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1 Peter 4:1. Forasmuch then, &c.— "I have already observed, that Christ suffered, though he was perfectly innocent: as therefore Christ, your great Lord and Master, hath suffered for you in the flesh, do you also wear the same spirit, as armour; (Ephesians 6:11.)conscious that you ought to suffer for the truth, if called thereunto: for it is rationally to be supposed, that he, who has uponthis account suffered in the flesh, hath ceased from leading an unholy life, and is resolved to live, during the residue of his abode in the flesh, not in conformity to the lusts of men, but to the will of God," 1 Peter 4:2. Dr. Bentley would read these verses thus; As Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same mind; for he that suffered in the flesh, hath died for our sins, 1Pe 4:2 that we should no longer live in the flesh, &c.
1 Peter 4:3. For the time past of our life, &c.— St. Peter did not mean that it is lawful for men to satiate themselves with vice, and that they need not leave it off till they are weary of it; but he stirs up those to whom he wrote, to care and diligence for the future, in the practice of holiness, from the consideration of their having lived so long in the vices of the Heathens. It would have been the greatest shame for them, now that they were better instructed, to have continued in, or returned any more to such abominable practices: their future lives were to be consecrated unto the true God. There is no reason to interpret the word idolatries in a figurative sense, more than any other of the vices mentioned in this verse: on the contrary, St. Peter, by calling their idolatries abominable, seems to lay a particular emphasis upon this last expression; so as to make one ready to suspect, that those Christians had once been guiltyof some of the most cruel and debauched of the rites of the idolatrous Heathens. Some think that St. Peter joined the vices mentioned in this verse with abominable idolatries, because the Heathens were guilty of such horrible excesses, even in their religious worship. Surely Christianity was a most astonishing blessing to mankind in delivering them from such abominations!
1 Peter 4:4. Wherein they think it strange, &c.— In the Syriac the words run thus: And behold now, they are amazed and blaspheme you, because you do not grow wanton with them in the same intemperance as formerly. 'Εν ω, wherein, or in which, refers to the will of the Gentiles, 1 Peter 4:3. The word ξενιζονται, rendered they think it strange, properly signifies, they are strangers; but it appears that many Greek writers used it for being astonished, or standing in admiration of a thing, as new, absurd, or surprizing: and accordingly it is so rendered in some of the ancient versions and fathers. Indeed the allusion is fine, and what obtains in many languages, to express men's admiring or wondering, as strangers do at the customs and manners of a people in a foreign country. Thus in England we say that "such a thing is very strange," when we mean that it is very surprising, or very different from what we have known, expected, or been used to. Their idolatrous neighbours and acquaintance had formerly looked upon these Gentile Christians, as of the same country and religion; but now they regarded them as strangers, or as a people whose conduct was new, strange, and surprising. See 1 Peter 4:12. Act 17:20 and 2Ma 9:6. Possibly St. Peter in the word συντρεχοντων, running, might allude to the orgies of Bacchus; in which his worshippers ran forward, like persons agitated by the furies, and, with the vehemence and transport of madmen, rushed together to the commission of the most abominable wickedness. The word αμαχυσις, rendered excess, has various significations. It is used for a puddle or sink of waters, and here may be applied metaphorically, for a sink or gulph of vice. It is used elsewhere for sloth, effeminacy, confusion, prodigality, excess, or profusion; in which last sense Archbishop Leighton understands it. The word 'Ασωτια signifies riot, luxury, prodigality, or a lewd and dissolute life: see Proverbs 28:7. St. Peter has joined these two words to express the astonishing wickedness and debauchery of the Heathens, and that even in their religious worship. He adds, that on this account they railed, or spoke evil of them: they railed at them as unsocial, and deserters of the sacred temples. Genuine converts from vice to true experimental religion, are more exposed to the ridicule and insults of their old companions than others; and indeed it was no small trial to the primitive Christians, when they were accused as morose and unsocial, and of different manners from the rest of mankind. There was great occasion for resolution and fortitude in those who adhered to Christianity; as they dared to dissent from the rest of their neighbours in matters of religion. But neither this nor any other temptation was to make them depart from truth, or practise wickedness: though Christianity was a sect every where spoken against; yet to the judgment of men they were to oppose the judgment of Christ who will soon judge the quick and the dead; for a day and a thousand years are the same to him.
1 Peter 4:6. For, for this cause was the gospel preached, &c.— "For this is the end for which the gospel was preached to those believers, who are now the dead in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16.), as well as to those who are still living upon earth, that they, by a divine power attending it, being thoroughly mortified and dead to their former inclinations and courses of life, might be eventually censured and condemned, and even put to death, for their novel and unsociable principles and behaviour, as being judged according to the dictates of corrupt nature, and of mere natural men; but that they might really live after a spiritual and joyful manner, by a holy conformity to the image and will of God in their renewed souls, as being quickened from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, and assisted by his Spirit to do the things that are pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ; and might at last be raised up to a glorious and immortal life, by his Spirit that dwelleth in them." (Romans 8:11.) See this verse more fully treated on in the Inferences.
1 Peter 4:7. But the end of all things is at hand:— That is, of all things relating to the Jewish temple, city, and nation:—an event, which so strongly corroborated the prophecies, and was on many accounts so alarming in itself, and so confirmatory of the Christian religion, that we cannot wonder the sacred writers dwell so often upon it. In opposition to the fleshly lusts of the Heathens, hinted at 1Pe 4:6 and mentioned expressly, 1Pe 4:2-4 the Christians are exhorted to be sober, or temperate; and in opposition to the stupor and security of the unbelieving Jews, they were to watch unto prayer; that they might not be involved in the like calamities with the unbelieving Jews and apostate Christians.
1 Peter 4:8. And above all things have fervent charity— See on James 5:12. Lest they should imagine that the sobriety and prayer recommended in the preceding verse were all that was required of them, St. Peter here inculcates mutual love, as a principal part of their duty. They were to make conscience of all the duties of the Christian life, but to lay the greatest stress upon the most important; and this, both in the idea of St. Peter and St. Paul, is love. Comp. 1 Corinthians 13:13. Instead of charity, as we have frequently observed, the word αγαπη should be rendered love. Have fervent love; for love will cover a multitude of sins. See Proverbs 10:12.
1 Peter 4:9. Use hospitality, &c.— We have had frequent occasion to remark the especial necessity and importance of hospitality, for the want of inns in the Eastern world. Dr. Robertson, speaking of the little intercourse between nations during the middle ages of Christianity, observes as a proof hereof, "that there were no inns, or houses of entertainment for the reception of travellers, during those ages. Among people (says he) whose manners are simple, and who are seldom visited by strangers, hospitality is a virtue of thefirst rank. This duty of hospitality was so necessary in that state of society which took place during the middle ages, that it was not considered as one of those virtues which men may practise or not, according to the tempers of their minds, and the generosity of their hearts: hospitality was enforced by statutes, and they who neglected this duty, were liable to punishment. The laws of the Slavi were remarkably rigorous: they ordained, that the moveables of an inhospitable person should be confiscated, and his house burned. In consequence of these laws, or of that state of society which made it proper to enact them, hospitality abounded while the intercourse among men was inconsiderable, and secured the stranger a kind reception under every roof where he chose to take shelter. This too proves clearly, that the intercourse among men was rare; for as soon as this increased, what was a pleasure became a burthen, and the entertaining of travellers was converted into a branch of commerce." See his History of Charles V. vol. 1: p. 326. But by the word hospitality, I conceive all other supply of the wants of our brethren in outward things to be here comprehended. Now, for this, the way and measure, indeed, must receive its proportion from the estate and ability of persons. But certainly the great straitening of hands in these things, is more from the straitness of hearts than of means. A large heart, with a little estate, will do much with cheerfulness and little noise, while hearts glued to the poor riches they possess, or rather are possessed by, can scarcely part with any thing, till they be pulled from all. Now, for supply of our brethren's necessities, one good help is, the retrenching of our own superfluities. Turn the stream into that channel where it will refresh thy brethren, and enrich thyself, and let it not run into the dead sea. Thyvain excessive entertainments, thy gaudy variety of dresses, these thou dost not challenge, thinking it is of thine own; but know, as follows, thou art but steward of it, and this is not faithfully laying out; thou canst not answer for it; yea, it is robbery; thou robbest thy poor brethren that want necessaries, whilst thou lavishest thus on unnecessaries. Such a feast, such a suit of apparel, is direct robbery in the Lord's eye, and the poor may cry, That is mine which you cast away so vainly, by which both I and you might be profited, Proverbs 3:27-28. With-hold not good from him therefore to whom it is due, &c.
1 Peter 4:10. As every man hath received, &c.— "And as all talents for public offices, as well as private capacities of usefulness in the church, are the free gift of God, let every one who is favoured with them, be careful to employ them, in proportion to what he has received, for the advantage and edification one of another, as persons entrusted with, and accountable to their great Lord and Master for the various gifts andendowmentswhichhehasgraciously bestowed upon them, that they may manage them with wisdom and faithfulness, like honorable stewards, (καλοι οικονομοι, ) for the good of the church for which he gave them." By the manifold or various grace of God, we may understand, that great diversity, of gifts, which all proceeded from one and the same Spirit, and which were all of pure grace, or free favour; for none of the Christians could demand any of them by any claim of justice, or as a debt due to him. Now every one of those gifts was to be made use of, not merely for the private advantage of the persons upon whom they were bestowed, but for the glory of God, and the public good of mankind; and more particularly of the Christian church; that the Christiansmight promote divine knowledge, experience, and piety in each other. See Romans 12:6-8.
1 Peter 4:11. If any man speak, &c.— St. Peter having, in the preceding verse, spoken of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which were distributed among the Christians in great diversity,—and recommended it to everyone to make use of his own spiritual gifts for the good of the church,—in this verse he descends to particulars, and instances in the two offices of a pastor or teacher, and a deacon, who were very commonly in that age, not only chosen by the direction of the Spirit, but who likewise had extraordinary helps from God, to direct and assist them in the discharge of their particular office. Perhaps St. Peter, by using the word λογια, oracles, might allude to the high-priest's consulting the oracle by Urim and Thummim. When he inquired in that manner, the divine oracle gave answers to the children of Israel, and that oracle, in the LXX. is frequently called λογιον . The teacher or minister in the Christian church was to speak as giving answers to the people, as uttering divine oracles, or as teaching the word of God, not of men. The original of if any man minister, might be rendered, if any man officiate or serve as a deacon, let him, &c. See Acts 6:2.
1 Peter 4:12.— St. Peter here returns to what he has often touched upon in this epistle; namely, to exhort the Christians to behave with patience and integrity under their present severe persecution. To which purpose he uses the following arguments: first, He insinuates that it was not a strange or unusual thing, for the people of God to be persecuted: secondly, Though they suffered here as Christ did, they should hereafter, if faithful, be glorified with him: thirdly, Besides the prospect of that future glory, they had at present the Spirit of God for their support and comfort: fourthly, That it was an honour for any one of them to suffer, not as a malefactor, but as a Christian: fifthly,Thoughafflictionsbegan with the Christians, yet the weight of the storm would fall upon the unbelievers.—From these considerations he exhorted them to persevere in their duty, and trusts all events with God, 1 Peter 4:12-19.
Think it not strange, &c.— See on 1 Peter 4:4. By serious and frequent meditations Christians should be prepared for the cross, and then they would not think persecution a strange thing: it would not then terrify or surprise them. See ch. 1 Peter 1:6 1 Peter 2:21. 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4. By πυρωσις, fire or burning, is meant that trial as it were by fire, or that hot and fiery persecution of the Christians, which had then proceeded chieflyfrom the unbelieving Jews. The image is the same here as in ch. 1Pe 1:7 where see the note. This may help to explain Matthew 24:7-9. For this fiery trial was a literal and exact accomplishment of that part of our Lord's prophecy, then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, &c. This fiery persecution happened only for a trial of the Christians. It was not to burn them up, or a fire kindled to their destruction; but it was to prove them, whether they would conceal or deny the truth; whether they would give up Christianity, or continue true to their profession.
1 Peter 4:13. But rejoice, inasmuch, &c.— But, in proportion to your partaking the sufferings of Christ, rejoice, that at the revelation of his glory, you may rejoice with exceeding great joy. Christ will not always be concealed from the eyes of men: there is a time coming, when he will make himself conspicuous to all, and be revealed from heaven, as theuniversal Judge, with the greatest glory, and most divine majesty. See 1 Corinthians 1:7.
1 Peter 4:14. For the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you:— The Venetian reading is, The Spirit of honour, and of glory, and divine power, even the Spirit of God, resteth upon you. The meaning seems to be, in general, "You shall have the Spirit of God in a very glorious manner, to support you, in proportion to the trials which you are called to bear; and this will spread a glory round you, even though you may be treated in the most infamous manner, as the vilest of malefactors;"—which we know was the case with several of the primitive Christians. See Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 17:14.Acts 1:8; Acts 1:8; Act 2:3 and comp. Exodus 40:35.
1 Peter 4:15. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, &c.— Let not therefore any of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a malefactor; or as one who busily affects the government of other men, or the magistrates office. See ch. 1 Peter 2:20. &c. and the Apostolic Constitutions, b, 5 : 100: 2. Dr. Lardner has well observed, "That the word αλλοτριοεπισκοπος, cannot here signify merely 'a prying into the concerns of private families;' which could not be ranked with such crimes as are here mentioned, nor expose a man to the punishment of the civil magistrate: but it may signify a man who presumes to inspect and direct the affairs of others; perhaps who aspires to public authority;—a temper which shewed itself much among the Jews, particularly at Alexandria and Caesarea, and which would naturally give great offence to the Romans, and make them very dangerous enemies. If therefore any thing of this kind might appear among Christians, it would be of particular bad consequence in those times."
1 Peter 4:16. Let him not be ashamed;— There is no shame in suffering, unless it be for some crime: to be a Christian, and to suffer for being so, is an honour. Grotius's remark on the words is this: "If a man was not to be ashamed to die with Phocion, how much less to die for Christ!" It was sometimes deemed a sufficient accusation of the primitive Christians, "that they were the disciples of Jesus;" and upon that account alone many of them suffered death: but what a glorious thing was it thus to die, when their bitterest adversaries had no crime to lay to their charge, nothing to object against them, but that they were Christians!
1 Peter 4:17. For the time is come, &c.— 'Ο καιρος, the time; the signal time prophesied of, Matthew 24:9; Matthew 24:21-22.Mark 13:12-13; Mark 13:12-13. By το κριμα, judgment, seems here to be meant the particular distress which was to happen before Jerusalem should be utterly destroyed.—The Christians were to expect to feel some of the first effects of that general calamity: it was to begin with them, as our Saviour had plainly prophesied in the text already referred to. It was God's way of old, to begin with sending calamities on his own people; and indeed a state of trial seems highly proper before a state of recompence. See ch. 1 Peter 1:6. The present verse looks like an allusion to Eze 9:6 comp. Jeremiah 25:29. By us here seems to be meant the Christians of that age, whether formerly Jews or Gentiles; for they appear now to have been persecuted generally every where. See ch. 1 Peter 5:9. They who obey not the gospel of God, is a proper description of the unbelieving Jews: they were not chargeable with idolatry; they acknowledged and worshipped the true God; but they rejected the gospel which God revealed by his Son;—and therefore they came to so dreadful an end. See 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16. Whoever compares the accounts in the Scriptures, or ancient fathers, concerning the persecutions which befel the Christians about this time, with the sufferings of the Jews as related by Josephus, will easily see, that the distress only began with the Christians, and was light compared with what afterwards fell upon the Jews: for, when Jerusalem was destroyed, the Christians escaped with their lives, and enjoyed more peace and tranquillity than they had done before. God delivered Noah in the time of the flood, Lot out of Sodom, and the Christians at the destruction of Jerusalem. See the next note.
1 Peter 4:18. And if the righteous, &c.— St. Peter having, in the preceding verse, compared the case of the Christians with that of the unbelieving Jews, he intimated that the approaching calamities were only to begin at the house of God; but the end, the weight of the storm, would fall upon the unbelievingJews, because of their refusal of the gospel. But in this verse he seems to have enlarged his view, and to have compared the present case of faithful Christians, to the case of the idolatrous and wicked world at the last day, as he had already done, 1 Peter 4:5. The verse before us is taken from Pro 11:31 according to the text. The apostle seems to have quoted the words, not by way of proof, but as alluding to that ancient proverb, and according the words of the Wise King to his present subject. The word scarcely, or with great difficulty, must allude to the difficulties arising to good men in their Christian course, from the dangerous snares and temptations of sin and the world. St. Peter has put it by way of question, Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? In which he alludes to an earthly court of judicature, where the innocent, or such as are sure of pardon, may appear with courage and cheerfulness; but the guilty are afraid and unwilling to appear at all. The turn of the expression in the original is very lively: The ungodly and the sinner—where shall he appear? It seems as if the apostle were solicitous to lead the sinner to consider where he should hide his head, since wherever he was, he would find God immediately appearingagainst him as an irresistible enemy. This he might say, by way of warning to persecutors, and to encourage Christians to hope and trust that God would vindicate their cause, and preserve them from turning aside to crooked paths.
1 Peter 4:19. According to the will of God— That is "According to his permission, suffering as Christians, not as evil-doers: 1 Peter 4:15." The soul, by a Hebraism, is often put for the whole man; but here it may be understood of the highest concerns, and of our future and everlasting welfare. See Psalms 31:5.Ecclesiastes 12:7; Ecclesiastes 12:7. Luke 23:46. When they suffered for righteousness' sake, they were to commit their souls or lives unto God, as unto a faithful Creator. This was another argument for patience; their suffering was not agreeable to the will of God, considered as their Governor or Judge; but God was also their Creator. But, besides his being their Creator, he is likewise faithful; that is, true to his promises, and may be depended upon, as one of sufficient power, wisdom, and goodness, to make all things conduce to the good of the pious, and particularly to raise them to a happy immortality. This promise he had made to them in the gospel, and they might trust him for the performance. By well-doing, some would understand, "a kind treatment of their enemies and persecutors;" which behaviour is unquestionably the duty of Christians when persecuted: but St. Peter seems to have used the word here in a more extensive sense, as intending to exhort them to a good behaviour in general. If they had been malefactors, and suffered as such, they could not have rationally committed their souls unto God as unto a faithful Creator: whereas such as make it their study to obeyhim, mayconfide in him in the greatest distress. He will support them in trouble, or deliver them from it; at death he will receive their spirits; and at the last day he will raise them again, and make them happy for ever.
Inferences drawn from 1 Peter 4:6.—It is a thing of prime concernment for a Christian, to be rightly informed, and frequently put in mind, what is the true estate and nature of a Christian; for this the multitude of those who bear that name, either know not, or commonly forget, and so are carried away with the vain fancies and mistakes of the world. The apostle has characterized Christianity very clearly to us in this place, by that which is the very nature of it, conformity with Christ, and that which is necessarily consequent upon that, disconformity with the world.
We have first here, the preaching of the gospel as the suitable means to a certain end. Secondly, The express nature of that end.
1. The preaching of the gospel as a suitable means to a certain end; for this cause. There is a particular end, and that very important, for which the preaching of the gospel is intended; this end many consider not, hearing it, as if it were to no end, or not propounding a fixed determined end in their hearing. This therefore is to be considered by those who preach this gospel, that they aim right in it at this end, and no other. There must be no self end. It is necessarily incumbent upon ministers of the gospel, that they make it their study to find in themselves this work, this living to God, otherwise they cannot skilfully nor faithfully apply their gifts to work this effect on their hearers; and therefore acquaintance with God is most necessary.
How sounds it to many of us, at the least, but as a well contrived story, whose use is to amuse us, and possibly delight us a little, and there is an end! and indeed no end, for this turns the most serious and most glorious of all messages into an empty sound. If we keep awake, and give it a hearing, it is much; but for any thing further, how few deeply beforehand consider, "I have a dead heart; therefore will I go unto the word of life, that it may be quickened: it is frozen, I will go and lay it before the warm beams of that Sun which shines in the gospel; my corruptions are mighty and strong, and grace, if there be any in my heart, is exceeding weak; but there is in the gospel a power to weaken and kill sin, and to strengthen grace; and this being the intent of my wise God in appointing it, it shall be my desire and purpose, in resorting to it, to find it to me according to his gracious intendment; to have faith in my Christ, the fountain of my life, more strengthened, and made more active in drawing from him; to have my heart more refined and spiritualized, and to have the sluice of repentance opened, and my affections to divine things enlarged; more hatred of sin, and more love of God and communion with him."
When you come to hear the gospel, inquire within, "Why came I hither this day? what had I in mine eye and desires ere I came forth, and in my way as I was coming? Did I seriously propound an end or no, and what was my end?" Nor does the mere custom of mentioning this in prayer satisfy the question; for this, as other such things usually do in our hand, may turn to a lifeless form, and have no heat of spiritual affection; none of David's panting and breathing after God in his ordinances; such desires as will not be stilled without a measure of attainment, as the child's desire of the breast; as our apostle resembles it, chap. 1 Peter 2:2.
And then again, being returned home, reflect on your hearts, "Much has been heard, but is there any thing done by it? Have I gained my point? It was not simply to pass a little time that I went, or to pass it with delight in hearing; rejoicing in that light, as they did in St. John Baptist's, Joh 5:35 for a season (προς ωραν ), as long as the hour lasts! It was not to have my ear pleased, but my heart changed; not to learn some new notions, and carry them cold in my head, but to be quickened, and purified, and renewed in the spirit of my mind? Is this done? Think I now with greater esteem of Christ, and the life of faith, and the happiness of a Christian? And are such thoughts solid and abiding with me? What sin have I left behind? What grace of the Spirit have I brought home? or what new degree, or at least new desire of it, a living desire, which will follow its point?" Oh! this were good repetition.
It is a strange folly in multitudes of us to set ourselves no mark, to propound no end in the hearing of the gospel. The merchant fails not only that he may fail, but for traffic, and traffics that he may be rich. The husbandman plows not only to keep himself busy with no further end, but plows that he may sow, and sows that he may reap with advantage: and shall we do the most excellent and fruitful work fruitlessly? hear only to hear, and look no further? This is indeed a great vanity, and a great misery, to lose that labour, and gain nothing by it, which, duly used, would be of all others most advantageous and gainful; and yet all meetings are full of this.
Now, when you come, this is not simply to hear a discourse, and relish or dislike it in hearing; but a matter of life and death, of eternal death and eternal life; and the spiritual life, begot and nourished by the word, is the beginning of that eternal life. Which leads us to consider,
2. The express nature of the end, that they might live to God in the spirit. Men pass away, and others succeed; but the gospel is still the same, has the same tenor and substance, and the same ends. As Solomon speaks of the heavens and earth, that remain the same, while one generation passes, and another cometh, Ecclesiastes 1:4.; the gospel surpasses both in its stability, as our Saviour testifies, Mat 5:18 they shall pass away, but not one jot of his word. And indeed they wear and wax old, as the apostle teaches us; but the gospel is from one age to another, of the most unalterable integrity, has still the same vigour and powerful influence as at the first.
They who formerly received the gospel, received it upon these terms; therefore think it not hard: and they are now dead; all the difficulty of that work of dying to sin is now over with them; if they had not died to their sins by the gospel, they had died in them after a while, and so died eternally. It is therefore a wise prevention, to have sin judged and put to death in us before we die; if we will not part with sin, if we die in it, and with it, we and our sin perish together; but if it die first before us, then we live for ever.
And what thinkest thou of thy carnal will, and all the delights of sin? What is the longest term of its life? Uncertain it is, but most certainly very short: thou and these pleasures must be severed and parted within a little time; however, thou must die, and then they die, and you never meet again. Now, were it not the wisest course to part a little sooner with them, and let them die before thee, that thou mayest inherit eternal life, and eternal delights in it, pleasures for evermore? It is the only wise and profitable bargain; let us therefore delay it no longer.
This is our season of enjoying the sweetness of the gospel; others heard it before us, and now they are removed, and we must remove shortly, and leave our places to others, to speak and hear in. It is high time that we were considering to what end we speak and hear; high time, without further delay, to lay hold on that salvation which is held forth to us: and that we may lay hold on it, we must immediately let go our hold of sins and those perishing things which we hold so firm, and cleave to so fast. Do they that are dead, who heard and obeyed the gospel, now repent their repentance and mortifying the flesh? Or, do they not think ten thousand times more pains, were it for many ages, all too little for a moment of that which now they enjoy, and shall enjoy to eternity? And they that are dead, who heard the gospel and slighted it, if such a thing might be, what would they give for one of these opportunities which now we daily have, and daily lose, and have no fruit or esteem of them! You have seen many, and you that shifted the sight have heard of numbers, cut off in a little time. And yet, who has laid to heart the lengthening out of his day, and considered it more as an opportunity of securing that higher and happier life, than as a little protracting of this wretched life, which is hastening to an end? Oh! therefore be entreated to-day, while it is called To-day, not to harden your hearts, Psalms 95:7-8. Hebrews 3:7; Hebrews 4:7.
Think therefore wisely of these two things, of the proper end of the gospel, and of the approaching end of thy days, and let thy certainty of this latter drive thee to seek more certainty of the other, that thou mayest partake of it; and then this again will make the thoughts of the other sweet to thee. That visage of death, which is so terrible to unchanged sinners, shall be amiable to thine eye: having found a life in the gospel as happy and lasting as this is miserable and vanishing, and seeing the perfection of that life on the other side of death, thou wilt long for the passage.
Be more serious in this matter, of daily hearing the gospel; consider why it is sent to thee, and what it brings; and think, it is too long I have slighted its message, and many who have done so are cut off, and shall hear it no more: I have it once more inviting me, and it may be this may be the last invitation I shall receive: and in these thoughts, ere you come, bow your knee to the Father of spirits, that this one thing may be granted you, that your souls may find at length the lively and mighty power of his Spirit upon yours, in the hearing of this gospel, that you may be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
Now, if this life be in thee, it will act: all life is in motion, and is called an act; but most active of all is this most excellent, and, as I may call it, most lively life. It will be moving towards God; often seeking to him, making still towards him as its principle and fountain, exerting itself in holy and affectionate thoughts of him; sometimes on one of his sweet attributes, sometimes on another; as the bee among the flowers. And as it will thus act within, so it will be outwardly laying hold on all occasions, yea, seeking out ways and opportunities to be serviceable to thy Lord; employing all for him, commending and extolling his goodness, doing and suffering cheerfully for him, laying out the strength of desires, and parts, and means, in thy station, to gain him glory. If thou be alone, then not alone, but with him; seeking to know more of him, and be made more like him. If in company, then casting about how to bring his name into esteem, and to draw others to a love of religion and holiness by speeches, as it may be fit, and most by the true behaviour of thy carriage; tender over the souls of others, to do them good to thy utmost; thinking, each day, an hour lost when thou art not busy for the honour and advantage of him to whom thou now livest; thinking in the morning, "Now, what may I do this day for my God? How may I most please and glorify him, and use my strength and understanding, and mine whole self, as not mine, but his?" And then in the evening, reflecting, "O Lord, have I seconded these thoughts in reality? What glory has he had by me this day? Whither went my thoughts and endeavours? What busied them most? Have I been much with God? Have I adorned the gospel in my converse with others?" And if thou findest any thing done this way, this life will engage thee to bless and acknowledge him the spring and worker of it. If any step has been taken aside, were it but to an appearance of evil, or if any fit season of good has escaped thee unprofitably, it will lead thee to check thyself, and to be grieved for thy sloth and coldness, and see if more love would not beget more diligence.
But wouldst thou grow upwards in this life? Have much recourse to Jesus Christ thy Head, the spring from whom flow the animal spirits which quicken thy soul. Wouldst thou know more of God? He it is that reveals the Father, and reveals him as his Father; and in him thy Father, and that is the sweet notion of God. Wouldst thou overcome thy lusts entirely? Our victory is in him; apply his conquest; We are more than conquerors, through him that loved us, Romans 8:37. Wouldst thou be more replenished with graces, and spiritual affections? His fulness is, for that use, open to us; life, and more life, in him, and for us; this was his business here, he came, that we might have life, and might have it more abundantly, John 10:10.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The apostle,
1. Draws an inference from what he had advanced. Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind, with patience and holy resolution: for he that hath suffered in the flesh, crucifying the body of sin through union with a dying Saviour, and willingly taking up any cross which the divine Providence may lay upon him; hath ceased from sin, from his former corrupt principles and practice, and is mortified to every evil affection: that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh, to the lusts of men; but the little space which yet remains, he is earnest to redeem, and fain would spend it according to the will of God. Note; (1.) Nothing so effectually mortifies sin as a believing view of the cross of Christ. (2.) The will of God, not our vile affections, must be our guide. If we live after the flesh, we must die eternally, while the paths of grace and holiness alone can lead us to immortal life and glory.
2. The apostle argues on the reasonableness of living unto God, from the consideration of the abuse they had made of the time that was past. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when (with shame we remember it,) we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings and riot, banquetings and luxurious carousals, and abominable idolatries, joining with the Gentiles in these horrible deeds: wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them still to the same excess of riot as before, speaking evil of you and your religion, as if it made you morose, unsociable, and poor despicable objects: who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead, at the great day of his appearing and glory. Note; (1.) The remembrance of our former evil ways should often dwell upon our minds for our deep humiliation before God. (2.) The conduct of a Christian appears very strange to an ungodly world, and they wonder what there is in religion, which, for the sake of it, can induce men to forego all that they call enjoyment. (3.) They who speak evil of our good conversation in Christ, must shortly give a solemn account of their hard speeches before an awful tribunal.
3. The former saints of God were thus censured of the world, and saved by grace. For, for that cause was the gospel preached also to them that are now dead in Christ, and departed in his faith and fear, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, and undergo reproach, persecution, and some of them even death itself, for those tenets which the carnal world derides and abhors, but might, notwithstanding all the sufferings in the body, live according to God in the Spirit, under the mighty influences of his grace, in a holy conformity to his will, and expecting, through the power of the Holy Ghost, to be raised up at the last day to live with God eternally.
2nd, We have an awful position: But the end of all things is at hand. The Jewish state was soon to be destroyed; where dwelt the most inveterate persecutors of the Christian name; and to every individual is this truth most applicable, to whom death and eternity are approaching, and judgment is at the door; from which awful considerations the apostle enforces the following exhortations:
1. Be ye therefore sober, temperate in all things, not inordinately pursuing, nor immoderately using any thing in this world, knowing how short the time is. And,
2. Watch unto prayer; be on your guard against the numberless temptations which beset you, and especially be looking up by ceaseless prayer for strength to resist and overcome them. Note; Prayer is our great preservative; and we shall never fail, while we continue waiting upon God.
3. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves, cordially and tenderly affected towards each other: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins, engaging you kindly to overlook the offences of your brethren, and cast a veil of oblivion over their many infirmities, and to conceal them from the censorious world.
4. Use hospitality one to another without grudging, freely and cheerfully receiving those who, for righteousness' sake, are driven from place to place, or are travelling to spread the glad tidings of salvation, and trusting on the divine Providence for their maintenance: and in every other respect be hospitable, always keeping within the due bounds of Christian prudence and temperance.
5. As every man hath received the gift, whatever talents he is blessed with, whether of wealth, abilities, or more especially of grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even so minister the same one to another, laying out yourselves for your mutual edification and comfort, as good stewards of the manifest grace of God, from whom you have received all that you possess, and to whom you are accountable for the due improvement of it. If any man speak, therefore, as called to the office of a preacher, let him speak as the oracles of God, with strict adherence to the sacred doctrines therein revealed, not presuming to add any thing thereunto, or diminish ought therefrom: if any man minister in the office of a deacon, or out of his worldly substance to the necessitous, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth, with all fidelity, cheerfulness, and diligence, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, and his name exalted in the advancement of his church and his kingdom in the world, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever, to the incarnate Saviour, and to the Father through him. Amen! Note; (1.) Whatever we possess, we are but stewards, and must give an account to the great Master for the talents committed to our trust. (2.) God's glory should be the great end of all our conversation, and in our lips and lives we should endeavour to shew forth his praise.
3rdly, The apostle,
1. Encourages them to bear up boldly under their expected trials. Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as gold in the furnace, as though some strange thing happened unto you, and your sufferings were uncommon, and such as God's children might not have expected. But however severe your trials may be, rejoice in them, in as much as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, and herein conformed to your glorious Head; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy, and reign with him, as you have suffered for him. And, in the lesser trials of reviling and slander, if ye be reproached for the name of Christ, branded with some opprobrious name, and made the objects of derision and contempt, happy are ye; let it be your delight to be thus vile, and gladly bear this honourable badge of infamy; for the Spirit of glory, and of God resteth upon you, to comfort you under these reproaches, and to give you an earnest of that eternal glory to which these trials are the way: on their part he is evil spoken of, and his blessed operations reviled and blasphemed; but on your part he is glorified, and his name exalted by your faith and patience, and by the praises given him for the supports and comforts which you experience from him. Note; (1.) We must count no affliction strange, however grievous for the time; it is permitted to be, because God sees that we have much dross, and need that furnace to purge us from it. (2.) Our sufferings for Christ are our real honour, and shall be, if we be faithful, our highest joy. (3.) In a day of recompence we shall never regret what we have endured for Christ and his cause. (4.) We need not wonder at any reproaches cast on ourselves, when even the blessed Spirit of God himself sustains the like blasphemies, and his operations are branded as delusions and enthusiasm.
2. He admonishes them to give their enemies no such handle against them as they desired to have. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil-doer, justly chargeable with any criminal conduct whatever; or as a busy-body in other men's matters, labouring after pre-eminence and authority, or prying into the concerns of his neighbours which do not belong to him, and neglecting his own. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, and if, however innocent, through enmity to him on account of his religion, any of these atrocious crimes are charged upon him, let him not be ashamed of such malignant abuse, but let him glorify God on this behalf, that he is counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ, and enabled to despise these calumnies.
3. He supports what he had advanced, by the most weighty considerations. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God, not only in the destruction of the Jewish temple, but in very severe visitations upon his spiritual church and people, who need the correction of his rod: and if it first begin at us, and we undergo the severe discipline of the cross, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? How fearful will be the vengeance executed on them? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, plucked as brands from the burning, and hardly escaping, like Lot from the flames of Sodom, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear, who wilfully and obstinately reject all the warnings of God's providence, and the word of his grace, determined to abide in their iniquities, whatever the consequence may be. How terrible, sure, and inevitable must be their eternal perdition! Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God, patiently and submissively, commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator, content to refer themselves to him, resigned to his will, and ready to do or suffer according to his pleasure, satisfied in his faithfulness to all his promises, and trusting to reap their fulfilment in a blessed eternity. Note; (1.) God corrects his own children that they may not be condemned with the world. (2.) If the Lord chastises his own people for the evil that he sees in them, shall the rebellious sinner go unpunished? No, verily; there is dreadful vengeance hanging over him. (3.) The gate of heaven is strait; how surely then must they be excluded, who never so much as set their faces heaven-ward! (4.) Come what will, we know that our sufferings are sent or permitted of God, and that his faithfulness, power, and love, are engaged to bring every persevering believer safely through them; and this is sufficient to make us easy, yea, happy under them.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26