Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the Spirit; so that they escaped from the flesh through the spiritual life which they received.

Now the end of all things was at hand. The apostle, while speaking of the great principle of responsibility in connection with the testimony of God, draws the attention of believers to the solemn thought of the end of all these things on which the flesh rested. This end drew near.

Here, observe, Peter presents, not the coming of the Lord to receive His own, nor His manifestation with them, but that moment of the solemn sanction of the ways of God, when every refuge of the flesh should disappear, and all the thoughts of man perish for ever.

As regards the relations of God with the world in government, the destruction of Jerusalem, although it was not " the end,” was of immense importance, because it destroyed the very seat of that government on the earth, in which the Messiah ought to have reigned, and shall yet reign.

God watches over all things, takes care of His own, counts the hairs of their heads, makes everything contribute to their highest good; but this is in the midst of a world which He no longer owns; for not only is the earthly and direct government of God set aside, which took place in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, and, in a certain sense, in those of Saul, but the Messiah, who ought to reign in it, has been rejected, and has taken the heavenly place in resurrection, which forms the subject of this Epistle.

The destruction of Jerusalem (which was to take place in those days) was the final abolition of even the traces of that government, until the Lord shall return. The relations of an earthly people with God, on the ground of man's responsibility, were ended. The general government of God took the place of the former; a government always the same in principle, but which, Jesus having suffered on the earth, still allowed His members to suffer here below. And, until the time of judgment, the wicked will persecute the righteous, and the righteous must have patience. With regard to the nation, those relations only subsisted till the destruction of Jerusalem;

the unbelieving hopes of the Jews, as a nation, were judicially overthrown. The apostle speaks here in a general way, and in view of the effect of the solemn truth of the end of all things, for Christ is still " ready to judge;" and if there is delay, it is because God willeth not the death of the sinner, and He prolongs the time of grace.

In view of this end of all that we see, we ought to be sober, and watch in order to pray. We ought to have the heart thus exercised towards God, who changes not, who will never pass away, and who preserves us through all the difficulties and trmptations of this passing scene, until the day of deliverance, which is coming. Instead of allowing ourselves to be carried away by present and visible things, we must bridle self and will, and commune with God.

This leads the apostle to the inner position of Christians; their relations among themselves, not with God's general government of the world. They follow, not righteousness, because they are Christians, but Christ Himself. The first thing that he enforces on them is fervent charity; not merely long-suffering, which would prevent any outbreak of the anger of the flesh, but an energy of love, which, by stamping its character on all the ways of Christians towards each other, would practically set aside the action of the flesh, and make manifest the divine presence and action.

Now this love covered a multitude of sins. He is not speaking here with a view to ultimate pardon, but of the present notice which God takes—His present relations of government with His people. For we have present relationships with God. 'If the Church is at variance, if there is little love, if the intercourse among Christians is bad, the existing evil, the mutual wrongs, subsist before God; but if there is love, which neither commits nor Tesents these things, but pardons them, and only finds in them occasion for its own exercise, it is then the love which the eye of God rests upon, and not the evil. Even if there are misdeeds-sins, love occupies itself about ther, the offender is brought back, is restored, by the charity of the Church; the sins are removed from the

[graphic]

eye of God, they are covered. It is a quotation from the Book of Proverbs, x. 12: “ Hatred stirreth up strife, but love covereth all sins." We have a right to forgive them — to wash the feet of our brother. Compare James v. 15, and 1 John v. 16. We not only forgive, kut love maintains the Church before God according to His own nature, so that He can bless it.

Christians ought to exercise hospitality towards each other with all liberality. It is the expression of love, and tends much to maintain it: we are no longer strangers to each other. Gifts come next, after the exercise of

grace.

All comes from God. As every one had received the gift, he was to serve, in the gift, as a steward of the varied grace of God. It is God who gives; the Christian is a servant, and under responsibility as a steward, on God's part. He is to ascribe all to God, in a direct way to God. If he speaks, he is to speak as an oracle of God, i.e., as speaking on God's part, and not from himself. If any one serves in things temporal, let him do it as in a power and an ability that come from God, so that whether one speaks or serves, God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To Him, the apostle adds, be praise and dominion, Amen.

After these exhortations, he comes to sufferings for the name of Christ. They were not to view the fiery persecution, that came to try them, as some strange thing that had befallen them. On the contrary, they were connected with a suffering and rejected Christ; they partook, therefore, in His sufferings, and were to rejoice at it. He would soon appear, and these sufferings for Hlis sake should turn to their exceeding joy at the revelation of His glory. They were, therefore, to rejoice at sharing His sufferings, in order to be filled with abounding joy when His glory should be revealed. 1 they were reproached for the name of Christ, it was happy for them; the Spirit of glory and of God reste on them.

It was the name of Christ that brough reproach on them. He was in the glory with God; th Spirit, who came from that glory, and that God, fille them with joy in bearing the reproach. It was Chris who was reproached — Christ who was glorified; reproached by the enemies of the Gospel, while Christians had the joy of glorifying Him. It will be observed, that in this passage it is for Christ Himself (as it has been said) that the believer suffers; and, therefore, the apostle speaks of glory and joy at the appearing of Jesus Christ, which he does not mention in chap. ii. 20, ii. 17. Comp. Matt. v. 10, and ver. 11, 12, of the same chapter.

As an evil-doer, then, the Christian ought never to suffer; but if he suffered as a Christian, he was not to be ashamed, but to glorify God for it. The Apostle then returns to the government of God; for these sufferings of believers had also another character. To the individual who suffered, it was a glory: he shared the sufferings of Christ, and the Spirit of glory and of. God rested on him; and all this should turn to abounding joy when the glory was revealed. But God had no pleasure in allowing His people to suffer. He permitted it: and if Christ had to suffer for us, when He who knew no sin did not need it for Himself, the people of God have often need on their own account to be exercised with suffering. God uses the wicked, the enemies of the name of Christ, for this purpose. Job is the book that explains this, independently of all dispensations. But in every form of God's dealings, He exercises His judgments according to the order He has established. He did so with Israel. He does so with the Church. The latter has a heavenly portion; and if she attaches herself to the earth, God allows the enemy to trouble her. Perhaps the individual who suffers is full of faith and devoted love to the Lord; but, under persecution, the heart feels that the world is not its rest, that it must have its portion elsewhere, its strength elsewhere. We are not of the world which persecutes us. If the faithful servant of God is ent off from this world by persecution, it strengthens faith—for God is in it; but they, from the midst of whom he is cut off, suffer, and feel that the hand of God was in it; His dealings take the form of judgment; always in perfect love, but in discipline.

God judges everything according to His own nature. He desires that all should be in accordance with His VOL. XII.PT.JII.

10

nature. No upright and honourable man would like to have the wicked near him, and always before him; God assuredly would not. And in that which is nearest to Him, He must above all desire that everything should correspond to His nature and His holiness to all that He is. I would have everything around me clean enough not to disgrace me; but in my own house I must have such cleanness as I personally desire. Thus, judgment must begin at the house of God: the Apostle alludes to Ezek. ix. 6. It is a solemn principle. No grace, no privilege changes the nature of God; and everything must be conformed to that nature, or, in the end, must be banished from His presence. Grace can conform us, and it does. It bestows the divine nature: so that there is a principle of absolute conformity to God. But as to practical conformity in thought and deed, the heart and the conscience must be exercised, in order that the understanding of the heart, and the habitual desires and aspirations of the will, should be formed upon the revelation of God, and continually directed towards Him. Now, if this conformity should so fail, that the testimony of God is injured by its absence, God, who judges His people, and who will judge evil everywhere, does so by means of the chastisements which He inflicts. Judgment begins at the house of God. The righteous are saved with difficulty. It is evidently not redemption or justification that is here intended, nor the communication of life: those whom the Apostle addresses were in possession of them. To our Apostle, “salvation " is not only the present enjoyment of the salvation of the soul, but the full deliverance of the faithful, which will take place at the coming of Christ in glory. All the temptations are contemplated, all the trials, all the dangers, through which the Christian will pass in reaching the end of his career. All the power of God is requisite, directed by divine wisdom, guiding and sustaining faith, to carry the Christian safely through the wilderness, where Šatan employs all the resources of his subtlety to make him perish. The power of God will accomplish it; but, from the human point of view, the difficulties are almost insurmountable. Now, if the righteous according to the

« PreviousContinue »