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THE FIRST EPISTLE GENERAL OF PETER - Chapter 1 - Verse 22
Verse 22. 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. Comp. 1 Co 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 Porson or a Parr, 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 Tit 3:5,6. See Barnes "Joh 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. Comp. See Barnes "Joh 13:34"; See Barnes "1 Th 4:9".
See also 1 Jo 3:14-18.
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, (ektenwv;) 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 fitted 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 men were ready to yield to the truth, they would become Christians. The only reason why all men 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 Ghost. 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 Ghost, any more than seed germinates when laid on 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 every one 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. Comp. See Barnes "1 Th 4:9"; See Barnes "1 Jo 3:14".
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.
(d.) We should avoid the places where error is taught. Pr 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 benefited.
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