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THE CHRISTIAN’S RESOURCES
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained an equally precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His Divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that called us by His own glory and virtue; whereby He hath granted unto us His precious and exceeding great promises; that through these ye may become partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust.
HERE is the apostle reckoning up his resources in the spirit. What has he got in the bank? Divine power, glory, virtue. [Verse 3] How is the wealth of the bank given out to him? In “exceeding great and precious promises”; in “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” And what is accomplished by this abundant and lavishly distributed wealth? “That through these ye may become partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped from, the corruption that is in the world by lust.” [Verse 4] Where had the apostle gained the knowledge of his resources? He had found 214them in the fellowship of the Lord Jesus, and he was never weary of reciting his discovery to others. We may be sure that when the Apostle Paul went up to Jerusalem, and tarried with Peter, it would be of these marvellous riches that the saintly fisherman would speak. “I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.” This well-trained and expert student, who had sat at the feet of Gamaliel, and who had proved to be one of his most alert and progressive disciples, goes up to Jerusalem to sit at the feet of another teacher, the fisherman Peter from the Galilean lake! “I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.” The pupil of Gamaliel wanted to hear from the lips of the fisherman all that his memory could recall and all that tongue could tell of those three eventful years! Long into the night they would sit and talk; long after the last wayfarer had gone home, and the sounds in the streets were stilled! The pupil could never get enough of the story, and the teller of the story never grew tired in its recital, and many times, in those crowded fifteen days, the dawn looked in through the lattice and found these sleepless men still busied in the story of their Lord. Peter would lead the eager and reverent steps of his new kinsman all the way across the years—the call on 215the beach that made him a disciple, the strange revealing miracle on the lake, the sermon on the hill, the private communions with the twelve when the crowd had gone away, the awful and overwhelming splendour of the transfigured Presence on the Mount: then in hushed and broken voice Peter would tell of Gethsemane, of the betrayal, of the scene among the servants in the hall, of his own denial, of his Master’s broken-hearted look, of the scourge and the crown of thorns, and the ribaldry and agonies of Calvary; and then the fisherman-teacher would recover his tone and feelings again as he related the wonders of the Resurrection, and all the gracious surprises of those altogether surprising forty days, until this pupil of Gamaliel, this once-while persecutor of the Saviour, could scarcely tell whether he was in the body or out of it! Depend upon it, those fifteen days with Peter left uneffaceable marks upon the mind and soul of Paul.
Well, now, ours is not the privilege of hearing that story from the lips of the fisherman-saint; but if I look at my text aright I think that here Peter puts his finger upon what he conceived to be the three great characteristics of his Master’s life. It is something to have the words this man employs when his eyes sweep across the marvellous experiences which he had 216been privileged to share. What does he think about it all? What are the things which stand out in predominant distinction? If there are hills and mountains in a life altogether superlative, what are the mountains? And here, I think, is the apostle’s answer, given in three of the great words which lie like the great foundations of my text—His “Divine power,” His “glory,” His “virtue.”
That is supremely interesting as coming to us from one so human, so altogether akin to us as the Apostle Peter. When he flings his mind back in the contemplation of his Master, he summarises his ever-fresh impressions in the words, “power,” “virtue,” “glory.” That is what Peter found in the Lord: and that is what we may find in the Lord to-day.
What have we in the bank? Divine power. [Verse 3] In what had Peter witnessed the power? He had marvelled at the Master’s power over Him self. He had stood in silent wonder as he gazed at Jesus self-possession and self-control. It was all so opposed to his own self-distraction, his self-dissipation and indecision. He had marked his Master’s power of patience, His refusal to be hurried into any precipitate action, His quiet waiting for the appointed time: “Mine hour is not yet come.” He had witnessed the Lord’s inexhaustible patience in the presence 217of His foes. How full of waiting gentleness He was through all those three years! How He bore with Judas, and how eagerly He watched for signs of his return. He knew him, He pleaded with him; even when Judas was intent on betrayal He held him as by a hair. And Peter had seen the Lord’s patience with His friends. It takes an immense storage of power to be patient with dull people. And the Lord’s disciples had been very dull, and they had imbibed the lessons very slowly. “Do ye not yet understand?” “Oh, slow of heart to believe!” And yet the lesson had been quietly repeated, and no sign of irritableness was witnessed in the Master’s speech and behaviour. He condescended to the level of the dullest-witted disciple, and patiently bore with him as he learned the elements of the gospel of grace. I say Peter had gazed upon all this—it had been a daily phenomenon—and now when he looked back upon it all, and recalled his impressions of these marvellous years, he was re-impressed with the wealth of the “Divine power” of his Redeemer.
But Peter had also witnessed the Master’s power over others. He had seen His trans figuring influence over their souls. He had seen faces illumined by His touch. He had watched the lighting up of a darkened life. 218He had seen the rekindling of a Magdalene and the restoration of a Zaccheus. He had seen the cold, paralysing burden of guilt fall away at the imperative of the Lord’s command: “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” And when the once paralysed body buoyantly stepped away from the Master’s presence, Peter detected behind the released body a quickened and liberated soul.
Peter had also seen the transfiguring power of the Lord upon the minds of others. He had seen Him break the tyranny of mental bondage, the sovereignty of vicious thinking, and he had seen the oppressed stand clothed and in his right mind. He had finally witnessed the Lord’s power over the bodies of men. He could command the forces of health, and they came at His bidding. He could marshal them as an army and antagonise disease and drive it away. He had seen leprosy pass out of a man’s face like a tide retiring from the beach. He had seen the mystic element of life return into a vacant body, and all its functions and faculties were restored. Is there any wonder that, when Peter gazed back upon all these things, his soul should bow in holy reverence in the contemplation of the Master’s power?
What else did the apostle find emphasised in his retrospect? He was confronted by the 219all-predominant peak of the Lord’s “virtue.” [Verse 3] The moral goodness of His Master was never away from his sight. And let us remember that Peter now uses words with the Saviour’s contents. He is judging his Master by the Master’s own standards. There are many ways of using the same word, but he employs it in the highest significance. A scavenger may use the word “clean” as descriptive of a freshly swept road; a surgeon may use the word “clean” as applied to the instruments prepared for an operation; but how exacting is the second usage as compared with the first! And here is the word “virtue.” As employed by the world it has a very impoverished content, a kind of mere scavenger significance; but when employed by the Master it embraces absolute purity in the profoundest depths of the life. And I say Peter applies the Lord’s own standard to the Lord’s own life, and he pronounces it full of virtue. He had listened to His conversation, and never for one moment had the print of an unclean or unfair word crossed his Master’s lips. He had seen Him in His dealings with others, and never had a suggestion of double-dealing appeared in His behaviour. He had seen Him in His public life, and marked how He had rejected the help of all immoral auxiliaries and of all short cuts 220to a coveted end. He had refused the ministry of fire and the support of the sword, and the countenance and patronage of kings. “Wilt thou that we call down fire from heaven?” He would have none of it. “Lord, here are swords!” “They that take the sword shall perish by the sword.” “Then Herod questioned with Him in many words.” “He answered him nothing.” Peter was astounded at the austerity and holy sovereignty of his Master’s “virtue.”
And there is one other peak on which the apostle gazed when he surveyed the three wonderful years—the peak of Divine “glory” [Verse 3] What is glory? It is the bloom of character. It is majesty issuing in grace. It is solar glory falling upon infirm eyes in rays of softest shining. It is holiness consummated in tenderness. It is truth in the radiant robes of mercy. It is the splendour of the Godhead shedding itself abroad in the delicacy of love. We must never dissociate grace from majesty; in reality we are unable to do it, but we are sorely tempted in thought to make the division. In literal truth we can no more dissociate them than we can separate the sun from the sunlight. “We beheld His glory, full of grace and truth.” So that when we are contemplating the glory of the Lord we are among the holy tendernesses, the majestic gentlenesses, the incorruptible love 221which forgives and is never denied. Glory is the manifested presence of the Lord; warm and gentle as sunshine, and clean and pure as fire. Such are the outstanding characteristics of the Master’s life as recalled by this fisherman-seer, the man who once shrank from his Master in the awful consciousness of a tremendous disparity, but who now longs and prays for an even closer and intimate communion.
Having named these three great significant wealths in the Lord Jesus, the apostle now proclaims them as the possible resources of all men. Because these riches are in the Lord Jesus they constitute a reservoir of treasure from which all His disciples can draw. It is wealth in the bank, and to us is given the privilege and the right to draw out from the bank and find mercy and grace in every time of need. What, then, may we get from this Lord of power and virtue and glory? We may obtain “precious and exceeding great promises.” [Verse 4] Now, what is a promise? In our modern usage it is rather a light-weight word. It is often used as synonymous with “wish,” and it carries no heavy significance. But the word as used in the New Testament has a far wider and vaster content. A promise of the Lord has a threefold purpose: it reveals an ideal, it kindles an ambition, it inspires a hope. We may take any promise we please in the Word 222of God, and we shall find it enshrines the secret of this threefold ministry. Take, for instance, the promise “I will give you rest.” Here we have the revelation of the ideal—the restful life, the harmonious life; not the still life of a mountain tarn, but the full, brimming life of the river. Rest is not the repose of stillness; it is the absence of friction, the music of co-operation. Here, then, is an ideal. As I contemplate it, it kindles an ambition, and my soul covets the gracious inheritance. A gospel promise trans forms ambition into a mighty hope, and in the strength of a great expectancy the promised thing becomes possessed. So it is with all the promises of the Lord. They are “exceeding great” the ideal stretches across the life and fills the firmament; and they are “precious,” pregnant with the possibility of inconceivable enrichment. But all this is not enough. A promise may reveal an ideal, and it may kindle an ambition, and it may inspire a hope, and yet it may fail to confer an operative endowment. I am not surprised, therefore, to find that the apostle goes on to record the gift of an endowment which is as sure as the word of the promise. “His Divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” [Verse 3] In the Lord the believer has not only promise, but equipment. “All things that pertain to life!” The life that now 223is! Whatever is requisite for a splendid life we may assuredly find in our Lord. It is not needful to have a strong body, but it is essential to have a fine judgment, and this we may find in the Lord. “The meek will He guide in judgment.” “I will counsel thee with Mine eye upon thee.” “He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall be the light of life.” It is not needful to have a heavy purse, but it is essential to have a sweet temper, and this we may find in the Lord. A harsh and ugly temper is not only destructive to one’s own peace, and mars one’s own work, but it works havoc upon the peace and ministry of others. “Love suffereth long”; it is a fine, chaste, gracious temper, one of the commanding things that pertain to life and godliness. It is not needful to have a great following, but it is essential to have a companionable conscience, and this we may find in the Lord. A man has got a splendid travelling companion when he is on good terms with his own conscience. And a man is weak, miserably weak, even with the support of a multitude, if his own conscience is ranked among his foes. “A good conscience” is one of the things that pertain to life, and we may find in the bank “a conscience void of offence.” “The things that pertain unto life” are not the things that are commonly named; and “the things that pertain 224unto life and godliness” are still more rarely found upon the lips of men. “The things that pertain unto life and godliness” are such things as I have named—a good judgment, a sweet temper, a companionable conscience, and above all, and as the root of all, the gift of faith, the gift of love, the fruits of forgiveness, the grand sense of reconciliation with God, which form the glorious inheritance of every man in Jesus Christ our Lord. And all this we may take out of the bank, “exceeding great and precious promises,” filling one’s life with a vast ideal and with a fervent ambition and with an ardent hope; and “all things that pertain unto life and godliness,” everything that is needful for the attainment of moral and spiritual strength and perfectness.
And so we have looked at our wealth in the bank, the power and virtue and glory of the Lord. And we have looked at what we can draw out of the bank—“exceeding great and precious promises”; “all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” And what is to be the end of it all? What is our possible destiny? “That through those ye may become partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust.” [Verse 4] So the ministry of the wealth is to effect a deliverance and a glorious adoption! We are 225to escape one thing and find refuge in another. Here is our deliverance, “having escaped the corruption that is in the world.” Alas! we can be in no doubt as to the presence of corruption. It is everywhere about us; in this corruption men and women are everywhere enslaved. The enslavement has various guises. Dante, in the Divina Commedia, tells us that when he turned from the desert plain to scale the shining mount he encountered three beasts. And first
A leopard, supple, lithe, exceeding fleet,
Whose skin full many a dusky spot did stain.
He found a leopard in the way, a beast which typified the love of sensual beauty, and in this beastliness many souls are enslaved. And then he met a lion
Who seemed as if upon him he would leap,
With head upraised and hunger fierce and wild.
In the lion he typified the pride of strength, the vanity of perilous independence. And in this servitude how many souls are enslaved? And then he met a she-wolf—
A she-wolf with all greed defiled,
Laden with hungry leanness terrible,
That many nations had their peace beguiled.
And the she-wolf typified the spirit of greed, the imprisoning bondage in which many souls are enslaved. These three beasts are ever 226found in the way of the man who would leave the level plain and take the shining slope. He will meet the leopard and the lion and the wolf. But in Christ we have the means of deliverance. We can pass the beasts in safety, and “escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.” And with the deliverance there comes the glory of adoption. From the company of beasts we are translated into the fellowship and family of God. We “become partakers of the Divine nature.” We draw upon the power of the Lord, the virtue of the Lord, the glory of the Lord! More and more does the beauty of the Lord rest upon us and within us. We become ever more finely endowed with the unsearchable riches of Christ. “We are transformed into the same image from glory to glory.”227
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