“The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him… There is, indeed, one exception. If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his ‘gratitude’, you will probably be disappointed”
– C.S. Lewis
“I say to myself—’Preacher, preach your Master more; preach Him more after His own sort, and endeavor to be more like Him.’ Live nearer to the cross. With all your study of doctrine—and you do well to study it thoroughly—make Jesus Christ the first. Believe in Him. Let Him be your creed”
~ C.H. Spurgeon
This is the third of four short commentaries by Bonar.
It is of the ‘stone laid in Sion’ (verse 6) that the apostle is here speaking. It is the ‘chief cornerstone,’ it is ‘elect,’ it is ‘precious,’ although those who ought to have known best its qualities (the builders) rejected it, treating it not as precious, but as vile and useless. The testimony of the Holy Ghost to us, both by His prophet and His apostle, is that this stone is precious. Such is God’s estimate of its value. And that one simple word ‘precious,’ used by Him who does not exaggerate or embellish, conveys more than a hundred epithets, or descriptions set forth in what man calls ‘strong’ language. God’s words are simple, and therefore great; great, and therefore simple; often conveying less than is covered by them, never more. For how can the thoughts of God be fully uttered in the poor speech of man?
Perhaps our text might be better rendered, ‘To you appertains this preciousness,—to you who believe.’ This is the literal sense and order of the words; and their object is to show us how precious is this precious stone, and how it becomes ours.
I. Its preciousness.—The temple of old contained within it all manner of precious things; the new Jerusalem is described as composed of every precious thing in the universe. But this one precious stone contains in its composition infinitely more precious things than all of these together. The twelve precious stones of the heavenly city would not make up one single grain or atom in the composition of this precious stone. All that is divinely precious is here, and all that is humanly precious is here. Beauty, wealth, and life, are all contained in it, and represented by it. All divine excellency, and all human excellency is here. It is the choicest piece of God’s workmanship that has been, that is, that shall be. This is God’s estimate of its value, and utility, and beauty. It is precious in itself; it is precious in what it accomplishes. It is a living stone, and it possesses quickening power. It is fair and glorious; and it possesses the power of communicating its glory, so as to cover all that is uncomely in those who take it. It has comeliness enough to absorb all the uncomeliness of those who identify themselves with it. It is the perfection of preciousness in God’s sight; so that, on account of its surpassing excellence, God is willing to show favour to the un worthiest,—nay, to ascribe to them the excellency which belongs to the precious stone itself. There is nothing else in heaven above, or earth beneath, which possesses such an amount of value, such a superfluity of preciousness, as to be capable of enriching and beautifying the whole universe, without any diminution of its own lustre, and without the possibility of any failure or drying up throughout eternity. This preciousness is (1) inherent; (2) infinite; (3) unchangeable; (4) communicative, i.e. capable of being imparted.
II. The way of possessing this preciousness.—By believing God’s testimony concerning it. ‘Yours is all this preciousness (God says to the sinner) as soon as you believe.’ We do not buy it, or work for it, or pray for it, or earn it; we get it simply in believing what God says about it. For this believing is no dark or mysterious process, no peculiar or profound exercise of mind, which requires for its attainment either great intellect or prolonged effort. It is the simplest of all simple things; one of those acts of mind which can scarcely be called an act, on account of its perfect simplicity,—a simplicity which makes it as much within the reach of a child as of an adult; as much within the reach of the weakest as of the highest intellect. As a little child in Israel could see the bullock which his father offered upon the altar, and know that the offering of that bullock was enough; so a sinner, whether young or old, knowing that the great burnt-offering has been presented and accepted, rests in the knowledge of this fact; for it is the one great fact, not our way of knowing it, that brings salvation. How many perplex themselves here, and bewilder their minds with metaphysical intricacies as to the nature and component parts of faith, supposing that it is by the getting up of a peculiar kind of faith that they became connected with the great salvation, and not by the simple reception of the divine testimony to the Son of God,—thus extracting salvation not out of the thing believed, but out of their own faith!
But the preciousness of Christ needs no addition to make it available for the sinner; and our faith is not the completion of that preciousness, but its recognition. We acknowledge the preciousness, upon the authority of God, and are thereby saved, however poor and defective our faith may be. No amount of sin in us can neutralize the value of this precious stone laid in Sion; and no imperfection in our faith can repel that preciousness, and hinder it from saving us. That preciousness stands for ever; and it is upon it that God acts in dealing with us, and not upon the excellency of our way of apprehending it. We may be the chief of sinners; we may have hardened ourselves in sin for a lifetime; we may have gone back into sin again and again; our hearts may be cold and hard; our prayers may be very heartless; our faith may be miserably defective; our appreciation of Christ may be small indeed; but if we are still willing to be treated by God on the footing of the great preciousness of the precious stone, all is well.
That preciousness avails for us. Nothing can alter its value, or its suitableness, or its availableness. It stands for ever in its glorious excellency, undimmed and undiminished, still able as at the first to compensate for all want of preciousness in us, nay, to communicate its own divine preciousness to the most worthless of the sons of men. We know, perhaps, but little of its ineffable value in the eyes of God; its excellency we have but poorly appreciated, and this may hinder our enjoyment of that value and excellency; but not the less is that preciousness imputed to us by God, and not the less are we warranted in looking on ourselves as treated by God according to His estimate of that preciousness.
In giving credit to God’s testimony to the person and work of His Son, we are saved. The crediting saves us, or rather, we should say, the thing credited; for, in believing, we do not rest on any act performed by us, but solely on the great object of all such acts. We are not saved by consciousness, or by feeling, or by experience, but by faith. We may not always have the sense of pardon, or the peace which flows from believing; but this does not alter the preciousness of that which saves us, and therefore does not make void our security, though we may not be sensible of how secure we are. To be saved by believing is one thing, and to have peace in believing is another. They ought to go together, but they do not always do so. We often separate them, and think that because we have not the latter, we cannot have the former, instead of remembering that no want of peace can interfere with our safety; for the safety rests on the preciousness itself (which is unchangeable), and the peace comes from that which we consciously realize in it. The paschal blood secured Israel’s safety,—a safety with which doubting, and trembling, and darkness, could not interfere. Their safety was one thing; their peace was another.
Bonar, H. (1883). Light and Truth: Or, Bible Thoughts and Themes, The Lesser Epistles (pp. 351–355). London: J. Nisbet & Co.
This is the second of four short commentaries by Bonar.
The Graciousness of the Lord Jesus
‘If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.’—1 Peter 2:3.
THE word ‘if so be’ does not imply uncertainty as to this tasting, as if it were still a doubtful thing to a believing man whether he had tasted that the Lord was gracious, or, indeed, whether He was gracious at all. It means rather, ‘since ye have tasted;’ and assumes this as the beginning of their religious life, their Christian history.
The following points will bring out all this: (1) The Lord; (2) His graciousness; (3) our tasting of this graciousness; (4) the effects produced on us by this.
I. The Lord.— It is the Lord Jesus. This is the common name for Him throughout the epistles. It is a name of honor and glory. In heaven His name is the Lamb; for there is no danger of His being denied His honor there: on earth it is the Lord, to keep before us His dignity and power. He is the Lord as truly as the Saviour. His graciousness, which we taste, is the graciousness of the Lord,— the Lord of all,— Lord of lords.
II. His graciousness.— It is His love, His tender love, or tender mercies to the sinner, that are here spoken of. He is gracious, compassionate, loving, merciful, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. We know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We see His graciousness in His incarnation; in His words and deeds of grace; in His cross and grave. All that He did, spoke, suffered on earth, were declarations and proofs of His grace. He is full of grace and truth. This is His character. We do not need to touch the question, of whom this graciousness concerns; for it is of the gracious One and His character simply that the text speaks. What He is in Himself is the great question. He is the infinitely gracious One. This graciousness is free, infinite, unchangeable. This is the vessel of fullness out of which we drink. God is love; Christ is gracious; this is the core of the gospel.
III. Our tasting it.— The word ‘tasting’ is used in Scripture both as to the evil and the good, the bitter and the sweet. Death is said to be ‘tasted,’ and so is the word of God; and so here is the graciousness of Christ. It means our thorough entering into the nature and properties of an object, whatever that may be. ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good.’ We taste that the Lord is gracious when we relish and enjoy Him and His grace. This tasting is not something mysterious or unintelligible: it is the soul’s appreciation of the love of Christ, in the reception of the record concerning Him. We feel our need, our poverty, our sin; and we feel in Christ something which precisely meets all these. We drink in the good news as the thirsty man drinks the water; we feed on them as the hungry man does on the bread; we relish them as the tongue the sweetness of the honeycomb. Christ is realized as precious, suitable, sufficient, especially in His grace, His free love. This is dearer to us than gold, sweeter than honey or the honey-comb.
IV. The effects of this.— These are many, not one. This graciousness of the Lord thus filling us, and enjoyed by us, produces wonderful results in the soul.
(1.) It is life to us.— Its quickening effects are marvelous. It rouses us from depression and death, infusing heavenly life. Every feature of Christ is in its measure and way quickening, but especially His grace; for this is, above all others, that which a dead soul needs.
(2.) It is gladness to us.— No grace, no gladness; uncertain grace, uncertain gladness; scanty grace, scanty gladness. That there is such a thing as grace in God is of itself cheering; that it has come down to us here on earth is yet more so; that it has done so through such a channel as the Son of God,—that this Son of God is Himself infinitely gracious,—this is glad tidings to a sinner.
(3.) It is liberty to us.— No grace, no liberty; no knowledge of grace, no sense of liberty; uncertain grace, uncertain liberty. But this grace, so free, so sure, so boundless, is the breaking of all bonds. It sets the soul wholly and for ever free. The sight of such grace as there is in this gracious One is deliverance from bondage and fear.
(4.) It is holiness.— It makes us holy men. We are not holy before we taste the grace, but become so by tasting it. It sanctifies, purifies, conforms us to the likeness of the gracious One. It leads us to lay aside all malice and all guile, and to desire the pure milk of the word. This is the result of the good news received, of the grace tasted. It transforms us into new men, according to the nature of that heavenly thing which we have tasted. The more and the longer we taste it, the more are we purified by it. It operates powerfully and gloriously. It is like sunrise chasing away the night; it is like the early and latter rain, fertilizing and refreshing the ground, making the wilderness and the solitary place to be glad, and the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose.
Bonar, H. (1883). Light and Truth: Or, Bible Thoughts and Themes, The Lesser Epistles (pp. 347–350). London: J. Nisbet & Co.
I’m currently teaching through Peter’s 1st epistle at Clear River. Researching the letter, I’ve found so many gems that are too good not to share. This is the first of four short commentaries by Bonar.
The God And Father Of Our Lord Jesus Christ
“Blessed 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, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.”-1 Peter 1:3-5.
Let us take up here, first, the praise, and, secondly, the grounds for it.
I. The praise.-To say that it is praise to God would be to say the truth; and yet it would only be a part of the truth embodied in the words of our text. It is a peculiar kind of praise, and it is addressed to God under a peculiar name.
(1.) It is peculiar praise.-Its peculiarity is brought out by the word ‘blessed.’ It signifies ‘well spoken of.’ Here we have a definition of praise. It is a speaking well of God; and this as the effect of what we see in God. But before we can speak well of Him, we must first think well of Him; and this no man by nature does. The evil that is in us shows itself specially in thinking ill of God, in misrepresenting Him, in not doing Him justice. These evil thoughts, this bad opinion of God, must be removed before we can speak well of Him. For he who speaks well of God, while in his heart he is thinking ill of Him, is uttering an insincerity, a hypocrisy. The remover of these evil thoughts is the Holy Ghost; for it takes almightiness to do the thing. He does it by revealing the Father in Christ; by revealing the cross of Christ; by showing us the love of God; by holding out a righteous pardon through the propitiation of the cross.
(2.) There is a peculiar name employed.-It is not God or Lord; it is not our God and Lord. It is something higher and snore comprehensive than these. It is not these, and yet it includes them, along with much. It is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is this relationship that calls forth his adoration and praise. He sees Him as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; His Father and our Father, His God and our God. As with Paul (Ephesians 1:3), so here. Has this relationship to Christ ever been the theme of our praise? It is not the theme of the world’s praise. Men praise the God of nature, or the God of providence,-some great and invisible Being, they know not what. But they praise not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This aspect of His character never attracts their eye, nor elevates their thoughts, nor calls forth love or adoration.
There is large variety in the inspired utterances of praise: ‘Praise ye Jehovah;’ ‘Glory to God;’ ‘Unto Him that loved us,’ etc.; ‘Blessing, honour, praise, to Him that sitteth on the throne.’ But here there is something more, something peculiar,-something which takes in the cross; which sees the Father in the Son, and magnifies the Son in glorifying the Father. Thus faith’s eye takes in the whole character of God as our redeeming God, and strikes the highest note of praise.
II. The grounds for this praise, or well-speaking.-These are contained in the words which follow. Let us take them thus:
(1.) The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.-This resurrection is the great repository of power and treasure house of blessing; or, taking it in another aspect, it was the throwing open the gates of divine power and blessing for the benefit of the sinner. In Christ’s grave this fullness was deposited, and the resurrection brought it forth. In that event we have righteous power and righteous blessing for sinful men. Yes, the power of God is there,-power greater and more peculiar than creative,-the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead is purchased and engaged for us. It is with a risen Christ that we have to do,-a Christ in His full strength; for, though crucified through weakness, He liveth by the power of God. It is a risen Christ we preach. And if such virtue went forth from Him when on earth, before He died or rose, what must be the virtue going forth now from Him as the risen One!
(2.) The re-begetting.-This corresponds with our Lord’s affirmation regarding the new, or second, or heavenly birth; also regarding our becoming sons of God, and being born not of man’s will, but of God’s; also to James’ words, ‘Of His own will begat He us;’ and Peter’s own words at the close of this chapter. It is this divine re-begetting that is the root of all privilege and blessing,-the one true beginning of all true religion. For the beginning of religion is deeper than most imagine. Not a few earnest thoughts, or good resolves, or tears, or prayers, or terrors, far less the performance of ecclesiastical rites, but a being begotten again. What a condemnation of superficial religion! Was it thus, O man, that your religion began? And was this re-begetting in connection with Christ’s resurrection?
(3.) The abundant mercy.-It is the ‘mercy’ of God that is the eternal source of all a sinner’s blessing. And this mercy is ‘abundant,’ or, literally, ‘much,’-a simple but mighty word; for all God’s great things and words are simple. Mercy is pity, or goodwill, or love to the miserable, as grace is to the undeserving. It is to this much or large mercy that the apostle traces all that we receive. Every stream of blessing rises in this.
(4.) The lively (or living) hope.-Hope respects future blessing. It is founded on faith. It is a certainty, not a contingency or a possibility; it is sure and steadfast, and is the anchor of the soul, because it is so sure. There are dead hopes, and there are vain hopes; but this is a living one; it is life giving. It speaks of life, and it communicates life; it quickens the soul. Other hopes do nothing for us, save casting on us a few gleams of broken sunshine; this quickens and animates. It is all life and no death; a living hope, full of immortality and glory.
Reading Spurgeon’s commentary on 1 Peter, I came across an illustration drawn from an event in American history. It’s a strong encouragement in “dark days” to be faithful.
On May 19, 1780, New England was thrown into complete darkness in the middle of the day. It was so dark that farm animals began nighttime routines, frogs and crickets began their songs, people had to abandon their outdoor work and those inside required candlelight. There were signs of the coming darkness in the skies for days before the event. Even George Washington made note of the “heavy and uncommon… clouds,” in his diary for May 18th. Today, scientists have a pretty good idea of what caused the blackout but for many New Englanders in that day it portended the arrival of divine judgment.
There was growing confusion and fear throughout the day. One clergyman wrote of people rushing “to the nearest church to confess their sins and say a prayer. Some even hunted down their local parson and demanded an impromptu sermon.” (1) The less religious folks began casting caution to the wind and urged debauchery as it seemed the world was ending.
In Connecticut, a number of the Governor’s Council were so shaken by the blackness around them that they proposed adjourning the meeting. Abraham Davenport, a colonel of Connecticut militia, refused to do so. He said: “The Judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjourning; and if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore, that candles may be brought.” (2)
John Greenleaf Whittier, a Quaker poet and abolitionist, recalled the event in a poem entitled with Davenport’s name:
Meanwhile in the old State House, dim as ghosts,
Sat the lawgivers of Connecticut,
Trembling beneath their legislative robes.
‘It is the Lord’s Great Day! Let us adjourn,’
Some said; and then, as if with one accord,
All eyes were turned to Abraham Davenport.
He rose, slow cleaving with his steady voice
The intolerable hush. ‘This well may be
The Day of Judgment which the world awaits;
But be it so or not, I only know
My present duty, and my Lord’s command
To occupy till He come. So at the post
Where He hath set me in His providence,
I choose, for one, to meet Him face to face, –
No faithless servant frightened from my task,
But ready when the Lord of the harvest calls;
And therefore, with all reverence, I would say,
Let God do His work, we will see to ours.
Bring in the candles.’ And they brought them in.
(2) – From “Abraham Davenport”
Spurgeon used this incident as an illustration regarding 1 Peter 1:13. He was urging believers to faithful determination in their walk with Christ. “The teaching necessary for today is this: ‘Prepare your minds for action’ (1 Pet 1:13). Brace yourselves up; pull yourselves together; be firm, compact, consistent, determined. Do not be like quicksilver, which keeps on dissolving and running into fractions. Do not fritter away life upon trifles, but live to purpose, with undivided heart and decided resolution.” (Spurgeon, C. (2014). Spurgeon Commentary: 1 Peter. (E. Ritzema & J. Strong, Eds.)
Spurgeon turned to the account of Abraham Davenport to illustrate his point and concluded it with a paragraph that echoes down the years to the day we find ourselves in:
“It is dark. But whatever is going to happen, or whatever is not going to happen, let us be found girded, sober, and hopeful. In these dark political times, these dark religious times, I call for candles. For we mean to go on working.”
Yes indeed. Call for candles. Let’s continue to faithfully be salt and light. Let’s get on with the work of being His witness in these dark days.
Samuel Bolton (1606-1654), in his work The Guard of the Tree of Life (Discourse on the Sacraments), presents compelling reasons for the diligent pursuit of spiritual discipline in our lives. Bolton, as many writers of his day, refers to it as our “duty” but it’s not the cold and unfeeling idea of duty, rather it is the call to embrace with our whole being the means of grace provided by our loving Father. In this book, Bolton focuses on the Lord’s Table as one of the regular disciplines of the Christian life. In the same way that we receive grace and spiritual strengthening from prayer, meditating on scripture, fellowship and loving service, we likewise receive the same from feeding upon our Savior’s body and blood through faith at the table. We should no more reject weekly attention to the supper than we would our daily prayer or time in God’s Word. It is a means of God’s gracious benefits flowing afresh into our lives. All neglect of spiritual discipline diminishes our progress in holiness. Bolton states:
“Neglect of duty breeds strangeness, strangeness distance, distance falling off. A good caveat in these days, when so many do cry down duty; shall we look on that as our burden which is our glory, our bondage which is our privilege? What is the happiness of a glorified saint, but only that he is always under the line of love, ever in the contemplation and converses with God? And shall that be thought our burden here, which is our glory hereafter?”
It is our glory, our privilege to come boldly before the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:16) How do we come to the throne of grace? How do we access this grace and need? By the means appointed by our Father. Bolton lists 8 benefits of this sacred “duty”:
“By this, first, you come to see the face of God; secondly, you have conversations with him; thirdly, you get new quickening’s; fourthly, new encouragements; fifthly, fresh strength against sin; sixthly, new supplies against the temptations of Satan and the world; seventhly, fresh strength to walk with God; eighthly, armor against our lusts.”
Look at these again:
- See the face of God. (As John Owen said, the table of the Lord is God’s love on display)
- We have conversation with Him. (Just as prayer is a two-way street, so is communion.
- Quickenings. (We receive fresh power! “Be being filled with the Spirit…” Eph. 5:18)
- New encouragement. – We receive fresh motivation.
- Fresh strength against sin. We are pointed a new toward holiness, our armor is buffed, our weapons are reset.
- “New supplies.” – grace that makes the Lord more precious to us and makes Satan and his kingdom more odious to us.
- Fresh strength. – we mount up with wings as eagles.
- Armor. – most especially our helmet of salvation and our shield of faith. Here the cross is put before us, the price of our redemption is evident, our assurance is strengthened, our faith is brought between us and our lusts.
Why would we not receive these benefits week by week?
One of the stunning realities of the Christian life is that in a world where everything is in some state of decay, God’s mercies never grow old.
They never run out. They never are ill timed. They never dry up. They never grow weak. They never get weary. They never fail to meet the need.
They never disappoint. They never, ever fail, because they really are new every morning.
Form-fitted for the challenges, disappointments, sufferings, temptations, and struggles with sin within and without are the mercies of our Lord. Sometimes they are:
God’s mercies don’t come in one color; no, they come in every shade of every color of the rainbow of his grace. God’s mercies are not the sound of one instrument; no, they sound the note of every instrument of his grace.
God’s mercy is general; all of his children bask in his mercy. God’s mercy is specific; each child receives the mercy that is designed for his or her particular moment of need.
God’s mercy is predictable; it is the fountain that never stops flowing. God’s mercy is unpredictable; it comes to us in surprising forms.
God’s mercy is a radical theology, but it is more than a theology; it is life to all who believe.
God’s mercy is ultimate comfort, but it is also a call to a brand-new way of living. God’s mercy really does change everything forever, for all upon whom this mercy is bestowed.
–Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), “Introduction.”
This post appeard first on the marvelous Tolle Lege blog.