither Jew, nor Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free; but all are regarded as one in Christ Jesus [Note: Galatians 3:28. Colossians 3:11.].” They are all members of his mystical body, yea, “members one of another [Note: 1 Corinthians 12:12.Ephesians 4:25; Ephesians 4:25.]:” and though we are to “do good unto all men,” there is a special obligation upon us to do good unto “them that are of the household of faith [Note: Galatians 6:10.].” Towards the world we should feel a love of benevolence: but towards the saints, a love of complacency. We are united to them in the closest bonds; and should “love them with a pure heart, fervently” and intensely [Note: 1 Peter 1:22. the Greek.].
We must “fear God” also. Our regards must not he confined to man: they must soar upwards to God; and be fixed on him supremely. We must love man; but not fear him: whereas God must be the object both of love and fear. Nothing under heaven must induce us to displease him. All the creatures in the universe are to be withstood, if they enjoin what is contrary to his revealed will: for his commands are of paramount obligation; and life itself must be sacrificed rather than the least of them be violated by us. If, however, so painful a necessity arise as that of disobedience to an earthly governor, we must shew clearly, in the whole of our conduct, that our opposition is the offspring, not of a contentious mind, but of a pious regard to superior authority.
Together with all this, we must “honour the king.” Whatever is good in him, we must delight to applaud: and, if there be any thing in him of human infirmity, we must readily cast a veil over it, and make due allowance for the temptations with which he is surrounded, and for the weaknesses of our common nature. Viewing him as God’s representative, we must honour him in our hearts; and be ready to shield him against every adversary, and to concur with him in all his endeavours for the welfare of his people. If he appear disposed to exceed the powers which are assigned to him by law, we are not to indulge in strains of querulous invective: for even “against the devil himself would not Michael bring a railing accusation; but temperately said, The Lord rebuke thee [Note: Jude, ver. 8, 9.].” And, if an archangel so restrained the emotions of his mind, much more should we, who are expressly enjoined “not to despise dominion, or to speak evil of dignities.” Whatever methods of redress the constitution prescribes, we may certainly use: but we should use them, not in a spirit of clamourous opposition, but in the spirit of Him “who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously [Note: 1 Peter 2:23.].”
In a word, we are to maintain an harmonious regard to all our duties; compromising none, forgetting none. We must be conscientiously intent on all; “rendering unto Cζsar the things which are Cζsar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s [Note: Matthew 22:21.].”]
I cannot close this subject better than by desiring you all devoutly to unite with me in the following prayer—
“Almighty God, whose kingdom is everlasting, and power infinite, have mercy upon the whole Church; and so rule the heart of thy chosen servant * * * * * our king and governor, that he, knowing whose minister he is, may above all things seek thy honour and glory: and that we, and all his subjects, duly considering whose authority he hath, may faithfully serve, honour, and obey him, in thee, and for thee, according to thy blessed word and ordinance, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
HOW TO BEAR INJURIES
1 Peter 2:19-23. This is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.
THE practical nature of the Gospel meets us through every part of the New Testament, from the beginning to the end. Our Lord’s sermon on the mount was wholly of this character; as are also his addresses to the seven Churches of Asia, in the book of Revelations. Nor are the epistles, which were written by different Apostles, at all different in their scope and tendency: they do indeed insist more on doctrines: but yet the preceptive parts of them are singularly minute and full; and are distinctly addressed to persons in every situation and relation of life. The passage before us is a peculiar address to servants, to shew them how they are to conduct themselves towards their masters, who shall be embittered against them for embracing the Gospel of Christ.
But the Apostle did not intend this instruction to be limited to servants; for, in the close of the chapter, he extends it to all, who “like sheep have gone astray, but are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls.”
His words suggest,
A precept for our observance—
It is here taken for granted that persons in every age will be persecuted for righteousness’ sake—
[And the whole history of mankind fully justifies this assumption: for from the time of Abel to the present hour it has been verified. The lovers of darkness hate the light; and will endeavour, when it lies in their power, to extinguish it [Note: John 3:19.]. The whole life of David tends to illustrate this: “They that render evil for good are mine adversaries,” says he; “because I follow the thing that good is [Note: Psalms 38:20.].” And what shall I say of him who was greater than David, even the Son of God himself? Surely his wisdom precluded a possibility of any fault being found with him; whilst his goodness suppressed, in every bosom, a disposition to find fault. But this was by no means the case: on the contrary, in proportion to his superiority above all the sons of men, was the inveteracy of the carnal mind against him. Can we, then, hope to escape their malignity? No; “The disciple cannot be above his Master, or the servant above his Lord: if they have hated him, they will hate us also [Note: Matthew 10:24.John 15:18; John 15:18.]:” we, like him, must have our cross to bear [Note: Luke 14:26-27.]: and “all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution [Note: 2 Timothy 3:12.].”]
But, whatever be our trials, and however undeserved, we must “take them patiently”—
[“We are called to them” by God himself; who has wisely and graciously “appointed [Note: 1 Thessalonians 3:3.],” that, by means of them, our graces should be both elicited and improved, and our fidelity to him be placed beyond a doubt. He has ordained too, that by means of these trials, glory shall accrue to him, and everlasting good to our own souls. They give to us an opportunity of shewing how highly we regard his favour, when, for his sake, we are willing to endure all that men or devils can inflict upon us. They display, at the same time, the power of his grace, which can uphold us under such circumstances; and the excellency of his religion, which shines so bright in contrast with the spirit and conduct of our ungodly persecutors. They are the means, too, of augmenting our happiness in the eternal world; since there is not a sacrifice which we are called to make, or a suffering to endure, which shall not be richly recompensed at the resurrection of the just [Note: 1 Peter 4:12-16.].
If it be said, that it is an intolerable hardship to suffer, when we have given no occasion whatever for man’s displeasure; I answer, your innocence should operate rather to lighten, than to aggravate, your affliction; since it administers sweet consolation to your own soul, and serves as a testimony in your behalf before God. If your punishment were merited, you would have no ground for approbation, either before God, or in your own minds, for submitting patiently to if: but, if you suffer patiently for well-doing, you evince a truly gracious disposition, and render an acceptable service to your God.
This, then, we are to consider as a precept given to us, under whatever injuries we may be called to sustain: we must “possess our souls in patience [Note: Luke 21:19.];” and “let patience have its perfect work, that we may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing [Note: James 1:3-4.].”]
To this precept the Apostle adds,
An example for our imitation—
Not one of all the children of men was ever so blameless as our Lord Jesus Christ—
[“In him was no sin [Note: 1 John 3:5.];” “nor was any guile found in his mouth [Note: Isaiah 53:9.].” He appealed even to his bitterest enemies; “which of you convinceth me of sin [Note: John 8:46.]?” With all the disposition to criminate him that the most inveterate malignity could cherish, his accusers were all put to shame, and his judge proclaimed his innocence [Note: Luke 23:4.].]
Yet, never was man so evil-entreated as he—
[Scarcely was he come into the world, before his life was sought; and for the sake of securing, at all events, his destruction, thousands of poor innocents were slain. During the four years of his ministry, there was nothing too malignant for his enemies to say concerning him: “He was a deceiver [Note: Matthew 27:63.]:” He was “a devil, and was mad [Note: John 7:20; John 8:48; John 10:20.].” The efforts made to take away his life were continual: and the more good works he did, the fiercer was men’s rage against him: nor did his enemies rest, till they had attained their end, and nailed him to the accursed tree.]
But how did he conduct himself under his trials?
[Not so much as one hasty word escaped him; nor one angry feeling betrayed itself in him: “when he was reviled, he reviled not again: when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” Truly “he was as a lamb led to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so opened he not his mouth [Note: Isaiah 53:7.].”
In all this, he was an example to us: “He suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps.” He submitted to all those indignities, on purpose that he might shew us how to act under similar trials: and God permits us to be brought, in some small degree, into similar circumstances, on purpose that we may “be conformed to his image [Note: Romans 8:29.],” and be “made perfect in the very same way” that he was [Note: Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:8.], and enter into glory by the very same path [Note: 1 Peter 4:19.]. To this, then, must our minds be made up: we must be willing to endure sufferings for well-doing; to submit to them, however great they be, with unruffled patience; and to “commit ourselves to God in well-doing, as into the hands of a faithful Creator [Note: Hebrews 12:1-2.].”]
Let us learn then from hence,
How we are to regard the Lord Jesus Christ—
[Many who profess to believe, and even to preach, the Gospel, confine their views of Christ almost exclusively to him as dying for our sins, or as reigning in glory to carry on and perfect his work in our behalf. This, doubtless, is a most important view of him: it is the very foundation of all our hopes. Yet is it by no means a complete view: and they who confine themselves to it are greatly deceived: and, whether willingly or not, they grievously dishonour him. He must be regarded as an example: nor is he less glorious in that view, than in any other. Nay, if we omit to regard him in that light, we suffer an irreparable loss.
Would we know what treatment we must expect, if we will faithfully serve our God ? Look at him. Not all the wisdom of his lips, nor all the blamelessness of his deportment, nor all the wonders which he wrought, could avert from Him the hatred, the contempt, the cruelty, of an ungodly world. Who then are we, that we should hope to escape these things?
Would we know how to conduct ourselves under sufferings inflicted on us for righteousness’ sake? Look at him. Behold his meekness, his patience, his long-suffering, and forbearance; yea, and hear him praying for his very murderers: and then say, whether this be not the spirit that becomes you.
Would we know the issue of such a life? Look at him; and see him seated at the right hand of God, and all his enemies become his footstool. Such shall be the end of all who tread in his steps: “having suffered with him, they shall surely reign with him [Note: 2 Timothy 2:12.].”
Take him then, beloved, as your example; and be content to “suffer with him, that you may also be glorified together [Note: Romans 8:17.].”]
How we are to approve ourselves his faithful servants—
[If we are to bear injuries from others, we must, beyond all doubt, be “good and gentle” ourselves; “shewing all meekness to all men:” and, however injured by others, we must endure unto the end. We must not draw back through fear of sufferings; or faint under them, when they are inflicted on us. If we enlist under the banners of an earthly prince, we expect to fight his battles: we do not, when we hear of an enemy, desert and hide ourselves. We do not, when we meet him in the field, lay down our arms. We rather gird ourselves to the fight, and say, ‘Now is the time for me to display my zeal in the cause I have espoused, and my fidelity to him whom I have engaged to serve. Thus, then, must you do in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. You must not be ashamed of wearing, if I may so speak, his uniform; and of shewing, in the face of the whole universe, on whose side you are.
Yet, remember that it is with his armour only that you must go forth to the battle. You must “be armed with righteousness on the right hand and on the left.” Your breast-plate, in particular, must be of that material: “your helmet must be the hope of salvation;” and your sword, “the sword of the Spirit, the word of God [Note: Ephesians 6:14-17.].” It was “by death that the Lord Jesus Christ overcame death [Note: Hebrews 2:14.];” and it is “by patiently enduring, that you also must obtain the promise of an eternal inheritance [Note: Hebrews 6:15.].” Keep, then, your eyes fixed on the “Captain of your salvation;” and, “being faithful unto death, you shall receive at his hands the crown of life [Note: Revelation 2:10.].”]
THE VICARIOUS SACRIFICE OF CHRIST
1 Peter 2:24. Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
AN attentive reader of the New Testament cannot but have observed, that there is one subject in particular to which the Apostles frequently recur, and on which they delight pre-eminently to dwell: and that is, the great work of redemption. St. Paul scarcely ever has occasion to mention the name of Christ, but he digresses from his main subject, to indulge the feelings of his heart in expatiating upon the glory and excellency of his Divine Master. It is the same with the Apostle Peter. He has been speaking to servants; and instructing them to bear with meekness and patience any injuries that may be inflicted on them for the Gospel’s sake: and he has proposed to them the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose patience, under the most painful sufferings, was altogether unmoved and inexhaustible. But he could not be satisfied with the bare recital of the Saviour’s excellence. Having touched on the subject, he must enlarge upon it, and not leave it till he has more fully declared the greatness of our obligations to him. Yet was this digression not by any means irrelevant to his purpose. It had a manifest bearing upon his main subject; and was, in that view, capable of the richest improvement.
In opening to you his words, I will,
Consider the work of redemption, as here set forth—
And, that we may enter the more fully into it, let us distinctly shew,
Who is the person here spoken of—
[He was a man: for what he did, he did “in his own body.” But was he a mere man? No: he was God as well as man, even “Emmanuel, God with us [Note: Matthew 1:23.].” He was “Jehovah’s Fellow [Note: Zechariah 13:7.];” “the Mighty God [Note: Isaiah 9:6.];” “God over all, blessed for evermore [Note: Romans 9:5.].” He it was, “who, being in the form of God, and thinking it not robbery to be equal with God, yet made him-self of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross [Note: Philippians 2:6-8.].”]
What he did for us—
[He, “his own self, bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” What this imports, will be understood by referring to the rites by which it was shadowed forth. Under the law, sacrifices were offered. The victims were beasts: to them were transferred, by the imposition of hands, the sins of the offender: in the offender’s stead they died; their flesh was consumed upon the altar: and, through the sacrifice thus offered, the sins of the offerer were forgiven.
But Jesus, who came down from heaven to redeem us, had no other offering to make but his own body: on him, therefore, our sins were laid: and the cross was, as it were, the altar on which he was placed; and the fire of God’s wrath, the flame with which he was consumed.
Stupendous mystery! But “it is a true saying, and worthy of all acceptation.”]
For what end he did it—
[Doubtless he did it, in the first place, to effect our reconciliation with God; as St. Peter says, in the very next chapter, “He died, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God [Note: 1 Peter 3:18.].” But he had also a further end in view; namely, to destroy in us the power of sin; and to restore us to that life of righteousness which is indispensable to our happiness, either in this world, or in the world to come. In truth, if this were not effected, it would be to little purpose that an atonement had been made for sin: for as long as sin retained its dominion over us, we must of necessity have a very hell within us: nor would heaven itself be any source of blessedness to us, for want of a disposition suited to it, and a capacity to enjoy it.]
What is already the issue of it to every believing soul—
[“By his stripes” every believing soul “is healed.” The whole elect world was virtually healed in him, as soon as ever his sacrifice was offered; even as a debtor is absolved, the very moment that his debt is discharged; or a captive is liberated, the very instant that the redemption price is paid for him. But really, and in fact, our souls are healed, the very instant we believe in Christ: “our sins are blotted out as a morning cloud,” and are “put away from us as far as the east is from the west;” “nor shall they be remembered against us any more for ever [Note: Hebrews 8:12.].” A principle of grace, too, is infused into the soul, just as the cruse of salt was into the fountain by Elisha the prophet [Note: 2 Kings 2:19-22.]; and by it are its deadly qualities corrected; so that whatsoever proceeds from it in future is, comparatively at least, salubrious: the Holy Spirit in him is “a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life [Note: John 4:14.].”]
That we may not lose sight of the objects for which this mystery is here adduced, we shall,
Improve it in the precise view in which the Apostle intended it to be applied—
We must bear in mind, that he is speaking to servants, and exhorting them to take patiently whatever injuries they may be called to sustain for righteousness’ sake. For their direction and encouragement, he proposes to them the example of our Lord Jesus Christ: and, not content with specifying his conduct under the most cruel injuries, he suggests the ulterior ends of his sufferings, and the benefits which we derive from them; intending thereby to fix our attention on that mysterious subject,
As a balm for all our wounds—
[Be it so; we are suffering wrongfully, and because we endeavour to maintain a good conscience towards God. But what are our sufferings, when compared with those which our blessed Lord endured for us? Hear the revilings that were cast on him: “Say we not well, that thou hast a devil, and art mad [Note: John 7:20; John 8:48; John 10:20. Nothing less than this would sufficiently express their contempt for him.]?” Behold the sufferings inflicted on him! Go into the hall of Pilate; and there see the thorns driven into his temples, and his sacred body torn with scourges, “the ploughers ploughing on his back, and making long their furrows [Note: Psalms 129:3.]!” Behold his meekness and resignation; and will not you be ashamed to complain? Will you not rather take up your cross with cheerfulness; and “rejoice that you are counted worthy to partake of his sufferings, and be conformed to him [Note: 1 Peter 4:12-13.]?” If he submitted to “stripes, that you might be healed,” will not you welcome them, if by any means “he may be glorified [Note: 1 Peter 4:14.]?” Surely, if you reflect aright on this subject, you will regard the sacrifice even of life itself as a small matter, or rather as a ground for self-congratulation [Note: Philippians 2:17-18.], and for thankfulness to God, who has conferred upon you that high honour for Jesus’s sake [Note: Philippians 1:29.].]
As an incentive to every duty—
[What shall “constrain you [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.],” if this do not? or what other motive can you wish for, than that which this stupendous mystery affords? Will you hesitate to forego any thing for Him who gave up all the glory of heaven for you? or to endure any thing for Him, who endured the penalties of God’s broken law, and “became a curse for you?” Methinks, the more arduous the duty is, the more eager you will be to perform it; and the more self-denying your labours be, the more will you account yourselves honoured in being called to sustain them. Nothing will be any obstacle to you, if only his will may be done by you, and his glory be advanced [Note: Acts 20:24.].]
As a pattern of every grace—
[In all that Jesus did, he intended “to set you an example, that you should follow his steps.” Mark his steps, then, from the cradle to the grave. Mark him, especially under those peculiar circumstances referred to in my text. See how he held fast his integrity, amidst the fiercest opposition. Do ye the same: nor let all that either men or devils can effect, ever divert you from “well-doing;” or cause you to violate, in the slightest degree, the dictates of your “conscience before God.” Mark what returns he made to his persecutors: never, for a moment, did he render evil for evil; or cease to seek, to the uttermost, the welfare of his very murderers, praying to his “Father to forgive them.” Let this be your invariable line of conduct also; “blessing them who curse you, and praying for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you [Note: Matthew 5:44.].”. There is no grace which you may not see exercised by him, during his last hours, in the highest possible perfection. Set him then before you, under all those circumstances; and endeavour to “walk in all things as he walked:” so will you have an evidence that you are his, and that your hope in him is well founded; seeing that “you have the same mind that was in him,” and “purify yourselves even as he was pure [Note: 1 John 3:3.].”]
THE NATURE OF TRUE CONVERSION STATED
1 Peter 2:25. Ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
NOTHING so reconciles the Christian to sufferings, or so quickens him to exertions, as a recollection of the mercies he has experienced at the Lord’s hands. The Apostle is speaking here to servants, who were likely to meet with cruel and oppressive usage from their masters on account of their holy profession. To encourage them to a meek submission to their trials, he reminds them of the example which the Lord Jesus Christ had set them, when, for the redemption of their souls, he had endured all the agonies of crucifixion; and of the exceedingly rich mercy which they had experienced, in having been brought to the knowledge of Christ, and to the enjoyment of his salvation. “They were healed:” they were healed “through the stripes inflicted on their Divine Master;” who was now “the Shepherd and Overseer,” as he had been the Redeemer and Saviour, of their souls. Enjoying then such benefits through the superabounding grace of Christ, they ought willingly and cheerfully to endure for him whatever, in his providence, he might permit to be inflicted on them.
This appears to be the scope of the passage before us: in discoursing upon which, I shall have occasion to consider,
Our state by nature—
All of us in our unconverted state have been “as sheep going astray.” The Prophet Isaiah, whose words the Apostle cites, declares this to have been the condition of all without exception: “All we like sheep have gone astray [Note: Isaiah 53:6.].” In respect of folly, we have resembled the silly sheep; which wanders it knows not whither, and exposes itself to dangers, from which, by continuing in the fold, it might have been exempt. In respect of criminality, our conduct justly subjects us to blame, from which the senseless animal is free: for our departure from God has been,
Wilful, without any just occasion—
[The mind of every unregenerate man is alienated from God: he hates his law: he is averse to his yoke: “he says to God, Depart from me; I desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” All indeed do not choose the same path; but, as the prophet says, they “go every one to his own way:” one in a way of open profaneness; another in a way of self-righteous formality: but in this all are agreed, that they listen not to the voice of the good Shepherd, nor walk in the footsteps of his flock — — —
And now, I would ask, What reason have they for this? “Has God been a wilderness to them? a land of darkness? Wherefore have they said, We are lords: we will come no more unto thee [Note: Jeremiah 2:31.]?” The true reason of our departure from him has been, that we have “not liked to retain him in our knowledge [Note: Romans 1:28.]:” on the contrary, the notices which we have had of his power and grace “we have imprisoned in unrighteousness [Note: Romans 1:18.]:” and actually “knowing that they who did such things were worthy of death, we have both done them, and had pleasure in those who did them,” choosing them as our friends and daily companions [Note: Romans 1:32.].]
Habitual, without one serious effort to return to him—
[The sheep in its wandering state betrays to all its disquietude; and if it knew which way to go, it would gladly return to the fold that it has left. But the unconverted man goes farther and farther from his God, without so much as a desire to return: or if a desire occasionally arise in his mind, it is so weak and so transient, as to produce no permanent effect. If a sense of guilt and danger obtrude itself upon him, he strives to silence the conviction, and to divert the thought from his mind. If urged to return to the fold of Christ, he replies, “No: I have loved strangers: and after them will I go [Note: Jeremiah 2:25.].” This is their way, from the first moment that they begin to act [Note: Jeremiah 22:21.]: and in this they persist, till the good Shepherd, of his own grace and mercy, searches them out, and brings them back to his fold.]
Then takes place the change which is described in my text, and which leads me to set before you,
Our state by grace—
“We return to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls:” we return to the Lord Jesus Christ,
As our Owner—
[By grace we are taught, what in an unconverted state we little consider, that the Lord Jesus Christ is “that good Shepherd who has laid down his life for his sheep [Note: John 10:15.].” This thought, coming with power to the soul, has a constraining influence: it fills us with wonder and admiration at the love of Christ; and at the same time with grief, on account of our having forsaken such a Shepherd. Now we are perfectly amazed at our own ingratitude: and no terms are sufficiently strong whereby to express our self-lothing and self-abhorrence. Aware now that “we have been bought with a price,” even with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus, we are convinced that “we are not our own,” but his; and consequently, that we are bound to “glorify him with our body and our spirit, which are his.” Under this conviction we return to him, and give ourselves up to him as “his purchased possession.”]
As our Provider—
[When once Divine grace has begun to operate effectually on our hearts, we see how we have been all our days feeding on the husks of swine, whilst we deserted the pastures in which it was our privilege to feed. But no longer can we be satisfied with such things — — — Now we affect that better food, which the Lord Jesus Christ has provided for us; and desire to be led into those “pastures, where he maketh his flock to lie down at noon.” Now we begin to understand what is meant by “eating the flesh of Christ and drinking his blood;” and we find “his flesh to be meat indeed, and his blood to be drink indeed;” and the promises, which we once despised, are “sweeter to us than honey or the honey-comb.”]
As our Protector—
[Now we tremble at the thought of the dangers to which we have been exposed: nor can we rest without imploring the protection of our good Shepherd, to deliver us from that roaring lion that seeketh to devour us. No longer can we venture ourselves at a distance from him: we feel that we are unable in ourselves to cope with the feeblest enemy: and we “cast all our care on Him who careth for us.”]
As our Governor—
[To hear the voice of our good Shepherd is now our delight. Wherever he calls, we follow. If we are erring in any thing, a word from him reclaims us. Wherever he calls, we go: whatever he forbids, we shun: whatever he commands, we do. The temptations which once allured us, have now in a great measure lost their power;—the terrors that alarmed us, their influence. What wilt thou have me to do? is now our one inquiry: and, having ascertained that, we are satisfied; nor can all the powers of earth and hell divert us from our purpose to obey his will.]
Such is the change which takes place in conversion. We say not that it is perfected in the first moment; nor that it is ever so perfect, but that it admits of increase. In respect of parts, a babe is perfect as a man; though every part admits of growth. So it is in the new man. All these things are found in him, though imperfect as to their degree. Contemplate then this change,
For the satisfying of your own minds—
[We cannot conceive of any figure better calculated to illustrate the conversion of a soul, than this. The state of a wandering sheep is known to all: the poor rustic that attends the sheep has as perfect an idea of its wants and dangers, as the most enlightened philosopher can have; and can apprehend as well the comparative felicity of those who are within the fold, watched over, and provided for, by a tender and faithful shepherd. Nor is there any difficulty in transferring these ideas to the state of a soul before, and after, its conversion. Consider then whether you are conscious of having experienced such a change? I will admit indeed that there are some who are sanctified, as it were, from the womb, and whose transition from a natural to a spiritual state is not so distinctly marked. But these are very few: and in them the image of a sheep obedient to its shepherd’s voice, is as just, as in any other person whatever. The great mass of mankind have been far off from God; and they, when converted, are brought nigh unto him, as their owner, their provider, their protector, their governor, under all which characters they look unto him, and devote themselves to him, and expect every thing from him. I pray you, brethren, see whether it be thus with you: for, if you are Christians indeed, “you were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”]
For the inflaming of your gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ—
[If you have been brought home to the fold of Christ, need I ask, whence this change arose? You will know full well that it did not originate with you, nor was carried into effect by any power of your own. The silly sheep would as soon return by its own wisdom to the fold it has deserted, as you would accomplish such a change in yourselves. It was the Lord Jesus Christ who sought you out, and apprehended you, and brought you home on his shoulders rejoicing: and if he had not effected it all for you and in you, you would have been roving from him to your latest hour, and would have perished in your sins. Be thankful to him then: adore him for the grace that has so distinguished you. And, whilst you give him glory for having so made you to differ from others and from your former selves, let his mercy constrain you to surrender up yourselves to him wholly, and without reserve.]
To excite your compassion towards a perishing world—
[Were you to see a straying sheep beset with dogs who were tearing it to pieces, who amongst you would not compassionate its wretched condition? Yet is this but a very faint image of the world around you; and not of the heathen world only, but of Christians also. We see not indeed the fate prepared for them: we see not how they are already, as it were, in the jaws of the roaring lion, whose prey they will be to all eternity. But this is not the less true, because we do not see it. It is their real state; and soon shall we see it with our bodily eyes. Our blessed Lord, “when he saw the multitudes around him,” (of persons nominally the Lord’s people,) “he had compassion on them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd.” Do ye then consider the deplorable condition of all around you, and use all possible means to bring them to the fold of Christ — — — And know for your comfort, that “he who shall convert a sinner from the error of his way, will save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Peter 2". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27