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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Introduction to 1Peter
The First Epistle of Peter has never been doubted to be the production of the apostle of that name. While there were doubts respecting the genuineness of the Second Epistle (see the introduction to that Epistle, Section 1), the unvarying testimony of history, and the uniform belief of the church, ascribe this Epistle to Peter. Indeed, there is no ancient writing whatever of which there is more certainty in regard to the authorship.
The history of Peter is so fully detailed in the New Testament, that it is not necessary to go into any extended statement of his biography in order to an exposition of his Epistles. No particular light would be reflected on them from the details of his life; and in order, therefore, to their exposition, it is not necessary to have any further information of him than what is contained in the New Testament itself. Those who may wish to obtain all the knowledge of his life which can now be had, may find ample details in Lardner, vol. vi. pp. 203-254, ed. London, 1829; Koppe, Prolegomena; and Bacon's Lives of the Apostles, pp. 43-286. There are some questions, however, which it is important to consider in order to an intelligent understanding of his Epistles.
Section 1. The Persons to Whom the First Epistle Was Addressed
This Epistle purports to have been addressed "to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." All these were provinces of Asia Minor; and there is no difficulty, therefore, in regard to the places where those to whom the Epistle was written resided. The only question is, who they were who are thus designated as "strangers scattered abroad," or strangers of the dispersion, (παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς parepidēmois diasporas.) Compare the notes at 1 Peter 1:1. In regard to this, various opinions have been held:
(1) That they were native-born Jews, who had been converted to the Christian faith. Of this opinion were Eusebius, Jerome, Grotius, Beza, Mill, Cave, and others. The principal argument for this opinion is the appellation given to them, which it is supposed is language which would be applied only to those of Hebrew extraction.
(2) a second opinion has been that the persons to whom it was sent were all of Gentile origin. Of this opinion were Procopius, Cassiodorus, and more recently Wetstein. This belief is founded chiefly on such passages as the following: 1 Peter 1:18; 1 Peter 2:10; 1 Peter 4:3 - which are supposed to show that they who were thus addressed were formerly idolaters.
(3) a third opinion has been that they were Gentiles by birth, but had been Jewish proselytes, or "proselytes of the gate," and had then been converted to Christianity. This sentiment was defended by Michaelis, chiefly on the ground that the phrase in 1 Peter 1:1, "strangers of the dispersion," when followed by the name of a pagan country or people, in the genitive case, denotes the Jews who were dispersed there, and yet that there is evidence in the Epistle that they were not native-born Jews.
(4) a fourth opinion has been that the persons referred to were not Jews in general, but those of the 10 tribes who had wandered from Babylon and the adjacent regions into Asia Minor. This opinion is mentioned by Michaelis as having been entertained by some persons, but no reasons are assigned for it.
(5) a fifth opinion has been that the persons referred to were Christians, converted from both Jews and Gentiles, with no particular reference to their extraction; that there were those among them who had been converted from the Jews, and those who had been Gentiles, and that the apostle addresses them as Christians, though employing language such as the Jews had been accustomed to, when speaking of those of their own nation who were scattered abroad. This is the opinion of Lardner, Estius, Whitby, Wolfius, and Doddridge.
That this last opinion is the correct one, seems to me to be clear from the Epistle itself. Nothing can be plainer than that the apostle, while in the main he addresses Christians as such, whether they had been Jews or pagan, yet occasionally makes such allusions, and uses such language, as to show that he had his eye, at one time, on some who had been Jews, and again on some who had been pagans. This is clear, I think, from the following considerations:
(1) The address of the Epistle is general, not directed particularly either to the Jews or to the Gentiles. Thus, in 1 Peter 5:14, he says, "Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus." From this it would seem that the Epistle was addressed to all true Christians in the region designated in 1 Peter 1:1. But no one can doubt that there were Christians there who had been Jews, and also those who had been Gentiles. The same thing is apparent from the Second Epistle; for it is certain, from 2 Peter 3:2, that the Second Epistle was addressed to the same persons as the First. But the address in the Second Epistle is to Christians residing in Asia Minor, without particular reference to their origin. Thus, in 1 Peter 1:1, "To them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." The same thing is apparent also from the address of the First Epistle: "To the elect strangers scattered throughout Pontus," etc.; that is, "to the strangers of the dispersion who are chosen, or who are true Christians, scattered abroad." The term "elect" is one which would apply to all who were Christians; and the phrase, "the strangers of the dispersion," is that which one who had been educated as a Hebrew would be likely to apply to those whom he regarded as the people of God dwelling out of Palestine. The Jews were accustomed to use this expression to denote their own people who were dispersed among the Gentiles; and nothing would be more natural than that one who had been educated as a Hebrew, and then converted to Christianity, as Peter had been, should apply this phrase indiscriminately to Christians living out of Palestine. See the notes on the passage. These considerations make it clear that in writing this Epistle he had reference to Christians as such, and meant that all who were Christians in the parts of Asia Minor which he mentions 1 Peter 1:1 should regard the Epistle as addressed to them.
(2) yet there are some allusions in the Epistle which look as if a part of them at least had been Jews before their conversion, or such as a Jew would better understand than a Gentile would. Indeed, nothing is more probable than that there were Jewish converts in that region. We know that there were many Jews in Asia Minor; and, from the Acts of the Apostles, it is morally certain that not a few of them had been converted to the Christian faith under the labors of Paul. Of the allusions of the kind referred to in the Epistle, the following may be taken as specimens: But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people," 1 Peter 2:9. This is such language as was commonly used by the Jews when addressing their own countrymen as the people of God; and would seem to imply that to some of those at least to whom the Epistle was addressed, it was language which would be familiar. See also 1 Peter 3:6. It should be said, however, that these passages are not positive proof that any among them were Hebrews. While it is true that it is such language as would be naturally employed in addressing those who were, and while it supposes an acquaintance among them with the Old Testament, it is also true that it is such language as one who had himself been educated as an Hebrew would not unnaturally employ when addressing any whom he regarded as the people of God.
(3) the passages in the Epistle which imply that many of those to whom it was addressed had been Gentiles or idolaters, are still more clear. Such passages are the following: "As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in your ignorance," 1 Peter 1:14. "This," says Dr. Lardner, "might be very pertinently said to men converted from Gentilism to Christianity; but no such thing is ever said by the apostles concerning the Jewish people who had been favored with the Divine revelation, and had the knowledge of the true God." So in 1 Peter 2:9, Peter speaks of them as "having been called out of darkness into marvelous light." The word "darkness" is one which would be naturally applied to those who had been pagans, but would not be likely to be applied to those who had had the knowledge of God as revealed in the Jewish Scriptures. So in 1 Peter 2:10, it is expressly said of them, "which in time past was not a people, but are now the people of God" - language which would not be applied to those who had been Jews. So also 1 Peter 4:3, "For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries."
Though the apostle here uses the word "us," grouping himself with them, yet it cannot be supposed that he means to charge himself with these things. It is a mild and gentle way of speech, adopted not to give offence, and is such language as a minister of the gospel would now use, who felt that he was himself a sinner, in addressing a church made up of many individuals. Though it might be true that he had not been guilty of the particular offences which he specifies, yet in speaking in the name of the church, he would use the term we, and use it honestly and correctly. It would be true that the church had been formerly guilty of these things; and this would be a much more mild, proper, and effective method of address, than to say you. But the passages adduced here prove conclusively that some of those whom Peter addresses in the Epistle had been formerly idolaters, and had been addicted to the sins which idolaters are accustomed to commit.
These considerations make it clear that the Epistle was addressed to those Christians in general who were scattered throughout the various provinces of Asia Minor which are specified in 1 Peter 1:1, whether they had been Jews or Gentiles. It is probable that the great body of them had been converted from the pagan, though there were doubtless Jewish converts intermingled with them; and Peter uses such language as would be natural for one who had been a Jew himself in addressing those whom he now regarded as the chosen of God.
Section 2. The Time and Place of Writing the Epistle
On this point also there has been no little diversity of opinion. The only designation of the place where it was written which occurs in the Epistle is in 1 Peter 5:13; "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you." From this it is clear that it was written at Babylon, but still there has been no little difference of opinion as to what place is meant here by Babylon. Some have supposed that it refers to the well-known place of that name on the Euphrates; others to a Babylon situated in Lower Egypt; others to Jerusalem or Rome, represented as Babylon. The claims of each of these places it is proper to examine. The order in which this is done is not material.
(1) the opinion that the "Babylon" mentioned in the Epistle refers to a place of that name in Egypt, not far from Cairo. This opinion was held by Pearson and Le Clere, and by most of the Coptic interpreters, who have endeavored to vindicate the honor of their own country, Egypt, as a place where one of the books of Scripture was composed. See Koppe, Prolegomena, 12. That there was such a place in Egypt, there can be no doubt. It was a small town to the northeast of Cairo, where there was a strong castle in the time of Strabo, (i. 17, p. 807,) in which, under Tiberius, there were quartered three Roman legions, designed to keep the Egyptians in order. But there is little reason to suppose that there were many Jews there, or that a church was early collected there. The Jews would have been little likely to resort to a place which was merely a Roman garrison, nor would the apostles have been likely to go early to such a place to preach the gospel. Compare Basnage, Ant. 36, Numbers 27.As Lardner well remarks, if Peter had written an Epistle from Egypt, it would have been likely to have been from Alexandria. Besides, there is not, for the first four centuries, any notice of a church at Babylon in Egypt; a fact which can hardly be accounted for, if it had been supposed that one of the sacred books had been composed there. - Lardner, vol. vi. 265. It may be added, also, that as there was another place of that name on the Euphrates, a place much better known, and which would be naturally supposed to be the one referred to, it is probable that if the Epistle had been composed at the Babylon in Egypt, there would have been something said clearly to distinguish it. If the Epistle was written at the Babylon on the Euphrates, so well known was that place that no one would be likely to understand that the Babylon in Egypt was the place referred to; on the other supposition, however, nothing would be more likely than that a mistake should occur.
(2) others have supposed that Jerusalem is intended, and that the name was given to it on account of its wickedness, and because it resembled Babylon. This was the opinion of Capellus, Spanheim, Hardouin, and some others. But the objections to this are obvious:
(a) There is no evidence that the name Babylon was ever given to Jerusalem, or so given to it as to make it commonly understood that that was the place intended when the term was employed. If not so, its use would be likely to lead those to whom the Epistle was addressed into a mistake.
(b) There is every reason to suppose that an apostle in writing a letter, if he mentioned the place at all where it was written, would mention the real name. So Paul uniformly does.
(c) The name Babylon is not one which an apostle would be likely to give to Jerusalem; certainly not as the name by which it was to be familiarly known.
(d) If the Epistle had been written there, there is no conceivable reason why the name of the place should not have been mentioned.
(3) others have supposed that Rome is intended by the name Babylon. This was the opinion of many of the Fathers, and also of Bede, Valesius, Grotius, Cave, Whitby, and Lardner. The principal reasons for this are, that such is the testimony of Papias, Eusebius, and Jerome; and that at that time Babylon on the Euphrates was destroyed. See Lardner. But the objections to this opinion seem to me to be insuperable.
(a) There is no evidence that at that early period the name Babylon was given to Rome, nor were there any existing reasons why it should be. The name is generally supposed to have been applied to it by John, in the book of Revelation, Revelation 16:19; Revelation 17:5; Revelation 18:10, Revelation 18:21; but this was probably long after this Epistle was written, and for reasons which did not exist in the time of Peter. There is no evidence that it was given familiarly to it in the time of Peter, or even at all until after his death. Certain it is, that it was not given so familiarly to it that when the name Babylon was mentioned it would be generally understood that Rome was intended. But the only reason which Peter could have had for mentioning the name Babylon at all, was to convey some definite and certain information to those to whom he wrote.
(b) As has been already observed, the apostles, when they sent an epistle to the churches, and mentioned a place as the one where the Epistle was written, were accustomed to mention the real place.
(c) It would be hardly consistent with the dignity of an apostle, or any grave writer, to make use of what would be regarded as a nickname, when suggesting the name of a place where he then was.
(d) If Rome had been meant, it would have been hardly respectful to the church there which sent the salutation - "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you" - to have given it this name. Peter mentions the church with respect and kindness; and yet it would have been scarcely regarded as kind to mention it as a "Church in Babylon," if he used the term Babylon, as he must have done on such a supposition, to denote a place of eminent depravity.
(e) The testimony of the Fathers on this subject does not demonstrate that Rome was the place intended. So far as appears from the extracts relied on by Lardner, they do not give this as historical testimony, but as their own interpretation; and, from anything that appears, we are as well qualified to interpret the word as they were.
(f) In regard to the objection that Babylon was at that time destroyed, it may be remarked that this is true so far as the original splendor of the city was concerned, but still there may have been a sufficient population there to have constituted a church. The destruction of Babylon was gradual. It had not become an utter desert in the time of the apostles. In the first century of the Christian era a part of it was inhabited, though the greater portion of its former site was a waste. See the notes at Isaiah 13:19. Compare Diod. Sic., ii. 27. All that time, there is no improbability in supposing that a Christian church may have existed there. It should be added here, however, that on the supposition that the word Babylon refers to Rome, rests nearly all the evidence which the Roman Catholics can adduce that the apostle Peter was ever at Rome at all. There is nothing else in the New Testament that furnishes the slightest proof that he ever was there. The only passage on which Bellarmine relies to show that Peter was at Rome, is the very passage now under consideration. "That Peter was one time at Rome," he says, "we show first from the testimony of Peter himself, who thus speaks at the end of his First Epistle: "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you." He does not pretend to cite any other evidence from Scripture than this; nor does any other writer.
(4) there remains the fourth opinion, that the well-known Babylon on the Euphrates was the place where the Epistle was written. This was the opinion of Erasmus, Drusius, Lightfoot, Bengel, Wetstein, Basnage, Beausobre, and others. That this is the correct opinion seems to me to be clear from the following considerations:
(a) It is the most natural and obvious interpretation. It is that which would occur to the great mass of the readers of the New Testament now, and is that which would have been naturally adopted by those to whom the Epistle was sent. The word Babylon, without something to give it a different application, would have been understood anywhere to denote the well-known place on the Euphrates.
(b) There is, as has been observed already, no improbability that there was a Christian church there, but there are several circumstances which render it probable that this would be the case:
1. Babylon had been an important place; and its history was such, and its relation to the Jews such, as to make it probable that the attention of the apostles would be turned to it.
2. The apostles, according to all the traditions which we have respecting them, traveled extensively in the East, and nothing would be more natural than that they should visit Babylon.
3. There were many Jews of the captivity remaining in that region, and it would be in the highest degree probable that they would seek to carry the gospel to their own countrymen there. See Koppe, Proleg., pp. 16-18. Jos. Ant., b. xv., chapter ii., Section 2; chapter iii., Section 1. Philo. Do Virtut., p. 587.
These considerations make it clear that the place where the Epistle was written was Babylon on the Euphrates, the place so celebrated in ancient sacred and profane history. If this be the correct view, then this is a fact of much interest, as showing that even in apostolic times there was a true church in a place once so distinguished for splendor and wickedness, and so memorable for its acts in oppressing the ancient people of God. Our information respecting this church, however, ceases here. We know not by whom it was founded; we know not who were its pastors; nor do we know how long it survived. As Babylon, however, continued rapidly to decline, so that in the second century nothing remained but the walls (compare the notes at Isaiah 13:19), there is no reason to suppose that the church long existed there. Soon the ancient city became a heap of ruins; and excepting that now and then a Christian traveler or missionary has visited it, it is not known that a prayer has been offered there from generation to generation, or that amidst the desolations there has been a single worshipper of the true God. See this subject examined at length in Bacon's Lives of the Apostles, pp. 258-263.
In regard to the time when this First Epistle was written, nothing certainly can be determined. There are no marks of time in the Epistle itself, and there are no certain data from which we can determine when it was composed. Lardner supposes that it was in the year 63, or 64 a.d., or at the latest 65 a.d.; Michaelis, that it was about the year 60 a.d. If it was written at Babylon, it was probably some time between the year 58 and 61 a.d. The time is not material, and it is impossible now to determine it.
Section 3. The Characteristics of the First Epistle of Peter
(1) The Epistles of Peter are distinguished for great tenderness of manner, and for bringing forward prominently the most consolatory parts of the gospel. He wrote to those who were in affliction; he was himself an old man 2 Peter 1:14; he expected soon to be with his Saviour; he had nearly done with the conflicts and toils of life; and it was natural that he should direct his eye onward, and should dwell on those things in the gospel which were adapted to support and comfort the soul. There is, therefore, scarcely any part of the New Testament where the ripe and mellow Christian will find more that is adapted to his matured feelings, or to which he will more naturally turn.
(2) there is great compactness and terseness of thought in his Epistles. They seem to be composed of a succession of texts, each one fitted to constitute the subject of a discourse. There is more that a pastor would like to preach on in a course of expository lectures, and less that he would be disposed to pass over as not so well adapted to the purposes of public instruction, than in almost any other part of the New Testament. There is almost nothing that is local or of temporary interest; there are no discussions about points pertaining to Jewish customs such as we meet with in Paul; there is little that pertains particularly to one age of the world or country. Almost all that he has written is of universal applicability to Christians, and may be read with as much interest and profit now by us as by the people to whom his Epistles were addressed.
(3) there is evidence in the Epistles of Peter that the author was well acquainted with the writings of the apostle Paul. See this point illustrated at length in Eichlorn, Einleitung in das Neue Tes. viii. 606-618, Section 284, and Michaelis, Introduction, vol. iv. p. 323, following Peter himself speaks of his acquaintance with the Epistles of Paul, and ranks them with the inspired writings. 2 Peter 3:15-16, "even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you; as also in all his Epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction." Indeed, to any one who will attentively compare the Epistles of Peter with those of Paul, it will be apparent that he was acquainted with the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles, and had become so familiar with the modes of expression which he employed, that he naturally fell into it. There is that kind of coincidence which would be expected when one was accustomed to read what another had written, and when he had great respect for him, but not that when there was a purpose to borrow or copy from him. This will be apparent by a reference to a few parallel passages:
Paul Peter Ephesians 1:3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." See also 2 Corinthians 1:3 1 Peter 1:3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Christ Jesus." Colossians 3:8"But now ye also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth." 1 Peter 2:1 "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and all hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings." Ephesians 5:22 "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as unto the Lord." 1 Peter 3:1 "Likewise ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands." Ephesians 5:21 "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." 1 Peter 5:5 "Yea, all of you be subject one to another." 1 Thessalonians 5:6 "Let us watch and be sober." 1 Peter 5:8 "Be sober; be vigilant." (In the Greek the same words, though the order is reversed.) 1 Corinthians 16:20 "Greet ye one another with an holy kiss." Also 2 Corinthians 13:12; Romans 16:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:26 1 Peter 5:14 "Greet ye one another with a kiss of love." (ἐν φιλήματι ἀγάπης en philēmati agapēs.) Romans 8:18 "The glory that shall be revealed unto us." 1 Peter 5:1 "The glory that shall be revealed." Romans 4:24 "If we believe on him that raised Jesus our Lord from the dead." 1 Peter 1:21 "Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead." Romans 13:1, Romans 13:3-4 "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God ... Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same ... For he is a minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." 1 Peter 2:13-14 "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."
See also the following passages:
Romans 12:6-7 1 Peter 4:10 1 Timothy 2:9 1 Peter 3:3 1 Timothy 5:5 1 Peter 3:5
These coincidences are not such as would occur between two authors when one had no acquaintance with the writings of the other; and they thus demonstrate, what may be implied in 2 Peter 3:15, that Peter was familiar with the Epistles of Paul. This also would seem to imply that the Epistles of Paul were in general circulation.
(4) "in the structure of his periods," says Michaelis, "Peter has this peculiarity, that he is fond of beginning a sentence in such a manner that it shall refer to a principal word in the preceding. The consequence of this structure is, that the sentences, instead of being rounded, according to the manner of the Greeks, are drawn out to a great length; and in many places where we should expect that a sentence would be closed, a new clause is attached, and another again to this, so that before the whole period comes to an end, it contains parts which, at the commencement of the period, do not appear to have been designed for it." This manner of writing is also found often in the Epistles of Paul.
The canonical authority of this Epistle has never been disputed. For a view of the contents of it, see the analysis prefixed to the several chapters.
This Epistle was evidently addressed to those who were passing through severe trials, and probably to those who were, at that time, enduring persecution, 1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 3:14; 1 Peter 4:1, 1 Peter 4:12-19. The main object of this chapter is to comfort them in their trials; to suggest such considerations as would enable them to bear them with the right spirit, and to show the sustaining, elevating, and purifying power of the gospel. In doing this, the apostle adverts to the following considerations:
(1) He reminds them that they were the elect of God; that they had been chosen according to his foreknowledge, by the sanctifying agency of the Holy Spirit, and in order that they might be obedient, 1 Peter 1:1-2.
(2) he reminds them of the lively hope to which they had been begotten, and of the inheritance that was reserved for them in heaven. That inheritance was incorruptible, and undefiled, and glorious; it would be certainly theirs, for they would be kept by the power of God unto it, though now they were subjected to severe trials, 1 Peter 1:3-6.
(3) even now they could rejoice in hope of that inheritance, 1 Peter 1:6 their trial was of great importance to themselves in order to test the genuineness of their piety 1 Peter 1:7, and in the midst of all their sufferings they could rejoice in the love of their unseen Saviour 1 Peter 1:8 and they would certainly obtain the great object for which they had believed - the salvation of their souls 1 Peter 1:9. By these considerations the apostle would reconcile them to their sufferings; for they would thus show the genuineness and value of Christian piety, and would be admitted at last to higher honor.
(4) the apostle proceeds, in order further to reconcile them to their sufferings, to say that the nature of the salvation which they would receive had been an object of earnest inquiry by the prophets. They had searched diligently to know precisely what the Spirit by which they were inspired meant by the revelations given to them, and they had understood that they ministered to the welfare of those who should come after them, 1 Peter 1:10-12. Those who thus suffered ought, therefore, to rejoice in a salvation which had been revealed to them in this manner; and in the fact that they had knowledge which had not been vouchsafed even to the prophets; and under these circumstances they ought to be willing to bear the trials which had been brought upon them by a religion so communicated to them.
(5) in view of these things, the apostle 1 Peter 1:13-17 exhorts them to be faithful and persevering to the end. In anticipation of what was to be revealed to them at the final day, they should be sober and obedient; and as he who had called them into his kingdom was holy, so it became them to be holy also.
(6) this consideration is enforced 1 Peter 1:18-21 by a reference to the price that was paid for their redemption. They should remember that they had been redeemed, not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ. He had been appointed from eternity to be their Redeemer; he had been manifested in those times for them; he had been raised from the dead for them, and their faith and hope were through him. For these reasons they ought to be steadfast in their attachment to him.
(7) the apostle enjoins on them the special duty of brotherly love, 1 Peter 1:22-23. They had purified their hearts by obeying the truth, and as they were all one family, they should love one another fervently. Thus, they would show to their enemies and persecutors the transforming nature of their religion, and furnish an impressive proof of its reality.
(8) to confirm all these views, the apostle reminds them that all flesh must soon die. The glory of man would fade away. Nothing would abide but the Word of the Lord. They themselves would soon die, and be released from their troubles, and they should be willing, therefore, to bear trials for a little time. The great and the rich, and those apparently more favored in this life, would soon disappear, and all the splendor of their condition would vanish; and they should not envy them, or repine at their own more tremble and painful lot, 1 Peter 1:24-25. The keenest sufferings here are brief, and the highest honors and splendors of life here soon vanish away; and our main solicitude should be for the eternal inheritance. Having the prospect of that, and building on the sure word of God, which abides forever, we need not shrink from the trials appointed to us here below.
1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ - On the word apostle, see the Romans 1:1 note; 1 Corinthians 9:1 ff notes.
To the strangers - In the Greek, the word "elect" (see 1 Peter 1:2) occurs here: ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις eklektois parepidēmois, "to the elect strangers." He here addresses them as elect; in the following verse he shows them in what way they were elected. See the notes there: The word rendered "strangers" occurs only in three places in the New Testament; Hebrews 11:13, and 1 Peter 2:11, where it is rendered pilgrims, and in the place before us. See the notes at Hebrews 11:13. The word means, literally, a by-resident, a sojourner among a people not one's own - Robinson. There has been much diversity of opinion as to the persons here referred to: some supposing that the Epistle was written to those who had been Jews, who were now converted, and who were known by the common appellation among their countrymen as "the scattered abroad," or the "dispersion;" that is, those who were strangers or sojourners away from their native land; others, that the reference is to those who were called, among the Jews, "proselytes of the gate," or those who were admitted to certain external privileges among the Jews, (see the notes at Matthew 23:15) and others, that the allusion is to Christians as such, without reference to their origin, and who are spoken of as strangers and pilgrims.
That the apostle did not write merely to those who had been Jews, is clear from 1 Peter 4:3-4 (compare the introduction), and it seems probable that he means here Christians as such, without reference to their origin, who were scattered through the various provinces of Asia Minor. Yet it seems also probable that he did not use the term as denoting that they were "strangers and pilgrims on the earth," or with reference to the fact that the earth was not their home, as the word is used in Hebrews 11:13; but that he used the term as a Jew would naturally use it, accustomed, as he was, to employ it as denoting his own countrymen dwelling in distant lands. He would regard them still as the people of God, though dispersed abroad; as those who were away from what was properly the home of their fathers. So Peter addresses these Christians as the people of God, now scattered abroad; as similar in their condition to the Jews who had been dispersed among the Gentiles. Compare the introduction, section 1. It is not necessarily implied that these persons were strangers to Peter, or that he had never seen them; though this was not improbably the fact in regard to most of them.
Scattered - Greek, "of the dispersion," (διασπορᾶς diasporas) a term which a Jew would be likely to use who spoke of his countrymen dwelling among the pagan. See the John 7:35 note, and James 1:1 note, where the same Greek word is found. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. Here, however, it is applied to Christians as dispersed or scattered abroad.
Throughout Pontus ... - These were provinces of Asia Minor. Their position may be seen in the map prefixed to the Acts of the Apostles. On the situation of Pontus, see the notes at Acts 2:9.
Galatia - On the situation of this province, and its history, see the introduction to the notes at Galatians, section 1.
Cappadocia - See the notes at Acts 2:9.
Asia - Meaning a province of Asia Minor, of which Ephesus was the capital. See the notes at Acts 2:9.
And Bithynia - See the notes at Acts 16:7.
2Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
Elect - That is, "chosen." The meaning here is, that they were in fact chosen. The word does not refer to the purpose to choose, but to the fact that they were chosen or selected by God as His people. It is a word commonly applied to the people of God as being chosen out of the world, and called to be His. The use of the word does not determine whether God had a previous eternal purpose to choose them or not. That must be determined by something else than the mere use of the term. This word has reference to the act of selecting them, without throwing any light on the question why it was done. See Matthew 24:22, Matthew 24:24, Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:20; Luke 18:7; Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12. Compare the notes at John 15:16. The meaning is, that God had, on some account, a preference for them above others as his people, and had chosen them from the midst of others to be heirs of salvation. The word should be properly understood as applied to the act of choosing them, not to the purpose to choose them; the fact of his selecting them to be his, not the doctrine that he would choose them; and is a word, therefore, which should be freely and gratefully used by all Christians, for it is a word in frequent use in the Bible, and there is nothing for which people should be more grateful than the fact that God has chosen them to salvation. Elsewhere we learn that the purpose to choose them was eternal, and that the reason of it was his own good pleasure. See the notes at Ephesians 1:4-5. We are here also informed that it was in accordance with "the foreknowledge of God the Father."
According to the foreknowledge of God the Father - The Father is regarded, in the Scriptures, as the Author of the plan of salvation, and as having chosen His people to life, and given them to His Son to redeem and save, John 6:37, John 6:65; John 17:2, John 17:6,John 17:11. It is affirmed here that the fact that they were elect was in some sense in accordance with the "foreknowledge of God." On the meaning of the phrase, see the notes at Romans 8:29. The passage does not affirm that the thing which God "foreknew," and which was the reason of their being chosen, was, that they would of themselves be disposed to embrace the offer of salvation. The foreknowledge referred to might have been of many other things as constituting the reason which operated in the case; and it is not proper to assume that it could have been of this alone. It may mean that God foreknew all the events which would ever occur, and that He saw reasons why they should be selected rather than others; or that He foreknew all that could be made to bear on their salvation; or that He foreknew all that He would himself do to secure their salvation; or that He foreknew them as having been designated by his own eternal counsels; or that He foreknew all that could be accomplished by their instrumentality; or that He saw that they would believe; but it should not be assumed that the word means necessarily any one of these things.
The simple fact here affirmed, which no one can deny, is, that there was foreknowledge in the case on the part of God. It was not the result of Ignorance or of blind chance that they were selected. But if foreknown, must it not be certain? How could a thing which is foreknown be contingent or doubtful? The essential idea here is, that the original choice was on the part of God, and not on their part, and that this choice was founded on what He before knew to be best. He undoubtedly saw good and sufficient reasons why the choice should fall on them. I do not know that the reasons why he did it are revealed, or that they could be fully comprehended by us if they were. I am quite certain that it is not stated that it is because they would be more disposed of themselves to embrace the Saviour than others; for the Scriptures abundantly teach, what every regenerated person feels to be true, that the fact that we are disposed to embrace the Saviour is to be traced to a divine influence on our hearts, and not to ourselves. See John 6:65; Romans 9:16; Titus 3:5; Psalm 110:2-3.
Through sanctification of the Spirit - The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. The Greek is, "by (ἐν en) sanctification of the Spirit;" that is, it was by this influence or agency. The election that was purposed by the Father was carried into effect by the agency of the Spirit in making them holy. The word rendered "sanctification" (ἁγιασμός hagiasmos) is not used here in its usual and technical sense to denote "the progressive holiness of believers," but in its more primitive and usual sense of "holiness." Compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 1:30. It means here the being made holy; and the idea is, that we become in fact the chosen or elect of God by a work of the Spirit on our hearts making us holy; that is, renewing us in the divine image. We are chosen by the Father, but it is necessary that the heart should be renewed and made holy by a work of grace, in order that we may actually become His chosen people. Though we are sinners, He proposes to save us; but we are not saved in our sins, nor can we regard ourselves as the children of God until we have evidence that we are born again. The purpose of God to save us found us unholy, and we become in fact His friends by being renewed in the temper of our mind. A man has reason to think that he is one of the elect of God, just so far as he has evidence that he has been renewed by the Holy Spirit, and so far as he has holiness of heart and life, and no further.
Unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ - This expresses the design for which they had been chosen by the Father, and renewed by the Spirit. It was that they might obey God, and lead holy lives. On the phrase "unto obedience," see the notes at Romans 1:5. The phrase "unto sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ," means to cleansing from sin, or to holiness, since it was by the sprinkling of that blood that they were to be made holy. See it explained in the notes at Hebrews 9:18-23; Hebrews 12:24.
Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied - See the notes at Romans 1:7. The phrase "be multiplied" means, "may it abound," or "may it be conferred abundantly on you." From this verse we may learn that they who are chosen should be holy. Just in proportion as they have evidence that God has chosen them at all, they have evidence that He has chosen them to be holy; and, in fact, all the evidence which any man can have that he is among the elect, is that he is practically a holy man, and desires to become more and more so. No man can penetrate the secret counsels of the Almighty. No one can go up to heaven, and inspect the Book of Life to see if his name be there. No one should presume that his name is there without evidence. No one should depend on dreams, or raptures, or visions, as proof that his name is there. No one should expect a new revelation declaring to him that he is among the elect. All the proof which any man can have that he is among the chosen of God, is to be found in the evidences of personal piety; and any man who is willing to be a true Christian may have all that evidence in his own case. If anyone, then, wishes to settle the question whether he is among the elect or not, the way is plain. Let him become a true Christian, and the whole matter is determined, for that is all the proof which anyone has that he is chosen to salvation. Until a man is willing to do that, he should not complain of the doctrine of election. If he is not willing to become a Christian and to be saved, assuredly he should not complain that those who are think that they have evidence that they are the chosen of God.
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ - See the notes at 2 Corinthians 1:3.
Which according to His abundant mercy - Margin, as in the Greek, "much." The idea is, that there was great mercy shown them in the fact that they were renewed. They had no claim to the favor, and the favor was great. People are not begotten to the hope of heaven because they have any claim on God, or because it would not be right for him to withhold the favor. See the notes at Ephesians 2:4.
Hath begotten us again - The meaning is, that as God is the Author of our life in a natural sense, so he is the Author of our second life by regeneration. The Saviour said, John 3:3 that "except a man be born again," or "begotten again," (γεννηθῆ ἄνωθεν gennēthē anōthen,) "he cannot see the kingdom of God." Peter here affirms that that change had occurred in regard to himself and those whom he was addressing. The word used here as a compound (ἀναγεννάω anagennaō) does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament, though it corresponds entirely with the words used by the Saviour in John 3:3, John 3:5,John 3:7. Perhaps the phrase "begotten again" would be better in each instance where the word occurs, the sense being rather that of being begotten again, than of being born again.
Unto a lively hope - The word lively we now use commonly in the sense of active, animated, quick; the word used here, however, means living, in contradistinction from that which is dead. The hope which they had, had living power. It was not cold, inoperative, dead. It was not a mere form - or a mere speculation - or a mere sentiment; it was that which was vital to their welfare, and which was active and powerful. On the nature of hope, see the notes at Romans 8:24. Compare Ephesians 2:12.
By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead - The resurrection of the Lord Jesus is the foundation of our hope. It was a confirmation of what he declared as truth when he lived; it was a proof of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul; it was a pledge that all who are united to him will be raised up. See the 1Co. 15:1-20; 2 Timothy 1:10 note; 1 Thessalonians 4:14 note. On this verse we may remark, that the fact that Christians are chosen to salvation should be a subject of gratitude and praise. Every man should rejoice that any of the race may be saved, and the world should be thankful for every new instance of divine favor in granting to anyone a hope of eternal life. Especially should this be a source of joy to true Christians. Well do they know that if God had not chosen them to salvation, they would have remained as thoughtless as others; if he had had no purpose of mercy toward them, they would never have been saved. Assuredly, if there is anything for which a man should be grateful, it is that God has so loved him as to give him the hope of eternal life; and if he has had an eternal purpose to do this, our gratitude should be proportionably increased.
4To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
To an inheritance - Through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus we now cherish the hope of that future inheritance in heaven. On the word inheritance, see the Acts 20:32 note; Ephesians 1:11, Ephesians 1:14, Ephesians 1:18 notes; Colossians 1:12 note. Christians are regarded as the adopted children of God, and heaven is spoken of as their inheritance - as what their Father will bestow on them as the proof of his love.
Incorruptible - It will not fade away and vanish, as that which we inherit in this world does. See the word explained in the notes at 1 Corinthians 9:25. The meaning here is, that the inheritance will be imperishable, or will endure forever. Here, to whatever we may be heirs, we must soon part with the inheritance; there it will be eternal.
And undefiled - See the Hebrews 7:26; Hebrews 13:4 notes; James 1:27 note. The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. As applied to an inheritance, it means that it will be pure. It will not have been obtained by dishonesty, nor will it be held by fraud; it will not be such as will corrupt the soul, or tempt to extravagance, sensuality, and lust, as a rich inheritance often does here; it will be such that its eternal enjoyment will never tend in any manner to defile the heart. "How many estates," says Benson, "have been got by fraudulent and unjust methods; by poisoning, or in some other way murdering the right heir; by cheating of helpless orphans; by ruining the fatherless and widows; by oppressing their neighbors, or grinding the faces of the poor, and taking their garments or vineyards from them! But this future inheritance of the saints is stained by none of these vices; it is neither got nor detained by any of these methods; nor shall persons polluted with vice have any share in it." Here no one can be heir to an inheritance of gold or houses without danger of soon sinking into indolence, effeminacy, or vice; there the inheritance may be enjoyed forever, and the soul continually advance in knowledge, holiness, and the active service of God.
And that fadeth not away - Greek ἀμάραντον amaranton. This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, though the word ἀμαράντινος amarantinos occurs in 1 Peter 5:4, applied to a crown or garland. The word is properly applied to that which does not fade or wither, in contradistinction from a flower that fades. It may then denote anything that is enduring, and is applied to the future inheritance of the saints to describe its perpetuity in all its brilliance and splendor, in contrast with the fading nature of all that is earthly. The idea here, therefore, is not precisely the same as is expressed by the word "incorruptible." Both words indeed denote perpetuity, but that refers to perpetuity in contrast with decay; this denotes perpetuity in the sense that everything there will be kept in its original brightness and beauty. The crown of glory, though worn for millions of ages, will not be dimmed; the golden streets will lose none of their luster; the flowers that bloom on the banks of the river of life will always be as rich in color, and as fragant, as when we first beheld them.
Reserved in heaven for you - Margin, "us." The difference in the text and the margin arises from the various readings in mss. The common reading is "for you." The sense is not materially affected. The idea is, that it is an inheritance appointed for us, and kept by one who can make it sure to us, and who will certainly bestow it upon us. Compare the Matthew 25:34 note; John 14:2 note; Colossians 1:5 note.
5Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Who are kept by the power of God - That is, "kept" or preserved in the faith and hope of the gospel; who are preserved from apostacy, or so kept that you will finally obtain salvation. The word which is used here, and rendered "kept," (φρουρέω phroureō,) is rendered in 2 Corinthians 11:32, kept with a garrison; in Galatians 3:23, and here, kept; in Philippians 4:7, shall keep. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means to keep, as in a garrison or fortress; or as with a military watch. The idea is, that there was a faithful guardianship exercised over them to save them from danger, as a castle or garrison is watched to guard it against the approach of an enemy. The meaning is, that they were weak in themselves, and were surrounded by temptations; and that the only reason why they were preserved was, that God exerted his power to keep them. The only reason which any Christians have to suppose they will ever reach heaven, is the fact that God keeps them by his own power. Compare the Philippians 1:6 note; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:18 notes. If it were left to the will of man; to the strength of his own resolutions; to his power to meet temptations, and to any probability that he would of himself continue to walk in the path of life, there would be no certainty that anyone would be saved.
Through faith - That is, he does not keep us by the mere exertion of power, but he excites faith in our hearts, and makes that the means of keeping us. As long as we have faith in God, and in his promises, we are safe. When that fails, we are weak; and if it should fail altogether, we could not be saved. Compare the notes at Ephesians 2:8.
Unto salvation - Not preserved for a little period, and then suffered to fall away, but so kept as to be saved. We may remark here that Peter, as well as Paul, believed in the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. If he did not, how could he have addressed these Christians in this manner, and said that they were "kept by the power of God unto salvation?" What evidence could he have had that they would obtain salvation, unless he believed in the general truth that it was the purpose of God to keep all who were truly converted?
Ready to be revealed in the last time - That is, when the world shall close. Then it shall be made manifest to assembled worlds that such an inheritance was "reserved" for you, and that you were "kept" in order to inherit it. Compare Matthew 25:34. This verse, then, teaches that the doctrine that the saints will persevere and be saved, is true. They are "kept by the power of God to salvation;" and as God has all power, and guards them with reference to this end, it cannot be but that they will be saved. It may be added:
(a) that it is very desirable that the doctrine should be true. Man is so weak and feeble, so liable to fall, and so exposed to temptation, that it is in itself every way a thing to be wished that his salvation should be in some safer hands than his own.
(b) If it is desirable that it should be true, it is fair to infer that it is true, for God has made all the arrangements for the salvation of his people which are really desirable and proper.
(c) The only security for the salvation of anyone is founded on that doctrine.
If it were left entirely to the hands of people, even the best of people, what assurance could there be that anyone could be saved? Did not Adam fall? Did not holy angels fall? Have not some of the best of men fallen into sin? And who has such a strength of holiness that he could certainly confide in it to make his own salvation sure? Any man must know little of himself, and of the human heart, who supposes that he has such a strength of virtue that he would never fall away if left to himself. But if this be so, then his only hope of salvation is in the fact that God intends to "keep his people by his own power through faith unto salvation."
6Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
Wherein ye greatly rejoice - In which hope of salvation. The idea is, that the prospect which they had of the future inheritance was to them a source of the highest joy, even in the midst of their many sufferings and trials. On the general grounds for rejoicing, see the Romans 5:1-2 notes; Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:4 notes; 1 Thessalonians 5:16 note. See also the notes at 1 Peter 1:8. The particular meaning here is, that the hope which they had of their future inheritance enabled them to rejoice even in the midst of persecutions and trials. It not only sustained them, but it made them happy. That must be a valuable religion which will make people happy in the midst of persecutions and heavy calamities.
Though now for a season - A short period - ὀλίγον oligon. It would be in fact only for a brief period, even if it should continue through the whole of life. Compare the notes at 2 Corinthians 4:17; "Our light affliction which is but for a moment." It is possible, however, that Peter supposed that the trials which they then experienced would soon pass over. They may have been suffering persecutions which he hoped would not long continue.
If need be - This phrase seems to have been thrown in here to intimate that there was a necessity for their afflictions, or that there was "need" that they should pass through these trials. There was some good to be accomplished by them, which made it desirable and proper that they should be thus afflicted. The sense is, "since there is need;" though the apostle expresses it more delicately by suggesting the possibility that there might be need of it, instead of saying absolutely that there was need. It is the kind of language which we would use in respect to one who was greatly afflicted, by suggesting to him, in the most tender manner, that there might be things in his character which God designed to correct by trials, instead of saying roughly and bluntly that such was undoubtedly the fact. We would not say to such a person, "you certainly needed this affliction to lead you to amend your life;" but, "it may be that there is something in your character which makes it desirable, or that God intends that some good results shall come from it which will show that it is wisely ordered."
Ye are in heaviness - Greek, "Ye are sorrowing," (λυπηθέντες lupēthentes;) you are sad, or grieved, Matthew 14:9; Matthew 17:23.
Through manifold temptations - Through many kinds of trials, for so the word rendered "temptation" (πειρασμος peirasmos) means, James 1:2, James 1:12. See the notes at Matthew 4:1; Matthew 6:13. The meaning here is, that they now endured many things which were suited to try or test their faith. These might have consisted of poverty, persecution, sickness, or the efforts of ethers to lead them to renounce their religion, and to go back to their former state of unbelief. Anyone or all of these would try them, and would show whether their religion was genuine. On the various ways which God has of trying his people, compare the notes at Isaiah 28:23-29.
7That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
That the trial of your faith - The putting of your religion to the test, and showing what is its real nature. Compare James 1:3, James 1:12.
Being much more precious than of gold - This does not mean that their faith was much more precious than gold, but that the testing of it, (δοκίμιον dokimion,) the process of showing whether it was or was not genuine, was a much more important and valuable process than that of testing gold in the fire. More important results were to be arrived at by it, and it was more desirable that it should be done.
That perisheth - Not that gold perishes by the process of being tried in the fire, for this is not the fact, and the connection does not demand this interpretation. The idea is, that gold, however valuable it is, is a perishable thing. It is not an enduring, imperishable, indestructible thing, like religion. It may not perish in the fire, but it will in some way, for it will not endure forever.
Though it be tried with fire - This refers to the gold. See the Greek. The meaning is, that gold, though it will bear the action of fire, is yet a destructible thing, and will not endure forever. It is more desirable to test religion than it is gold, because it is more valuable. It pertains to that which is eternal and indestructible, and it is therefore of more importance to show its true quality, and to free it from every improper mixture.
Might be found unto praise - That is, might be found to be genuine, and such as to meet the praise or commendation of the final judge.
And honor - That honor might be done to it before assembled worlds.
And glory - That it might be rewarded with that glory which will be then conferred on all who have shown, in the various trials of life, that they had true religion.
At the appearing of Jesus Christ - To judge the world. Compare Matthew 25:31; Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 4:8; Titus 2:13. From these two verses 1 Peter 1:6-7 we may learn:
I. That it is desirable that the faith of Christians should be tried:
(a) It is desirable to know whether that which appears to be religion is genuine, as it is desirable to know whether that which appears to be gold is genuine. To gold we apply the action of intense heat, that we may know whether it is what it appears to be; and as religion is of more value than gold, so it is more desirable that it should be subjected to the proper tests, that its nature may be ascertained. There is much which appears to be gold, which is of no value, as there is much which appears to be religion, which is of no value. The one is worth no more than the other, unless it is genuine.
(b) It is desirable in order to show its true value. It is of great importance to know what that which is claimed to be gold is worth for the purposes to which gold is usually applied; and so it is in regard to religion. Religion claims to be of more value to man than anything else. It asserts its power to do that for the intellect and the heart which nothing else can do; to impart consolation in the various trials of life which nothing else can impart; and to give a support which nothing else can on the bed of death. It is very desirable, therefore, that in these various situations it should show its power; that is, that its friends should be in these various conditions, in order that they may illustrate the true value of religion.
(c) It is desirable that true religion should be separated from all alloy. There is often much alloy in gold, and it is desirable that it should be separated from it, in order that it may be pure. So it is in religion. It is often combined with much that is unholy and impure; much that dims its lustre and mars its beauty; much that prevents its producing the effect which it would otherwise produce. Gold is, indeed, often better, for some purposes, for having some alloy mixed with it; but not so with religion. It is never better for having a little pride, or vanity, or selfishness, or meanness, or worldliness, or sensuality mingled with it; and that which will remove these things from our religion will be a favor to us.
II. God takes various methods of trying his people, with a design to test the value of their piety, and to separate it from all impure mixtures:
(1) He tries his people by prosperity - often as decisive a test of piety as can be applied to it. There is much pretended piety, which will bear adversity, but which will not bear prosperity. The piety of a man is decisively tested by popularity; by the flatteries of the world; by a sudden increase of property; and in such circumstances it is often conclusively shown that there is no true religion in the soul.
(2) he tries his people in adversity. He lays his hand on them heavily, to show:
(a) whether they will bear up under their trials, and persevere in his service;
(b) to show whether their religion will keep them from murmuring or complaining;
(c) to show whether it is adapted to comfort and sustain the soul.
(3) he tries his people by sudden transition from one to the other. We get accustomed to a uniform course of life, whether it be joy or sorrow; and the religion which is adapted to a uniform course may be little suited to transitions from one condition of life to another. In prosperity we may have shown that we were grateful, and benevolent, and disposed to serve God; but our religion will be subjected to a new test, if we are suddenly reduced to poverty. In sickness and poverty, we learn to be patient and resigned, and perhaps even happy. But the religion which we then cultivated may be little adapted to a sudden transition to prosperity; and in such a transition, there would be a new trial of our faith. That piety which shone so much on a bed of sickness, might be little suited to shine in circumstances of sudden prosperity. The human frame may become accustomed either to the intense cold of the polar regions, or to the burning heats of the equator; but in neither case might it bear a transition from one to the other. It is such a transition that is a more decisive test of its powers of endurance than either intense heat or cold, if steadily prolonged.
III. Religion will bear any trial which may be applied to it, just as gold will bear the action of fire.
IV. Religion is imperishable in its nature. Even the most pure gold will perish. Time will corrode it, or it will be worn away by use, or it will be destroyed at the universal conflagration; but time and use will not wear out religion, and it will live on through the fires that will consume everything else.
V. Christians should be willing to pass through trials:
(a) They will purify their religion, just as the fire will remove dross from gold.
(b) They will make it shine more brightly, just as gold does when it comes out of the furnace.
(c) They will disclose more fully its value.
(d) They will furnish an evidence that we shall be saved; for that religion which will bear the tests that God applies to it in the present life, will bear the test of the final trial.
8Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
Whom having not seen, ye love - This Epistle was addressed to those who were "strangers scattered abroad," (See the notes at 1 Peter 1:1) and it is evident that they had not personally seen the Lord Jesus. Yet they had heard of his character, his preaching, his sacrifice for sin, and his resurrection and ascension, and they had learned to love him:
(1) It is possible to love one whom we have not seen. Thus, we may love God, whom no "eye hath seen," (compare 1 John 4:20) and thus we may love a benefactor, from whom we have received important benefits, whom we have never beheld.
(2) we may love the character of one whom we have never seen, and from whom we may never have received any particular favors. We may love his uprightness, his patriotism, his benignity, as represented to us. We might love him the more if we should become personally acquainted with him, and if we should receive important favors from him; but it is possible to feel a sense of strong admiration for such a character in itself.
(3) that may be a very pure love which we have for one whom we have never seen. It may be based on simple excellence of character; and in such a case there is the least chance for any intermingling of selfishness, or any improper emotion of any kind.
(4) we may love a friend as really and as strongly when he is absent, as when he is with us. The wide ocean that rolls between us and a child, does not diminish the ardour of our affection for him; and the Christian friend that has gone to heaven, we may love no less than when he sat with us at the fireside.
(5) Millions, even hundreds of millions, have been led to love the Saviour, who have never seen him. They have seen - not with the physical eye, but with the eye of faith - the inimitable beauty of his character, and have been brought to love him with an ardor of affection which they never had for any other one.
(6) there is every reason why we should love him:
(a) His character is infinitely lovely.
(b) He has done more for us than any other one who ever lived among men.
He died for us, to redeem our souls. He rose, and brought life and immortality to light. He ever lives to intercede for us in heaven. He is employed in preparing mansions of rest for us in the skies, and he will come and take us to himself, that we may be with him forever. Such a Saviour ought to be loved, is loved, and will be loved. The strongest attachments which have ever existed on earth have been for this unseen Saviour. There has been a love for him stronger than that for a father, or mother, or wife, or sister, or home, or country. It has been so strong, that thousands have been willing, on account of it, to bear the torture of the rack or the stake. It has been so strong, that thousands of youth of the finest minds, and the most flattering prospects of distinction, have been willing to leave the comforts of a civilized land, and to go among the benighted pagans, to tell them the story of a Saviour's life and death. It has been so strong, that unnumbered multitudes have longed, more than they have for all other things, that they might see him, and be with him, and abide with him forever and ever. Compare the notes at Philippians 1:23.
In whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing - He is now in heaven, and to mortal eyes now invisible, like his Father. Faith in him is the source and fountain of our joy. It makes invisible things real, and enables us to feel and act, in view of them, with the same degree of certainty as if we saw them. Indeed, the conviction to the mind of a true believer that there is a Saviour, is as certain and as strong as if he saw him; and the same may be said of his conviction of the existence of heaven, and of eternal realities. If it should be said that faith may deceive us, we may reply:
(1) May not our physical senses also deceive us? Does the eye never deceive? Are there no optical illusions? Does the ear never deceive? Are there no sounds which are mistaken? Do the taste and the smell never deceive? Are we never mistaken in the report which they bring to us? And does the sense of feeling never deceive? Are we never mistaken in the size, the hardness, the figure of objects which we handle? But,
(2) for all the practical purposes of life, the senses are correct guides, and do not in general lead us astray. So,
(3) there are objects of faith about which we are never deceived, and where we do act and must act with the same confidence as if we had personally seen them. Are we deceived about the existence of London, or Paris, or Canton, though we may never have seen either? May not a merchant embark with perfect propriety in a commercial enterprise, on the supposition that there is such a place as London or Canton, though he has never seen them? Would he not be reputed mad, if he should refuse to do it on this ground? And so, may not a man, in believing that there is a heaven, and in forming his plans for it, though he has not yet seen it, act as rationally and as wisely as he who forms his plans on the supposition that there is such a place as Canton?
Ye rejoice - Ye do rejoice; not merely ye ought to rejoice. It may be said of Christians that they do in fact rejoice; they are happy. The people of the world often suppose that religion makes its professors sad and melancholy. That there are those who have not great comfort in their religion, no one indeed can doubt; but this arises from several causes entirely independent of their religion. Some have melancholy temperaments, and are not happy in anything. Some have little evidence that they are Christians, and their sadness arises not from religion, but from the want of it. But that true religion does make its possessors happy, anyone may easily satisfy himself by asking any number of sincere Christians, of any denomination, whom he may meet. With one accord they will say to him that they have a happiness which they never found before; that however much they may have possessed of the wealth, the honors, and the pleasures of the world - and they who are now Christians have not all of them been strangers to these things - they never knew solid and substantial peace until they found it in religion And why should they not be believed? The world would believe them in other things; why will they not when they declare that religion does not make them gloomy, but happy?
With joy unspeakable - A very strong expression, and yet verified in thousands of cases among young converts, and among those in the maturer days of piety. There are thousands who can say that their happiness when they first had evidence that their sins were forgiven, that the burden of guilt was rolled away, and that they were the children of God, was unspeakable. They had no words to express it, it was so full and so new:
"Tongue can never express.
The sweet comfort and peace
Of a soul in its earliest love."
And so there have been thousands of mature Christians who can adopt the same language, and who could find no words to express the peace and joy which they have found in the love of Christ, and the hope of heaven. And why are not all Christians enabled to say constantly that they "rejoice with joy unspeakable?" Is it not a privilege which they might possess? Is there anything in the nature of religion which forbids it? Why should not one be filled with constant joy who has the hope of dwelling in a world of glory forever? Compare John 14:27; John 16:22.
And full of glory -
(1) Of anticipated glory - of the prospect of enjoying the glory of heaven.
(2) of present glory - with a joy even now which is of the same nature as that in heaven; a happiness the same in kind, though not in degree, as that which will be ours in a brighter world.
The saints on earth partake of the same kind of joy which they will have in heaven; for the happiness of heaven will be but an expansion, a prolongation, and a purifying of that which they have here. Compare the notes at Ephesians 1:14.
9Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls - The result or object of your faith; that is, what your faith is designed and adapted to secure. Compare the notes at Romans 10:4. The word rendered receiving is used here as indicating that they would surely obtain that. They even now had such peace and joy in believing, that it furnished undoubted evidence that they would be saved; and such that it might be said that even now they were saved. The condition of one who is a true Christian here is so secure that it may even now be called salvation.
10Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
Of which salvation - Of the certainty that this system of religion, securing the salvation of the soul, would be revealed. The object of this reference to the prophets seems to be to lead them to value the religion which they professed more highly, and to encourage them to bear their trials with patience. They were in a condition, in many respects, far superior to that of the prophets. They had the full light of the gospel. The prophets saw it only at a distance and but dimly, and were obliged to search anxiously that they might understand the nature of that system of which they were appointed to furnish the comparatively obscure prophetic intimations.
The prophets - This language would imply that this had been a common and prevalent wish of the prophets.
Have enquired - This word is intensive. It means that they sought out, or scrutinized with care the revelations made to them, that they might understand exactly what was implied in that which they were appointed to record in respect to the salvation which was to be made known through the Messiah. See the following places where the same word is used which occurs here: Luke 11:50-51; Acts 15:17; Romans 3:11; Hebrews 11:6; Hebrews 12:17.
And searched diligently - ἐξερευνάω exereunaō. Compare Daniel 9:2-3. The word used here means to search out, to trace out, to explore. It is not elsewhere used in the New Testament, though one of the words from which this is compounded (ἐρευνάω ereunaō) occurs. See John 5:39, (Notes) John 7:52; Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10; Revelation 2:23. The idea is, that they perceived that in their communications there were some great and glorious truths which they did not fully comprehend, and that they diligently employed their natural faculties to understand that which they were appointed to impart to succeeding generations. They thus became students and interpreters for themselves of their own predictions. They were not only prophets, but men. They had souls to be saved in the same way as others. They had hearts to be sanctified by the truth; and it was needful, in order to this, that truth should be applied to their own hearts in the same way as to others. The mere fact that they were the channels or organs for imparting truth to others would not save them, any more than the fact that a man now preaches truth to others will save himself, or than the fact that a sutler delivers bread to an army will nourish and support his own body.
Who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you - Of the favor that should be shown to you in the gospel. Though the predictions which they uttered appeared to the people of their own times, and perhaps to themselves, obscure, yet they were in fact prophecies of what was to come, and of the favors which, under another dispensation, would be bestowed upon the people of God. The apostle does not mean to say that they prophesied particularly of those persons to whom he was then writing, but that their prophecies were in fact for their benefit, for the things which they predicted had actually terminated on them. The benefit was as real as though the predictions had been solely on their account.
11Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
Searching what - That is, examining their own predictions with care, to ascertain what they meant. They studied them as we do the predictions which others have made; and though the prophets were the medium through which the truth was made known, yet their own predictions became a subject of careful investigation to themselves. The expression used here in the original, rendered "what," (εἰς τίνα eis tina,) literally, "unto what," may mean, so far as the Greek is concerned, either "what time," or "what people," or "what person;" that is, with reference to what person the prophecies were really uttered. The latter, it seems to me, is the correct interpretation, meaning that they inquired in regard to him, who he would be, what would be his character, and what would be the nature of the work which he would perform. There can be no doubt that they understood that their predictions related to the Messiah; but still it is not improper to suppose that it was with them an interesting inquiry what sort of a person he would be, and what would be the nature of the work which he would perform.
This interpretation of the phrase εἰς τίνα eis tina, (unto what or whom) it should be observed, however, is not that which is commonly given of the passage. Bloomfield, Rosenmuller, Doddridge, Whitby, Benson, and Grotius suppose it to refer to time, meaning that they inquired at what time, or when these things would occur. Macknight thinks it refers "to people," (λαον laon,) meaning that they diligently inquired what people would put him to death. But the most obvious interpretation is that which I have suggested above, meaning that they made particular inquiry to whom their prophecies related - what was his rank and character, and what was to be the nature of his work. What would be a more natural inquiry for them than this? What would be more important? And how interesting is the thought that when Isaiah, for example, had given utterance to the sublime predictions which we now have of the Messiah, in his prophecies, he sat himself down with the spirit of a little child, to learn by prayer and study, what was fully implied in the amazing words which the Spirit had taught him to record! How much of mystery might seem still to hang around the subject And how intent would such a mind be to know what was the full import of those words!
Or what manner of time - This phrase, in Greek, (ποῖον καιρὸν poion kairon,) would properly relate, not to the exact time when these things would occur, but to the character or condition of the age when they would take place; perhaps referring to the state of the world at that period, the preparation to receive the gospel, and the probable manner in which the great message would be received. Perhaps, however, the inquiry in their minds pertained to the time when the predictions would be fulfilled, as well as to the condition of the world when the event takes place. The meaning of the Greek phrase would not exclude this latter sense. There are not unfrequent indications of time in the prophets, (compare Daniel 9:24 ff) and these indications were of so clear a character, that when the Saviour actually appeared there was a general expectation that the event would then occur. See the notes at Matthew 2:9.
The Spirit of Christ which was in them - This does not prove that they knew that this was the Spirit of Christ, but is only a declaration of Peter that it was actually so. It is not probable that the prophets distinctly understood that the Spirit of inspiration, by which they were led to foretell future events, was especially the Spirit of Christ. They understood that they were inspired; but there is no intimation, with which I am acquainted, in their writings, that they regarded themselves as inspired by the Messiah. It was not improper, however, for Peter to say that the Spirit by which they were influenced was in fact the Spirit of Christ, so called because that Spirit which suggested these future events to them was given as the great Medium of all revealed truth to the world. Compare Hebrews 1:3; John 1:9; John 14:16, John 14:26; John 16:7; Isaiah 49:6. It is clear from this passage:
(1) that Christ must have had an existence before his incarnation; and,
(2) that he must have understood then what would occur to him when he should become incarnate; that is, it must have been arranged or determined beforehand,
Did signify - Meant to intimate or manifest to them, ἐδήλου edēlou or what was implied in the communications made to them.
When it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ - As Isaiah, Isaiah 53:1-12; Daniel, Daniel 9:25-27. They saw clearly that the Messiah was to suffer; and doubtless this was the common doctrine of the prophets, and the common expectation of the pious part of the Jewish nation. Yet it is not necessary to suppose that they had clear apprehensions of his sufferings, or were able to reconcile all that was said on that subject with what was said of his glory and his triumphs. There was much about those sufferings which they wished to learn, as there is much still which we desire to know. We have no reason to suppose that there were any views of the sufferings of the Messiah communicated to the prophets except what we now have in the Old Testament; and to see the force of what Peter says, we ought to imagine what would be our views of him if all that we have known of Christ as history were obliterated, and we had only the knowledge which we could derive from the Old Testament. As has been already intimated, it is probable that they studied their own predictions, just as we would study them if we had not the advantage of applying to them the facts which have actually occurred.
And the glory that should follow - That is, they saw that there would be glory which would be the result of his sufferings, but they did not clearly see what it would be. They had some knowledge that he would be raised from the dead, (Psalm 16:8-11; Compare Acts 2:25-28) they knew that he would "see of the travail of his soul, and would be satisfied," Isaiah 53:11 they had some large views of the effects of the gospel on the nations of the earth, Isaiah 11; Isaiah 25:7-8; 60; 66. But there were many things respecting his glorification which it cannot be supposed they clearly understood; and it is reasonable to presume that they made the comparatively few and obscure intimations in their own writings in relation to this, the subject of profound and prayerful inquiry.
12Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
Unto whom it was revealed - They were not permitted to know fully the import of the predictions which they were made the instruments of communicating to mankind, but they understood that they were intended for the benefit of future ages.
That not unto themselves - We are not to suppose that they derived no benefit from their own predictions; for, as far as they understood the truth, it was as much adapted to sanctify and comfort them as it is us now: but the meaning is, that their messages had reference mainly to future times, and that the full benefit of them would be experienced only in distant ages. Compare Hebrews 11:39-40.
Unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you - Not unto us by name, but their ministrations had reference to the times of the Messiah; and those to whom Peter wrote, in common with all Christians, were those who were to enjoy the fruits of the communications which they made. The word reported means announced, or made known.
By them that have preached the gospel unto you - The apostles, who have made known unto you, in their true sense, the things which the prophets predicted, the import of which they themselves were so desirous of understanding.
With the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven - Accompanied by the influences of the Holy Spirit bearing those truths to the heart, and confirming them to the soul. It was the same Spirit which inspired the prophets which conveyed those truths to the souls of the early Christians, and which discloses them to true believers in every age. Compare John 16:13-14; Acts 2:4; Acts 10:44-45. The object of Peter by thus referring to the prophets, and to the interest which they took in the things which those to whom he wrote now enjoyed, seems to have been, to impress on them a deep sense of the value of the gospel, and of the great privileges which they enjoyed. They were reaping the benefit of all the labors of the prophets. They were permitted to see truth clearly, which the prophets themselves saw only obscurely. They were, in many respects, more favored than even those holy men had been. It was for them that the prophets had spoken the word of the Lord: for them and their salvation that a long line of the most holy men that the world ever saw, had lived, and toiled, and suffered; and while they themselves had not been allowed to understand the fall import of their own predictions, the most humble believer was permitted to see what the most distinguished prophet never saw. See Matthew 13:17.
Which things the angels desire to look into - The object of this reference to the angels is the same as that to the prophets. It is to impress on Christians a sense of the value of that gospel which they had received, and to show them the greatness of their privileges in being made partakers of it. It had excited the deepest interest among the most holy men on earth, and even among the inhabitants of the skies. They were enjoying the full revelation of what even the angels had desired more fully to understand, and to comprehend which they had employed their great powers of investigation. The things which are here referred to, εἰς ἅ eis ha - unto which) are those which the prophets were so desirous to understand - the great truths respecting the sufferings of Christ, the glory which would follow, and the nature and effects of the gospel. In all the events pertaining to the redemption of a world they felt a deep interest.
The word which is rendered "to look," (παρακύψσαι parakupsai,) is rendered "stooping down," and "stooped down," in Luke 24:12; John 20:5, John 20:11; looketh, in James 1:25; and look, in the place before us. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It properly means, to stoop down near by anything; to bend forward near, in order to look at anything more closely - Robinson, Lexicon. It would denote that state where one, who was before at so great a distance that he could not clearly see an object, should draw nearer, stooping down in order that he might observe it more distinctly. It is possible, as Grotius supposes, that there may be an allusion here to the posture of the cherubim over the mercy-seat, represented as looking down with an intense gaze, as if to behold what was in the ark. But it is not necessary to suppose that this is the allusion, nor is it absolutely certain that that was the posture of the cherubim. See the notes at Hebrews 9:5. All that is necessarily implied in the language is, that the angels had an intense desire to look into these things; that they contemplated them with interest and fixed attention, like one who comes near to an object, and looks narrowly upon it. In illustration of this sentiment, we may make the following suggestions:
I. The angels, doubtless, desire to look into all the manifestations of the character of God, wherever those manifestations are made:
(1) It is not unreasonable to suppose that, to a great degree, they acquire the knowledge of God as all other creatures do. They are not omniscient, and cannot be supposed to comprehend at a glance all his doings.
(2) they doubtless employ their faculties, substantially as we do, in the investigation of truth; that is, from things known they seek to learn those that are even unknown.
(3) it is not unreasonable to suppose that there are many things in relation to the divine character and plans, which they do not yet understand. They know, undoubtedly, much more than we do; but there are plans and purposes of God which are yet made known to none of his creatures. No one can doubt that these plans and purposes must be the object of the attentive study of all holy created minds.
(4) they doubtless feel a great interest in the welfare of other beings - of their fellow-creatures, wherever they are. There is in the universe one great brotherhood, embracing all the creatures of God.
(5) they cannot but feel a deep interest in man - a fallen creature, tempted, suffering, dying, and exposed to eternal death. This they have shown in every period of the world's history. See the notes at Hebrews 1:14.
II. It is probable, that in each one of the worlds which God has made, there is some unique manifestation of his glory and character; something which is not to be found at all in any other world, or, if found, not in so great perfection; and that the angels would feel a deep interest in all these manifestations, and would desire to look into them:
(1) This is probable from the nature of the case, and from the variety which we see in the form, size, movements, and glory of the heavenly orbs. There is no reason to suppose, that on any one of those worlds all the glory of the divine character would be manifest, which he intends to, make known to the universe.
(2) this is probable from what we can now see of the worlds which he has made. We know as yet comparatively little of the heavenly bodies, and of the manifestations of the Deity there; and yet, as far as we can see, there must be far more striking exhibitions of the power, and wisdom, and glory of God, in many or most of those worlds that roll above us, than there are on our earth. On the body of the sun - on the planets Jupiter and Saturn, so vast in comparison with the earth - there must be far more impressive exhibitions of the glory of the Creator, than there is on our little planet. Saturn, for example, is 82,000 miles in diameter, 1,100 times as large as our earth; it moves at the rate of 22,000 miles an hour; it is encircled by two magnificent rings, 5,000 miles apart, the innermost of which is 21,000 miles from the body of the planet, and 22,000 miles in breadth, forming a vast illuminated arch over the planet above the brightness of our moon, and giving a most beautiful appearance to the heavens there. It is also, doubtless, true of all the worlds which God has made, that in each one of them there may be some unique manifestation of the glory of the Deity.
(3) the universe, therefore, seems suited to give eternal employment to mind in contemplating it; and, in the worlds which God has made, there is enough to employ the study of his creatures forever. On our own world, the most diligent and pious student of the works of God might spend many thousand years, and then leave much, very much, which he did not comprehend; and it may yet be the eternal employment of holy minds to range from world to world, and in each new world to find much to study and to admire; much that shall proclaim the wisdom, power, love, and goodness of God, which had not elsewhere been seen.
(4) our world, therefore, though small, a mere speck in creation, may have something to manifest the glory of the Creator which may not exist in any other. It cannot be its magnitude; for, in that respect, it is among the smallest which God has made. It may not be the height and the majesty of our mountains, or the length and beauty of our rivers, or the fragrance of our flowers, or the clearness of our sky; for, in these respects, there may be much more to admire in other worlds: it is the exhibition of the character of God in the work of redemption; the illustration of the way in which a sinner may be forgiven; the manifestation of the Deity as incarnate, assuming permanently a union with one of his own creatures. This, so far as we know, is seen in no other part of the universe; "and this is honor enough for one world." To see this, the angels may be attracted down to earth. When they come, they come not to contemplate our works of art, our painting and our sculpture, or to read our hooks of science or poetry: they come to gather around the cross, to minister to the Saviour, to attend on his steps while living, and to watch over his body when dead; to witness his resurrection and ascension, and to bless, with their offices of kindness, those whom he died to redeem, Hebrews 1:4.
III. What, then, is there in our world which we may suppose would attract their attention? What is there which they would not see in other worlds? I answer, that the manifestation of the divine character in the plan of redemption, is that which would especially attract their attention here, and lead them from heaven down to earth:
(1) The mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God would be to them an object of the deepest interest. This, so far as we know, or have reason to suppose, has occurred nowhere else. There is no evidence that in any other world God has taken upon himself the form of one of his own creatures dwelling there, and stooped to live and act like one of them; to mingle with them; to share their feelings; and to submit to toil, and want, and sacrifice, for their welfare.
(2) the fact that the guilty could be pardoned would attract their attention, for:
(a) it is elsewhere unknown, no inhabitant of heaven having the need of pardon, and no offer of pardon having been made to a rebel angel.
(b) There are great and difficult questions about the whole subject of forgiveness, which an angel could easily see, but which he could not so easily solve. How could it be done consistently with the justice and truth of God? How could he forgive, and yet maintain the honor of his own law, and the stability of his own throne? There is no more difficult subject in a human administration than that of pardon; and there is none which so much perplexes those who are entrusted with executive power.
(3) the way in which pardon has been shown to the guilty here would excite their deep attention. It has been in a manner entirely consistent with justice and truth; showing, through the great sacrifice made on the cross, that the attributes of justice and mercy may both be exercised: that, while God may pardon to any extent, he does it in no instance at the expense of justice and truth. This blending of the attributes of the Almighty in beautiful harmony; this manifesting of mercy to the guilty and the lost; this raising up a fallen and rebellious race to the favor and friendship of God; and this opening before a dying creature the hope of immortality, was what could be seen by the angels nowhere else: and hence, it is no wonder that they hasten with such interest to our world, to learn the mysteries of redeeming love. Every step in the process of recovering a sinner must be new to them, for it is unseen elsewhere; and the whole work, the atonement, the pardon and renovation of the sinner, the conflict of the child of God with his spiritual foes, the supports of religion in the time of sickness and temptation, the bed of death, the sleep in the tomb, the separate flight of the soul to its final abode, the resurrection of the body, and the solemn scenes of the judgment, all must open new fields of thought to an angelic mind, and attract the heavenly inhabitants to our world, to learn here what they cannot learn in their own abodes, however otherwise bright, where sin, and suffering, and death, and redemption are unknown. In view of these truths we may add:
(1) The work of redemption is worthy of the study of the profoundest minds. Higher talent than any earthly talent has been employed in studying it; for, to the most exalted intellects of heaven, it has been a theme of the deepest interest. No mind on earth is too exalted to be engaged in this study; no intellect here is so profound that it would not find in this study a range of inquiry worthy of itself.
(2) this is a study that is especially appropriate to man. The angels have no other interest in it than that which arises from a desire to know God, and from a benevolent regard for the welfare of others; we have a personal interest in it of the highest kind. It pertains primarily to us. The plan was formed for us. Our eternal all depends upon it. The angels would be safe and happy it they did not fully understand it; if we do not understand it, we are lost forever. It has claims to their attention as a wonderful exhibition of the character and purposes of God, and as they are interested in the welfare of others; it claims our attention because our eternal welfare depends on our accepting the offer of mercy made through a Saviour's blood.
(3) how amazing, then, how wonderful, is the indifference of man to this great and glorious work! How wonderful, that neither as a matter of speculation, nor of personal concern, he can be induced "to look into these things!" How wonderful that all other subjects engross his attention, and excite inquiry; but that for this he feels no concern, and that here he finds nothing to interest him! It is not unreasonable to suppose, that amidst all the other topics of wonder in this plan as seen by angels, this is not the least - that man by nature takes no interest in it; that in so stupendous a work, performed in his own world, he feels no concern; that he is unmoved when he is told that even God became incarnate, and appeared on the earth where he himself dwells; and that, busy and interested as he is in other things, often of a most trifling nature, he has no concern for that on which is suspended his own eternal happiness. If heaven was held in mute astonishment when the Son of God left the courts of glory to be poor, to be persecuted, to bleed, and to die, not less must be the astonishment than when, from those lofty heights, the angelic hosts look down upon a race unconcerned amidst wonders such as those of the incarnation and the atonement!
13Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind - The allusion here is to the manner in which the Orientals were accustomed to dress. They wear loose, flowing robes, so that, when they wish to run, or to fight, or to apply themselves to any business, they are obliged to bind their garments close around them. See the notes at Matthew 5:38-41. The meaning here is, that they were to have their minds in constant preparation to discharge the duties, or to endure the trials of life - like those who were prepared for labor, for a race, or for a conflict.
Be sober - See the 1 Timothy 3:2 note; Titus 1:8; Titus 2:2 notes.
And hope to the end - Margin, "perfectly." The translation in the text is the most correct. It means that they were not to become faint or weary in their trials. They were not to abandon the hopes of the gospel, but were to cherish those hopes to the end of life, whatever opposition they might meet with, and however much might be done by others to induce them to apostatize. Compare the notes at Hebrews 10:35-36.
For the grace that is to be brought unto you - For the favor that shall then be bestowed upon you; to wit, salvation. The word brought here means, that this great favor which they hoped for would be borne to them by the Saviour on his return from heaven.
At the revelation of Jesus Christ - When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in his glory; that is, when he comes to judge the world. See the notes at 2 Thessalonians 1:7.
14As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
As obedient children - That is, conduct yourselves as becomes the children of God, by obeying his commands; by submitting to His will; and by manifesting unwavering confidence in him as your Father at all times.
Not fashioning yourselves - Not forming or modeling your life. Compare the notes at Romans 12:2. The idea is, that they were to have some model or example, in accordance with which they were to frame their lives, but that they were not to make their own former principles and conduct the model. The Christian is to be as different from what he was himself before conversion as he is from his fellow-men. He is to be governed by new laws, to aim at new objects, and to mould his life in accordance with new principles. Before conversion, he was:
(a) supremely selfish;
(b) he lived for personal gratification;
(c) he gave free indulgence to his appetites and passions, restrained only by a respect for the decencies of life, and by a reference to his own health, property, or reputation, without regard to the will of God;
(d) he conformed himself to the customs and opinions around him, rather than to the requirements of his Maker;
(e) he lived for worldly aggrandizements, his supreme object being wealth or fame; or,
(f) in many cases, those who are now Christians, gave indulgence to every passion which they wished to gratify, regardless of reputation, health, property, or salvation.
Now they are to be governed by a different rule, and their own former standard of morals and of opinions is no longer their guide, but the will of God.
According to the former lusts in your ignorance - When you were ignorant of the requirements of the gospel, and gave yourselves up to the unrestrained indulgence of your passions.
15But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
But as he which hath called you is holy - On the word called, see the notes at Ephesians 4:1. The meaning here is, that the model or example in accordance with which they were to frame their lives, should be the character of that God who had called them into his kingdom. They were to be like him. Compare the notes at Matthew 5:48.
So be ye holy in all manner of conversation - In all your conduct. On the word "conversation," see the notes at Philippians 1:27. The meaning is, that since God is holy, and we profess to be his followers, we also ought to be holy.
16Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy - Leviticus 11:44. This command was addressed at first to the Israelites, but it is with equal propriety addressed to Christians, as the professed people of God. The foundation of the command is, that they professed to be his people, and that as his people they ought to be like their God. Compare Micah 4:5. It is a great truth, that people everywhere will imitate the God whom they worship. They will form their character in accordance with his. They will regard what he does as right. They will attempt to rise no higher in virtue than the God whom they adore, and they will practice freely what he is supposed to do or approve. Hence, by knowing what are the characteristics of the gods which are worshipped by any people, we may form a correct estimate of the character of the people themselves; and, hence, as the God who is the object of the Christian's worship is perfectly holy, the character of His worshipers should also be holy. And hence, also, we may see that the tendency of true religion is to make people pure. As the worship of the impure gods of the pagan moulds the character of the worshippers into their image, so the worship of Yahweh moulds the character of His professed friends into His image, and they become like him.
17And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:
And if ye call on the Father - That is, if you are true Christians, or truly pious - piety being represented in the Scriptures as calling on God, or as the worship of God. Compare Acts 9:11; Genesis 4:26; 1 Kings 18:24; Psalm 116:17; 2 Kings 5:11; 1 Chronicles 16:8; Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13; Zephaniah 3:9; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 2:21. The word "Father" here is used evidently not to denote the Father in contradistinction to the Son, but as referring to God as the Father of the universe. See 1 Peter 1:14 - "As obedient children." God is often spoken of as the Father of the intelligent beings whom he has made. Christians worship Him as a Father - as one having all the feelings of a kind and tender parent toward them. Compare Psalm 103:13, following.
Who without respect of persons - Impartiality. One who is not influenced in His treatment of people by a regard to rank, wealth, beauty, or any external distinction. See the Acts 10:34 note, and Romans 2:11 note.
Judgeth according to every man's work - He judges each one according to his character; or to what he has done, Revelation 22:12. See the notes at 2 Corinthians 5:10. The meaning is: "You worship a God who will judge every person according to his real character, and you should therefore lead such lives as he can approve."
Pass the time of your sojourning - "Of your temporary residence on earth. This is not your permanent home, but you are strangers and sojourners." See the notes at Hebrews 11:13.
In fear - See the Philippians 2:12 note; Hebrews 12:28 note. With true reverence or veneration for God and His law. Religion is often represented as the reverent fear of God, Deuteronomy 6:2, Deuteronomy 6:13, Deuteronomy 6:24; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 3:13; Proverbs 14:26-27, et saepe al.
18Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
Forasmuch as ye know - This is an argument for a holy life, derived from the fact that they were redeemed, and from the manner in which their redemption had been effected. There is no more effectual way to induce true Christians to consecrate themselves entirely to God, than to refer them to the fact that they are not their own, but have been purchased by the blood of Christ.
That ye were not redeemed - On the word rendered "redeemed," (λυτρόω lutroō,) see the notes at Titus 2:14. The word occurs in the New Testament only in Luke 24:21; Titus 2:14, and in this place. The noun (λύτρον lutron) is found in Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45, rendered ransom. For the meaning of the similar word, (ἀπολύτρωσις apolutrōsis,) see the notes at Romans 3:24. This word occurs in Luke 21:28; Romans 3:24; Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 4:30; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:15, in all which places it is rendered redemption; and in Hebrews 11:35, where it is rendered "deliverance." The word here means that they were rescued from sin and death by the blood of Christ, as the valuable consideration on account of which it was done; that is, the blood, or the life of Christ offered as a sacrifice, effected the same purpose in regard to justice and to the maintenance of the principles of moral government, which the punishment of the sinner himself would have done. It was that which God was pleased to accept in the place of the punishment of the sinner, as answering the same great ends in his administration. The principles of his truth and justice could as certainly be maintained in this way as by the punishment of the guilty themselves. If so, then there was no obstacle to their salvation; and they might, on repentance, be consistently pardoned and taken to heaven.
With corruptible things, as silver and gold - On the word "corruptible," as applicable to gold, see the notes at 1 Peter 1:7. Silver and gold usually constitute the price or the valuable consideration paid for the redemption of captives. It is clear that the obligation of one who is redeemed, to love his benefactor, is in proportion to the price which is paid for his ransom. The idea here is, that a price far more valuable than any amount of silver or gold had been paid for the redemption of the people of God, and that they were under proportionate obligation to devote themselves to his service. They were redeemed by the life of the Son of God offered in their behalf; and between the value of that life and silver and gold there could be no comparison.
From your vain conversation - Your "vain conduct, or manner of life." See the notes at 1 Peter 1:15. The word "vain," applied to conduct, (ματαίας mataias,) means properly "empty, fruitless." It is a word often applied to the worship of idols, as being nothing, worthless, unable to help, Acts 14:15; 1 Kings 16:13; 2 Kings 17:15; Jeremiah 2:5, Jeremiah 2:8,Jeremiah 2:19 and is probably used in a similar sense in this place. The apostle refers to their former worship of idols, and to all the abominations connected with that service, as being vain and unprofitable; as the worship of nothing real (compare 1 Corinthians 8:4, "We know that an idol is nothing in the world'), and as resulting in a course of life that answered none of the proper ends of living. From that they had been redeemed by the blood of Christ.
Received by tradition from your fathers - The mode of worship which had been handed down from father to son. The worship of idols depends on no better reason than that it is that which has been practiced in ancient times; and it is kept up now in all lands, in a great degree, only by the fact that it has had the sanction of the venerated people of other generations.
19But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
But with the precious blood of Christ - On the use of the word blood, and the reason why the efficacy of the atonement is said to be in the blood, see the notes at Romans 3:25. The word "precious" (τίμιος timios) is a word which would be applied to that which is worth much; which is costly. Compare for the use of the noun (τιμή timē) in this sense, Matthew 27:6, "The price of blood;" Acts 4:34; Acts 5:2-3; Acts 7:16. See also for the use of the adjective, (τίμιος timios,) Revelation 17:4, "gold and precious stones" Revelation 18:12, "vessels of most precious wood." Revelation 21:11, "a stone most precious." The meaning here is, that the blood of Christ had a value above silver and gold; it was worth more, to wit:
(1) in itself - being a more valuable thing - and,
(2) in effecting our redemption. It accomplished what silver and gold could not do. The universe had nothing more valuable to offer, of which we can conceive, than the blood of the Son of God.
As of a lamb - That is, of Christ regarded as a lamb offered for sacrifice. See the notes at John 1:29.
Without blemish and without spot - Such a lamb only was allowed to be offered in sacrifice, Leviticus 22:20-24; Malachi 1:8. This was required:
(1) because it was proper that man should offer that which was regarded as perfect in its kind; and,
(2) because only that would be a proper symbol of the great sacrifice which was to be made by the Son of God. The idea was thus kept up from age to age that he, of whom all these victims were the emblems, would be perfectly pure.
20Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world - That is, it was foreordained, or predetermined, that he should be the great stoning Sacrifice for sin. On the meaning of the word "foreordained," (προγινώσκω proginōskō,) see Romans 8:29. The word is rendered which knew, Acts 26:5; foreknew and foreknow, Romans 8:29; Romans 11:2; foreordained, 1 Peter 1:20; and know before, 2 Peter 2:17. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. The sense is, that the plan was formed, and the arrangements made for the atonement, before the world was created.
Before the foundation of the world - That is, from eternity. It was before man was formed; before the earth was made; before any of the material universe was brought into being; before the angels were created. Compare the Matthew 25:34 note; John 17:24 note; Ephesians 1:4 note.
But was manifest - Was revealed. See the notes at 1 Timothy 3:16.
In these last times - In this, the last dispensation of things on the earth. See the notes at Hebrews 1:2.
For you - For your benefit or advantage. See the notes at 1 Peter 1:12. It follows from what is said in this verse:
(1) that the atonement was not an afterthought on the part of God. It entered into his plan when he made the world, and was revolved in his purposes from eternity.
(2) it was not a device to supply a defect in the system; that is, it was not adopted because the system did not work well, or because God had been disappointed. It was arranged before man was created, and when none but God could know whether he would stand or fall.
(3) the creation of the earth must have had some reference to this plan of redemption, and that plan must have been regarded as in itself so glorious, and so desirable, that it was deemed best to bring the world into existence that the plan might be developed, though it would involve the certainty that the race would fall, and that many would perish. It was, on the whole, more wise and benevolent that the race should be created with a certainty that they would apostatize, than it would be that the race should not he created, and the plan of salvation be unknown to distant worlds. See the notes at 1 Peter 1:12.
21Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
Who by him do believe in God - Faith is sometimes represented particularly as exercised in God, and sometimes in Christ. It is always a characteristic of true religion that a man has faith in God. Compare the notes at Mark 11:22.
That raised him up from the dead - See the Acts 2:24; Acts 3:15, Acts 3:26; Acts 4:10; Acts 5:30; Acts 13:30 notes; Romans 4:24; Romans 6:4 notes; 1 Corinthians 15:15 note.
And gave him glory - By exalting him at his own right hand in heaven, Philippians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Ephesians 1:20-21.
That your faith and hope might be in God - That is, by raising up the Lord Jesus, and exalting him to heaven, he has laid the foundation of confidence in his promises, and of the hope of eternal life. Compare the notes at 1 Peter 1:3. Compare 1 Corinthians 15; Colossians 1:27; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Timothy 1:1.
22Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
Seeing ye have purified your souls - Greek, "Having purified your souls." The apostles were never afraid of referring to human agency as having an important part in saving the soul Compare 1 Corinthians 4:15. No one is made pure without personal intention or effort - any more than one becomes accomplished or learned without personal exertion. One of the leading effects of the agency of the Holy Spirit is to excite us to make efforts for our own salvation; and there is no true piety which is not the fair result of culture, as really as the learning of a Person, or the harvest of the farmer. The amount of effort which we make "in purifying our souls" is usually also the measure of our attainments in religion. No one can expect to have any true piety beyond the amount of effort which he makes to be conformed to God, any more than one can expect wealth, or fame, or learning, without exertion.
In obeying the truth - That is, your yielding to the requirements of truth, and to its fair influence on your minds, has been the means of your becoming pure. The truth here referred to is, undoubtedly, that which is revealed in the gospel - the great system of truth respecting the redemption of the world.
Through the Spirit - By the agency of the Holy Spirit. It is his office to apply truth to the mind; and however precious the truth may be, and however adapted to secure certain results on the soul, it will never produce those effects without the influences of the Holy Spirit. Compare Titus 3:5-6; the notes at John 3:5.
Unto unfeigned love of the brethren - The effect of the influence of the Holy Spirit in applying the truth has been to produce sincere love to all who are true Christians. Compare the John 13:34 note; 1 Thessalonians 4:9 note. See also 1 John 3:14-18.
See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently - Compare the Hebrews 13:1 note; John 13:34-35 notes; Ephesians 5:2 note. The phrase "with a pure heart fervently," means:
(1) that it should be genuine love proceeding from a heart in which there is no guile or hypocrisy; and,
(2) that it should be intense affection, (ἐκτενῶς ektenōs;) not cold and formal, but ardent and strong.
If there is any reason why we should love true Christians at all, there is the same reason why our attachment to them should be intense. This verse establishes the following points:
(1) That truth was at the foundation of their piety. They had none of which this was not the proper basis; and in which the foundation was not as broad as the superstructure. There is no religion in the world which is not the fair developement of truth; which the truth is not suited to produce.
(2) they became Christians as the result of obeying the truth; or by yielding to its fair influence on the soul. Their own minds complied with its claims; their own hearts yielded; there was the exercise of their own volitions. This expresses a doctrine of great importance:
(a) There is always the exercise of the powers of the mind in true religion; always a yielding to truth; always a voluntary reception of it into the soul.
(b) Religion is always of the nature of obedience. It consists in yielding to what is true and right; in laying aside the feelings of opposition, and in allowing the mind to follow where truth and duty lead.
(c) This would always take place when the truth is presented to the mind, if there were no voluntary resistance. If all people were ready to yield to the truth, they would become Christians. The only reason why all people do not love and serve God is that they refuse to yield to what they know to be true and right.
(3) the agency by which this was accomplished was that of the Holy Spirit. Truth is adapted in itself to a certain end or result, as seed is adapted to produce a harvest. But it will no more of itself produce its appropriate effects on the soul, than seed will produce a harvest without rains, and dews, and suns. In all cases, therefore, the proper effect of truth on the soul is to be traced to the influence of the Holy Spirit, as the germination of the seed in the earth is to the foreign cause that acts on it. No man was ever converted by the mere effect of truth without the agency of the Holy Spirit, any more than seed germinates when laid upon a hard rock.
(4) the effect of this influence of the Holy Spirit in applying the truth is to produce love to all who are Christians. Love to Christian brethren springs up in the soul of everyone who is truly converted: and this love is just as certain evidence that the seed of truth has germinated in the soul, as the green and delicate blade that peeps up through the earth is evidence that the seed sown has been quickened into life. Compare the 1 Thessalonians 4:9 note; 1 John 3:14 note. We may learn hence:
(a) that truth is of inestimable value. It is as valuable as religion itself, for all the religion in the world is the result of it.
(b) Error and falsehood are mischievous and evil in the same degree. There is no true religion which is the fair result of error; and all the pretended religion that is sustained by error is worthless.
(c) If a system of religion, or a religious measure or doctrine, cannot be defended by truth, it should be at once abandoned. Compare the notes at Job 13:7.
(d) We should avoid the places where error is taught. Proverbs 19:27, "cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge."
(e) We should place ourselves under the teachings of truth, for there is truth enough in the world to occupy all our time and attention; and it is only by truth that our minds can be benefitted.
23Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
Being born again - See the notes at John 3:3.
Not of corruptible seed - "Not by virtue of any descent from human parents" - Doddridge. The result of such a birth, or of being begotten in this way - for so the word rendered "born again" more properly signifies - is only corruption and decay. We are begotten only to die. There is no permanent, enduring life produced by that. It is in this sense that this is spoken of as, "corruptible seed," because it results in decay and death. The word here rendered "seed" - σπορά spora - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament.
But of incorruptible - By truth, communicating a living principle to the soul which can never decay. Compare 1 John 3:9; "His seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."
By the word of God - See the note at James 1:18; "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures." Compare the notes at John 1:13. It is the uniform doctrine of the Scriptures that divine truth is made the instrument of quickening the soul into spiritual life.
Which liveth and abideth forever - This expression may either refer to God, as living forever, or to the word of God, as being forever true. Critics are about equally divided in the interpretation. The Greek will bear either construction. Most of the recent critics incline to the latter opinion - that it refers to the word of God, or to his doctrine. So Rosenmuller, Doddridge, Bloomfield, Wolf, Macknight, Clarke. It seems to me, however, that the more natural construction of the Greek is to refer it to God, as ever-living or enduring; and this interpretation agrees well with the connection. The idea then is, that as God is ever-living, that which is produced directly by him in the human soul, by the instrumentality of truth, may be expected also to endure forever. It will not be like the offspring of human parents, themselves mortal, liable to early and certain decay, but may be expected to be as enduring as its ever-living Creator.
24For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
For all flesh is as grass - That is, all human beings, all men. The connection here is this: The apostle, in the previous verse, had been contrasting that which is begotten by man with that which is begotten by God, in reference to its permanency. The forher was corruptible and decaying; the latter abiding. The latter was produced by God, who lives forever; the former by the agency of man, who is himself corruptible and dying. It was not unnatural, then, to dwell upon the feeble, frail, decaying nature of man, in contrast with God; and the apostle, therefore, says that "all flesh, every human being, is like grass. There is no stability in anything that man does or produces. He himself resembles grass that soon fades and withers; but God and his word endure forever the same." The comparison of a human being with grass, or with flowers, is very beautiful, and is quite common in the Scriptures. The comparison turns on the fact, that the grass or the flower, however green or beautiful it may be, soon loses its freshness; is withered; is cut down, and dies. Thus, in Psalm 103:15-16;
"As for man, his days are as grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourisheth;
For the wind passeth over it and it is gone,
And the place thereof shall know it no more."
So in Isaiah 40:6-8; a passage which is evidently referred to by Peter in this place:
"The voice said, Cry.
And he said, What shall Icry?
All flesh is grass,
And all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.
The grass withereth,
The flower fadeth,
When the wind of Jehovah bloweth upon it:
Surely the people is grass,
The grass withereth,
The flower fadeth,
But the word of our God shall stand forever."
See also James 1:10-11. This sentiment is beautifully imitated by the great dramatist in the speech of Wolsey:
"This is the state of man; today he puts forth.
The tender leaves of hope, tomorrow blossoms,
And bears his blushing honors thick upon him.
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,
And - when he thinks, good easy man, full surely.
His greatness is a ripening - nips his root,
And then he falls."
Compare the notes at Isaiah 40:6-8.
And all the glory of man - All that man prides himself on - his wealth, rank, talents, beauty, learning, splendor of equipage or apparel.
As the flower of grass - The word rendered "grass," (χόρτος chortos,) properly denotes herbage; that which furnishes food for animals - pasture, hay. Probably the prophet Isaiah, from whom this passage is taken, referred rather to the appearance of a meadow or a field, with mingled grass and flowers, constituting a beautiful landscape, than to mere grass. In such a field, the grass soon withers with heat, and with the approach of winter; and the flowers soon fade and fall.
The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away - This is repeated, as is common in the Hebrew writings, for the sake of emphasis, or strong confirmation.
25But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
But the word of the Lord - In Isaiah Isa 40:8 "the word of our God." The sense is not materially varied.
Endureth forever - Is unmoved, fixed, permanent. Amidst all the revolutions on earth, the fading glories of natural objects, and the wasting strength of man, his truth remains unaffected. Its beauty never fades; its power is never enfeebled. The gospel system is as lovely now as it was when it was first revealed to man, and it has as much power to save as it had when first applied to a human heart. We see the grass wither at the coming on of autumn; we see the flower of the field decay; we see man, though confident in his strength, and rejoicing in the rigor of his frame, cut down in an instant; we see cities decline, and kingdoms lose their power: but the word of God is the same now that it was at first, and, amidst all the changes which may ever occur on the earth, that will remain the same.
And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you - That is, this gospel is the "word" which was referred to by Isaiah in the passage which has been quoted. In view, then, of the affecting truth stated in the close of this chapter, 1 Peter 1:24-25 let us learn habitually to reflect on our feebleness and frailty. "We all do fade as a leaf," Isaiah 64:6. Our glory is like the flower of the field. Our beauty fades, and our strength disappears, as easily as the beauty and vigor of the flower that grows up in the morning, and that in the evening is cut down, Psalm 90:6. The rose that blossoms on the cheek of youth may wither as soon as any other rose; the brightness of the eye may become dim, as readily as the beauty of a field covered with flowers; the darkness of death may come over the brow of manliness and intelligence, as readily as night settles down on the landscape and our robes of adorning may be laid aside, as soon as beauty fades in a meadow full of flowers before the scythe of the mower.
There is not an object of natural beauty on which we pride ourselves that will not decay; and soon all our pride and pomp will be laid low in the tomb. It is sad to look on a beautiful lily, a rose, a magnolia, and to think how soon all that beauty will disappear. It is more sad to look on a rosy cheek, a bright eye, a lovely form, an expressive brow, an open, serene, intelligent countenance, and to think how soon all that beauty and brilliancy will fade away. But amidst these changes which beauty undergoes, and the desolations which disease and death spread over the world, it is cheering to think that all is not so. There is that which does not change, which never loses its beauty. "The word of the Lord" abides. His cheering promises, his assurances that there is a brighter and better world, remain amidst all these changes the same. The traits which are drawn on the character by the religion of Christ, more lovely by far than the most delicate coloring of the lily, remain forever. There they abide, augmenting in loveliness, when the rose fades from the cheek; when the brilliancy departs from the eye; when the body moulders away in the sepulchre. The beauty of religion is the only permanent beauty in the earth; and he that has that need not regret that that which in this mortal frame charms the eye shall fade away like the flower of the field.