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hope with meekness and a holy reverence, remote from all levity. For all this, it is necessary to have a good conscience. We may carry a bad conscience to God, that he may pardon and have mercy on us; but if we have a bad conscience, we cannot resist the enemy-we are afraid of him. On the one hand, we fear his malice; on the other, we have lost the consciousness of the presence and the strength of God. When walking before God, we fear nothing; the heart is free, weshave not to think of self, we think of God, and the adversaries are ashamed of having falsely accused those whose conduct is unblameable, and against whom nothing can be brought except the calumny of their enemies, which calumnies turn to their own shame.
It may be that God sees it good that we should suffer. If so, it is better that we should suffer for well doing than for evil doing. The Apostle gives a touching motive for this; Christ has suffered for sin once for all; let that suffice; let us suffer only for righteousness. To suffer for sin was His task: He accomplished it, and that for ever. Put to death, as to His life in the flesh, but quickened according to the power of the Divine Spirit. The
passage that follows has occasioned difficulties to the readers of Scripture; but it appears to me simple, if We perceive the object of the Spirit of God. The Jews expected a Messiah corporeally present, who should deliver the nation, and exalt the Jews to the summit of earthly glory. But He was not present, we know, in that manner, and the believing Jews had to endure the scoffs and the hatred of the unbelieving, on account of their trust in a Messiah who was not present, and who had wrousht no deliverance for the people. Believers possessed the salvation of their soul, and they knew Jesus in Heaven; but unbelieving men did not care for that. The Apostle, therefore, cites the case of Noah's testimony. The believing Jews were few in number, and Christ was theirs only according to the Spirit. By the power of that Spirit He had been raised up from the dead. It was by the power of the same Spirit that He had gone-- without being corporeally present— to preach
in Noah. The world was disobedient (like the Jews in the Apostle's days), and eight souls only were saved; even as the believers were now but a little flock. But the spirits of the disobedient were now in prison, because they did not obey Christ present among them by His spirit in Noah. The long-suffering of God waited then, as now with the Jewish nation; the result would be the same. It has been so.
This interpretation is confirmed (in preference to that which supposes that the Spirit of Christ preached in Hades to souls which had been confined there ever since the flood) by the consideration that in Genesis it is said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with men, but their days shall be a hundred and twenty years.” That is to say, His Spirit should strive, in the testimony of Noah, during a hundred and twenty years, and no longer. Now, it would be an extraordinary thing, that with those persons only (for he speaks only of them) the Lord should strive in testimony after their death. Moreover, we may observe, that in considering this expression to mean the Spirit of Christ in Noah, we only use a well-known phrase of Peter's; for he it is, as we have seen, who said, * The Spirit of Christ which was in the prophets."
These spirits, then, are in prison, because they did not hearken to the Spirit of Christ in Noah (compare 2 Pet. ii.5-9). To this the apostle adds the comparison of baptism to the ark of Noah in the deluge. Noah was saved through the water. We also; for the water of baptism typifies death, as the deluge, so to speak, was the death of the world. Now, Christ has passed through death and is risen. We enter into death in baptism; but it is like the ark, because Christ suffered in death for us, and has come out of it in resurrection, as Noah came out of the deluge, to begin, as it were, a new life in a resurrection-world. Now Christ, having passed through death, has atoned for sin; and we, by passing through it in spirit, leave all our sins in it, as Christ died in reality for us; for He was raised up without the sins which He expiated on the Cross. And they were our sins; and thus, through the resurrection, we have a good con science. We pass through death, in spirit and in figure
by baptism: the force of the thing is the resurrection of Christ, after He had accomplished expiation; by which resurrection, therefore, we have a good conscience.
Xow, this is what the Jews had to learn. The Christ was gone up to Heaven, all powers and principalities being made subject to Him. He is at the right hand of God. We have, therefore, not a Messiah on earth, but a good conscience and a heavenly Christ.
Chap.iv. From the beginning of this chapter to the end of verse 7, the apostle continues to speak of the general principles of God's government, exhorting the Christian to act on the principles of Christ Himself, which would cause him to avoid the walk condemned by that government, while waiting for the judgment of the world by the Christ whom he served. Christ glorified, as we saw at the close of the previous chapter, was ready to judge; and they who were exasperated against the Christians, and who were led by their own passions, without caring for the coming judgment, would have to give account to that Judge whom they refused to own * Saviour.
Here, it will be observed, it is suffering for righteousness' sake (ii. 17, iii. 19), in connection with the government and judgment of God. The principle was this: they accepted, they followed, the Saviour whom the world and the nation rejected; they walked in His holy footsteps in righteousness, as pilgrims and strangers, abandoning the corruption that reigned in the world. Walking in peace and following after good, they avoided, to a certain extent, the attacks of others; and the eyes of Him, who watches from on high over all things, rested upon the righteous. Nevertheless, in the relations of ordinary life (ii. 18), and in their intercourse with men, they might have to suffer, and to bear flagrant injustice. Now, the time of God's judgment was not yet come. Christ was in Heaven; He had been rejected on the earth, and the Christian's part was to follow Him. The time of the manifestation of the government of God would be at the judgment which Christ should execute. Meanwhile, His walk on earth had furnished the pattern of that which the God of judgment approved (ii. 21--23, iv. 1, and following verses).
They were to do good, to suffer, and to be patient. This is well-pleasing to God; this is what Christ did. It was better that they should suffer for doing well, if God saw fit, than for doing ill. Christ (ii. 24) had borne our sins, had suffered for our sins, the Just for the unjust, in order that we, being dead to sin, should live for righteousness, and in order to bring us unto God Himself. Christ is now on high; He is ready to judge. When the judgment shall come, the principles of God's government will be manifested, and shall prevail
. The beginning of chap. iv. requires some rather more detailed remarks. The death of Christ is there applied to practical death unto sin; a state presented in contrast with the life of the Gentiles.
Christ, on the Cross (the apostle alludes to the 18th verse of the preceding chapter), suffered in the flesh foi us. He died, in fact, as regards His human life. W must arm ourselves with the same mind, and allov of no life as to the will of the old man, but hold our selves to be dead as to the flesh, never yielding to it will. Sin is the action in us of the will of the flesh, th will of the man as alive in this world. When this wil acts, the principle of sin is there; for we ought to obey The will of God ought to be the spring of our mor: life; and so much the more, because now that we hav the knowledge of good and evil - now that the will the flesh, unsubject to God, is in us, we must either tak the will of God as our only motive, or act according 1 the will of the flesh, for the latter is always present in us
Christ chose to die, to suffer all things, rather than n obey. He thus dies to sin, which never found an ei trance into His heart. With Him it was death, rath than disobedience, tempted thus to the uttermost. TI sin which ever assailed Him (for He had none withi was always kept outside; and by dying, by suffering the flesh, He entered for ever into rest, after having be tried to the uttermost, and tempted in all things similar to us, as regards the trial of faith, the conflict of t spiritual life.
Now, it is the same thing with respect to ourselves. If I suffer in the flesh, the will of the flesh is assuredly not in action; and the flesh, suffering, i.e., dying, has nothing more to do with sin. We, then, are freed from it, have done with it, and are at rest. If we are content to suffer, the will does not act; sin is not there, as to fact; for to suffer is not will, it is grace acting in accordance with the image and the mind of Christ in the new man; and we are freed from the action of the old man. It does not act; we rest from it; we have done with it, no longer to live, for the remainder of our life here below in the flesh, according to the lusts of man, but according to the will of God, which the new follows.
It is enough to have spent the past time of our lives in doing the will of the Gentiles (he still speaks to Christians of the circumcision), and in committing the excesses to which they addicted themselves, while they wondered at Christians for refusing to do the same; speaking evil of them for this reason. But they would have to give account to Him, who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
The Jews were accustomed to the judgment of the living, for they were the centre of God's government on the earth. The judgment of the dead, with which we are more familiar, had not been definitely revealed to them. They were liable, nevertheless, to this judgment; for it was with this object that the promises of God were presented to them while living, in order that they might either live according to God in the Spirit, or be judged as inen responsible for what they had done in the flesh. For the one or other of these results would be produced in every one who heard the promises. Thus, in regard to the Jews, the judgment of the dead would take place in connection with the promises that had been set before them. For this testimony from God placed all who heard it under responsibility, so that they would be judged as men who had to give account to God of their conduct in the flesh, unless they came out of this position of life in the flesh by being quickened through the power of the Word addressed to them, applied by the energy