1 Peter 5Observe here, 1. The persons exhorted, The elders that are amongst you, the guides and governors of the church: elders by age and office, who were both to rule well, and also to labour in the word and doctrine; and for doing both faithfully, were to be accounted worthy of double honour.
Observe, 2. The person exhorting, I exhort, who am also an elder.
Mark, he says not, "I who am the universal Head of the church, Christ's vicar upon earth; but I, who am an elder by age, and by apostleship, who have been long the minister of the circumcision, I exhort, beseech, and entreat you, as my brethern, fellow-labourers in our Lord's vineyard."
Observe, 3. The humble testimony which St. Peter gives of himself: he doth not say, "I command, who am the chief of the apostles, with whose confession of faith Christ was so well pleased, that he said, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church;" but, "I exhort, who am a witness of the sufferings of Christ, an eye-witness of what our dear Lord and Master suffered in the faithful discharge of his office, both in his life and at his death; and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed; I was also an eye-witness of Christ's glory in his transfiguration here on earth, and hope to be partaker of that glory which shall hereafter be revealed in heaven."
Learn hence, That such exhortations to duty are likely to be most effectual and successful, which are propounded in the humblest manner. St. Peter was placed in an high degree above these elders, being an apostle, a chief apostle; yet he gives himself no such title, but says, The elders I exhort, who am also an elder; not an apostle, much less the head and chief of the apostles.
Observe here, 1. The title given to the church, it is the flock of God; denominations are given in scripture to persons and things, proper to the state of things and persons: thus here the church is called a flock, and sometimes a little flock, in opposition to the herds and huge droves of the men of the world; yet the flock consists not of a few absolutely, but comparatively only; a flock contains a multitude.
Again, as the church is called a flock for their number, so for their order; a flock is under inspection and government continually, Christ Jesus is the great overseer of this flock; and farther, it is a flock in respect of the unity and love that is amongst them; though the church be scattered over the world, yet there is an holy combination and sweet communion of the members amongst themselves.
Observe, 2. The duty exhorted to, and that is double, to feed the flock, and to be an example unto the flock.
1. Feed the flock, taking the oversight of it; feed it with wholesome doctrine, guide and govern it by strict discipline, overlooking it continually, and watch over it with unwearied diligence; and that you may do so, be perpetually resident, feed the flock that is among you. How can the flock be duly watched over, when the shepherd lives several miles from the fold, and is following his pleasure when he should be feeding his sheep? Feed the flock among you.
Observe, 3. The manner directed to, how, and after which, the shepherds should feed and watch over the flocks.
1. Not by constraint, but willingly; that is, not as a burden, but a pleasure, with a free and ready mind; what men do out of compulsion from base fear, they do with no satisfaction either to God or man.
2. Not for filthy lucre: to feed the flock purely for the sake of the fleece, and to take a living only to get a living, is an horrid impiety; to be driven into the ministerial office by necessity is bad, but to be drawn by covetousness is much worse.
3. Not as being lords over God's heritage.
Where note, The title given to the church, they are God's heritage, his people, not our own, his lot and portion, he having a special and peculiar right unto them, and property in them: therefore they are not to be lorded over, not to be treated with insolence and imperiousness, ruling them by the sword, and outward force, which has made many hypocrites, but not one convert.
Lastly, He requires that they be ensamples to the flock; that is, in their daily conversation. Now how can they be examples to them, if they live not amongst them? They must be examples of such meekness and humility; of such patience and charity, of such mortification and self-denial, as become persons of their holy character and profession; and be patterns of those virtues amongst their people in conversation which they recommend to them from the pulpit.
This duty of ministerial exemplariness in conversation is bound upon us by innumerable arguments taken from the command of Christ, from the glory of God, from the preciousness of the soul, from the dignity of our office, from the success of our ministry, which depends more upon our practice than upon our preaching; from our own interest, with respect to our present comfort and future happiness; from the influence it has upon our people, an encouraging and confirming influence.
As if our apostle nad said, "It is possible you may miss of your reward here from the hands of men; but when Christ, the great and good Shepherd, shall appear, when the owner, ruler, and lover of his church shall come to judgment, you shall have from him your full reward, a never-fading, ever-flourishing crown of glory, for faithfully discharging your duty to God and his people."
Learn hence, 1. That Jesus Christ, the chief Shepherd, will at length appear.
2. That when he doth appear, he will call the under shepherds to account, how they have discharged every part of their ministerial office, as well private inspection, as public preaching.
3. That to all such, and to only such, as have been faithful to the interest of Christ and souls, shall the reward be assigned, even a crown of glory that fadeth not away: When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory, &c.
Having laid down the duties of pastors in the former verse, he points out the duties of the people in this, whom he calls the younger, either because they were generally younger in years than their spiritual guides, or because they ought to show that reverence and obedience to them which is suitable in young ones towards their elders and teachers: Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder; instruction and jurisdiction belonged to the elders, subjection and obedience to the younger.
Note here, That the duties of pastor and people are mutual and reciprocal; not that their duties are alike, but because there is a like reason for the performance of their respective duties, a like engagement and obligation upon both: the duty of the one is subjection; of the other ministerial direction.
He adds-- yea, all of you be subject one to another; intimating thereby that there is a duty of mutual subjection, which all Christians owe one to another in love: they ought to condescend to the meanest offices one towards another; to bear with the infirmities of each other.
The original word, rendered clothed, signifies, first, an upper garment, a frock or cloak, put over all the rest of our clothes; and so imports, that we should be wrapped up all over with this grace, that this should be most visible in our conversations, words, and actions, and conspicuous beyond all other virtues.
Secondly, It signifies a belt which girds about our garments, and so imports, that we should tie it fast unto us, and have those considerations always fixed upon our spirits, which may keep us in an humble frame of soul.
Note thence, That humility is a special ornament, a beautiful robe, to be put on daily, which commends us greatly both to God and man. We are never to account ourselves dressed, until we have this livery of our humble master Christ Jesus put upon us: Be clothed with humility.
Observe next, The argument to enforce this duty: For God resisteth the proud, sets himself as in battle-array against them, but giveth fresh supplies of grace to the humble; because more grace is promised to the humble, and the humble soul is more fitted, prepared, and disposed to receive farther measures of grace from God. God sets himself against proud men to bring them down, but the humble he doth countenance and exalt.
By the hand of God, understand his judgments, his almighty power, which it is our duty to submit unto, and to be humble under, in the day of our affliction; and this profound submission and deep humility is the way to glory and exaltation. He can exalt us, and will do it here, if it be good for us: but sometimes God sees abasement better for his people: better, because safer, and accordingly they shall have it.
Learn hence, That the strength and power of God should oblige us very greatly to humble ourselves before him, and subject ourselves unto him: Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.
Secondly, That God will exalt the humble in due time, either here or hereafter; either in time or in eternity, as it shall most and best conduce to his own glory and their good.
Observe here, 1. The nature of the duty enjoined, to cast our care upon God; it is not a providential and prudential care, but an anxious and vexatious care, that the scripture forbids; and the duty here required is this, that after we have used all prudent care and diligence in subserviency to the providence of God, we should not be over-solicitous about the issue and event of things; which, when we have done all we can, will be out of our power.
Casting our care upon God implies, that we should refer the issue and event of things to his wise providence, which is continually watching over us, and knows how to dispose of all things for the best advantage to us; entirely confiding in his wisdom and goodness, that he will order all things for the best, and in that confidence resting satisfied with the disposals of his providence, whatever they be. This is to cast all our care upon God.
Observe here, 2. The argument here made use of to persuade us to this duty: God careth for us.
This implies also two things:
1. In general, that the providence of God governs the world, and concerns itself in the affairs of men, and disposeth of all events that happen to us.
2. More particularly, that this providence is more peculiarly concerned for good men, and that he takes a special care of them, and of their concerns; and the care that God takes of them is a special care, a tender care, a promised and engaged care, a care mysteriously exercised; he then takes most care of them when they think he takes none at all.
Cast we then all our care upon him who careth for us; for anxious care is a painful evil, an unprofitable evil, a sinful evil.
Observe here, 1. A double duty exhorted to, sobriety and vigilancy: Be sober, be vigilant, be sober and temperate in all things: sober in your enjoyments; sober in your employments; sober in your recreations. Be neither drunk with wine, nor worldly cares; the latter is the worst of the two. A night's sleep cures the former, but the worldling is drunk all the year long, never sober night nor day. And to sobriety we are exhorted to add vigilancy, a watchful care and diligent circumspection over all our thoughts, words, and actions, that we may not displease God in any thing, Be sober, be vigilant.
Observe, 2. The reason or motive to enforce the duty, Because your adversary the devil, goeth about, &c.
Where note, How every word contains a special motive to Christian watchfulness. He is your adversary, who will do you all possible mischief: he is the devil, an accuser, and one that seeks all advantages against you; he is a cruel adversary, a lion,yea, a roaring lion which adds terror to his cruelty: he a restless adversary, He goes about seeking whom he may devour; what soul he may devour, for that's the bait he gapes for. It greives the devils, those apostate angels, to find the souls of men appointed to fill up those vacant places in heaven, which they turned themselves out of. It is a delight to them to plunge souls into the same condemnation and misery with themselves.
Observe, 3. The duty of resistance, urged upon us in order to our preservation, with the weapon put in our hand for that purpose:
Whom resist, steadfast in the faith; that is, be steadfast in your faith, that you may resist him: and by the help of your faith you shall overcome him.
Learn hence, 1. That the devil is the restless adversary and unwearied enemy of mankind.
2. That all the pains which Satan takes is, in order to the destruction of precious souls.
3. That the way to overcome him is by resisting of him, not by yielding to him: he is a cowardly enemy, and a conquered enemy; resist him, and he will run.
4. That faith is the weapon by which the Christian is enabled to resist the tempter, and to repel the force of his fiery temptations.
As if the apostle had said, "Resist Satan's temptations, occasioned by your sufferings, remembering that it is not your case alone, but others also suffer with you, even all that will live godly in Christ Jesus."
Learn hence, That Christians should not desire, and cannot reasonably expect, a better condition in the world, with respect to freedom from sufferings, than the rest of their brethern, who have all a share of affliction to suffer, and a measure of hardship to endure, as well as ourselves: The same afflictions are accompolished in your brethren that are in the world.
Our apostle concludes and closes his epistle with an affectionate prayer for these afflicted Christians and suffering saints, beseeching Almighty God, who is the author of all grace, and who hath called them by his gospel, to the participation of that grace, which will entitle them to eternal glory, that, after they have suffered a while in the world, he would perfect the work of grace begun in them, establish, strengthen, and settle them, in the truth of the gospel; and to this infinitely gracious God he desires glory and dominion should be for ever ascribed.
Observe here, 1. That God is the God of all grace; seed, growth, and perfection, all from him; restraining grace, renewing grace, sanctifying grace, all from the fountain of all grace.
Observe, 2. That serious Christians are called by God to eternal glory and happiness: they are called to the hope and expectation of this glory, upon the account of the promise of it which God made to Christ, Titus 1:2 and they are brought into a state of preparation for it; God hath by his word and Spirit wrought them for this same thing.
Observe, 3. They are called to eternal glory through Christ Jesus; he reveals it to them, he purchases it for them, he works that faith and repentance in them which qualifies them for, and entitles them unto, this heavenly glory.
Observe, 4. That some afflictions must be expected and endured by all Christians, how dear to God soever they are or may be. Was there any patriarch, prophet, or apostle, primitive or modern Christian, that did not suffer a while? Saints must suffer a while from the remains of sin, from the temptations of Satan, from the enemies of religion, and from the friends of religion, yea, from God himself, their best friend.
Observe, 5. That after serious Christians have suffered a while, they shall enter into glory: their title is sure by the promise of God, by the purchase of Christ, by the inhabitation of the Spirit.
Observe, 6. That the perfecting, stablishing, strengthening, of the Christian in grace and comfort, is from God, to whom all glory and dominion is and ought for ever to be ascribed.
Observe here, That our apostle, to encourage these suffering Christians to a resolved perseverance in the Christian religion, assures them that it was undoubtedly from God, the unquestionable truth of God, and therefore neither seducers on the one hand, nor persecutors on the other, should be able to shake them, or cause them to fall from their own steadfastness; a firm belief of the certainty and excellency of Christianty conduces much to the establishment of those that have newly embraced it; if we be once assured that it is the true grace of God wherein we stand, it will cause us to stand steadfast.
At the foot of this epistle he sends them salutations from the Christians at Babylon, who were chosen out of the world, to partake in the faith and fellowship of the gospel. Some, by Babylon, figuratively understand Rome, but others understand it of Babylon in Assyria, where many Jews did tarry, and continue after the expiration of the seventy years' captivity, whom St. Peter, being a minister of the circumcision, went to visit, having probably planted a church there. Wheresoever they were, God had called them to the knowledge of his gospel, and they send salutations to all their brethern and fellow- members in Christ, wheresoever dispersed, or howsoever distressed.
As also doth Mark, whom St. Peter calls his son, because instructed by him in the gospel, and begotten by him to Christianity.
Lastly, he exhorts them to express their fervent affection to each other by a kiss of charity, used in the primitive times as a token of love amongst Christians; but afterwards, for just reasons, laid aside; so wishing peace, that is, all manner of prosperity, to all in Christ Jesus, he shuts up his epistle.
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