"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Peter 1:2-4)
THE apostle Peter was an extraordinary character. His words and acts were marked by strange excess. Before he was called by our Lord to the experience of His grace and glory, he was carried to an "excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries." (1 Peter 4:3) After his call, when he was the subject of reigning and triumphant grace, he found to his sorrow that grace changed not his old nature, and that the same continuing conflict between the flesh and the Spirit, experienced by all the living children of God, was mightily fierce in him. This is forcibly illustrated in two verses of the sixteenth of Matthew. Jesus had drawn from him a true confession of his faith, and then pronounced upon him His gracious benediction: "Blessed art thou, Simon, Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven." (ver. 17) Here we see him blessed of the Father--born of the Spirit--the son of a Dove, the very Dove that descends and rests upon Christ, Head and members, one glorious whole. Jesus then talked to His disciples of His sufferings, death, and resurrection, but they understood Him not, while fallible Peter takes upon himself to rebuke Infallible Truth, saying, "Be it far from Thee," or, Pity Thyself, "Lord, this shall not be unto Thee." Now notice how Infinite Wisdom answers His fast and forward disciple, "Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art an offense unto Me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." (ver. 22,23) Here we see the working of the flesh in one born of the Spirit--the assertion of nature in a subject of grace. Grace never changes a man's nature, but reigns over its imperious lusts and vile affections until the redeemed spirit is freed from its prison and is at home with the Lord.
But growth is the order of the kingdom of grace. This we discover in the experience of Peter. We see it in the opening of his two epistles. In the first he addresses himself to the scattered strangers as, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ." Peter, a living stone built upon the Rock of life, and sent to them as an honorable ambassador of the King of kings and Lord of lords. In the second he cannot conceal his growth in grace. Mark well his style: "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ." Not simply "Peter," the name of spiritual sonship; but "Simon" also, his natural name given to him at his circumcision. At the mention of this he would remember with deep humility his base original, erroneous notions, repeated failures, and grievous fall. It would remind him with thrilling import of "the reproof of life" he repeatedly received from his patient and loving Master. At each of these his attention was gained by the mention of his old name, Simon. Specially so would it be when the subdued voice of Sorrowful Sympathy thus addressed him, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." (Luke 22:31,32) Satan desired to have Simon, and Simon he had to Simon's great sorrow. But with all his failures and weaknesses, he loved his Master, as demonstrated by his answer to the three-fold searching question, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?" His loving, honest heart discovered itself immediately: "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee." (John 21:15-17) Love bound him in willing bonds to the one Object of his adoration, which caused him to own himself a slave of Jesus--bought with His blood--born in His house--bound to Him for life. Peter was the property of Jesus Christ to do His bidding, and to go on His errands to whomsoever He would send him. Here he is waiting his Lord's will with a readiness to spend and to be spent for the good of his redeemed brethren, though martyrdom lay full in view.
The apostle's heart beat with anxiety for the spiritual welfare of those whom he thus describes: "them that have obtained like precious faith with us." What a graphic and gracious description of God's elect scattered abroad throughout this naughty world. They were in possession of the faith that moved the ancient worthies to the performance of spiritual prodigies. It was theirs by God's allotment as the word obtained signifies. It was "like precious faith with" Abraham, David, Isaiah, and all the victorious throng, who by it overcame the world, sin, self, and the devil, and are now in the presence of its Author, waving their palms of victory, and singing their song of eternal peace. Yes, it is the very same faith that Abraham had that is exercised in God's elect--Abraham's spiritual children, down here at this very moment. Paul writing to the Romans styles it, "the mutual faith both of you and me." (chap. 1:12) It is mutually enjoyed by all the living members of our Lord's body, and ever seeks, not the glory of its possessors, but that of its gracious Author. Paul also calls it, "the like spirit of faith" (2 Cor. 4:13) which lives and survives all the afflictions, sufferings and tribulations of the pilgrim pathway to the home of undisturbed tranquility. He speaks of it as the "one faith," and "the unity of the faith." (Eph. 4:5 and 13) Men have many faiths and many ways of believing; but God owns but one, and that produced in one way--by the preciousness of His testimony concerning Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost. He styles it also "the common faith." (Titus 1:4) As this world goes it is very uncommon. Every sect in Christendom has its own peculiar faith and falsities, but "this sect that everywhere is spoken against," (Acts 28:22) knows of no faith but that which is common to all the members thereof, and to none outside its pale. It is "the faith of God's elect," (Titus 1:1) the faith of God's Christ, Head and members, chosen for each other in the counsels of eternity, and brought by the Spirit of Christ, through the gospel of Christ to confide in each other through time and to all eternity.
What a marvelous faith this is! Christ Himself calls it "the faith of God." (Mark 11:22, margin) It is the Father's gift in Christ. (Eph. 2:8) It is Christ's work by the power of His word. (John 14:1) It is the Spirit's fruit by His own omnipotent energy. (Gal. 5:22; Eph. 1:17-20) Paul delighted to see, know, and enjoy it in the Person of his Risen and Glorified Head, where He found it exceeding abundant with grace and love. (1 Tim. 1:14) Every blessing he enjoyed was associated with it. Righteousness--even the righteousness of God--was his prevailing topic, as we see in his text or ground-work, of his matchless Epistle to the Romans, given in chap. 1:16,17) where he says concerning the power of the gospel, "therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." This he explains in chap. 3:22, "Even the righteousness of God, which is BY FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST unto all and upon all them that believe." See also Phil. 3:9. The justification of the true believer is not by his believing, but as Paul describes in Gal. 2:16, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by THE FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by THE FAITH OF CHRIST." See also chap. 3:22. We also see that this faith is the secret of our enjoyment of eternal life from this sublime utterance--"I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live BY THE FAITH OF THE SON OF GOD, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me." (Gal. 2:20)
It is very remarkable that the faith of God is ever associated with the righteousness of God. Paul is very particular in this matter, and here we find Peter thoroughly one with him. He declares that this precious faith is "through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ," or, as we read in the margin, "through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ." There are many heretics now-a-days who would seduce us from the simplicity of the gospel by saying there is no such thing in the Scriptures as the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to His people, and no such truth as the righteousness of Christ. But Peter knew better, and, thank God, so do I. Take away Christ's righteousness, and the gospel is robbed of its power, and I have nothing to preach worth your notice or hearing, nor a Christ to trust Who secures my justification in the presence of the Father. Blessed be His name, He has told me that He was obedient unto death for me, (Phil. 2:8) that He learned obedience by the things that He suffered, (Heb. 5:8) that by His obedience many are made righteous, (Rom. 5:19) that His righteousness is revealed in the gospel, witnessed by the law and the prophets, and secured to me and to all the elect people of God in eternal justification. (Rom. 1:17; 3:21-26)
Here we are brought to the precious words of our text. I could not, with all my searching through the Book of God, find words more suitable for this hallowed occasion. This consecrated spot, solemnized again and again by the presence and blessing of the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, the dear old church of Wynantskill, has been made to us none other but the house of God and the very gate of heaven. And now I must once again take my leave of it and you, my brethren and sisters in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and when far away, absent in the body, yet present in spirit and at home with your spirits in the Lord, my heart will sing with grateful memories,
"I have been there and still would go,"
More of my Father's will to know,
The loved ones of my Lord to greet,
And lose ourselves at His dear feet.
The words of our text are the very feelings and desires of my heart for you.
"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you!" We will leave the firstly, secondly, and thirdly today, while we look at the text according to the order in which the Holy Ghost has been pleased to give it to us from the pen of Peter. They introduce us at once without any ceremony into the very life and soul, fat and marrow of the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. GRACE. We know nothing of it apart from "THE GOD OF ALL GRACE." We possess it only in Christ the Treasury of all grace. We enjoy its preciousness and privileges by the indwelling, witness, and seal, of the Spirit of grace. The revelation and communication of it is always by "the Word of His grace," which is also styled, "the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:24,32) Sacramental grace we leave to those who like it, while covenant grace, free from all uncertainty, is the delight of our hearts. But, what is grace? It is free, full, unbought, unmerited, uninfluenced favor. It is simply the discovery, conveyance, and communication of God's heart to those who do not deserve it, and who have forfeited all claim to an interest in it. Here I have revealed to me the heart of a God of purity--a heart of love and tenderness--to me, a poor vile sinner, a defiant rebel, overcome with a sense of my utter unworthiness, and bowed down to the dust with the conviction that hell is my due, aye--my hard earned wages for "The best obedience of my hands," and for the fancied and good works of a fleshly religious life.
We can talk about grace, but we can never truly tell out its greatness and grandeur. To its heights we can never soar. Its depths we can never fathom. We think, but our thoughts are lost in loving awe and adoration. The dawn of grace to the spiritual mind is seen in sovereign, unconditional, uninfluenced election. This is the choice of the Head for the members, and the members for the Head. Yes, the election of the members to the enjoyment of salvation, grace, and glory in Christ their Head to all eternity. Whatever men may say to the contrary, the election hath obtained the spiritual blessings entrusted to Christ their Head for them, while the rest are blinded. Everything that we possess and all that we are as the children of God flows from the sovereign, electing grace of God our Covenant Father in Christ. We know to our sorrow that we are sinners, but we know to our joy that we are sinners saved by grace. (2 Tim. 1:9) We have fallen as culprits under the law's condemning sentence, and trembled at the thought of its curse; but we bless and praise our gracious God, "being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 3:24) And what a marvelous mercy it is when the world defames and persecutes, to face it all in the spirit and language of Paul, "By the grace of GOd I am what I am." (1 Cor. 15:10) God's grace is suited to every state and condition of life. It brings salvation to the lost (Titus 2:11) It yields help to the needy. (Heb. 4:16) It is sufficient in sustaining tempted saints under all the assaults of Satan. (2 Cor. 12:9) It abounds over all the sins, failures and falls of the redeemed. (Rom. 5:20) It exceeds all that we can ask, desire, or think. (2 Cor. 9:14,15) It reigns over all inward and outward obstacles and hindrances unto eternal life. (Rom. 5:21) It is grace given by Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 1:4) It is manifold--variegated--diversified. (1 Pet. 4:10) True grace not shadowy--shaky--uncertain. (1 Pet. 5:12)
In this pastoral salutation and prayer, grace and peace are blessedly associated. Where one is found the other must be. "The God of all grace" is "the Author of peace and Lover of concord." His thoughts of peace to His eternally loved people have flowed to them from everlasting, and His all-wisdom and prudence abound to us through His counsel and covenant of peace. Here we see our most glorious Christ as the Prince of peace, taking upon Himself the chastisement of our peace, and reconciling us to God by His righteousness and blood. Before we can be truly interested in Him as our Peace in the presence of God we must know what we are, and what is our mind toward God. Taught by the Spirit we know and mourn over the awful fact that naturally we are enemies of God and haters one of another, and that our carnal mind is ENMITY AGAINST GOD. (Rom. 5:10; 8:7) Left here, we must have perished and remained in eternal and incessant warfare with God. But no, this could not be. In the fullness of time the God-Man appeared to remove all enmity, make an end of all strife, "secure our everlasting peace, and triumph o'er the serpent's power." "The work of righteousness shall be peace." (Isa. 32:17) Christ has done it. He has made peace through the blood of His cross, "and we that were sometime alienated and enemies in our mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present us holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight." (Col. 1:20-22) The knowledge of this by the teaching of the Spirit of peace is the only ground of true peace of conscience before God, and the sole source of peace in the church. Lover's of God's peace, who are true peace-makers, will avoid selfish contentious spirits, and shun the society of the old whisperer who separates chief friends, and will "pray for the peace of Jerusalem." Peter prayed for the abundance of this peace in the experience of those to whom he wrote, and for its multiplication among the true disciples of the Prince of peace. This is heavenly arithmetic. None but the God of peace can manage it--give it--keep in it. This I wish for you all from the very ground of my heart.
The apostle fails not to set forth the Source and Channel of the multiplication of grace and peace in the experience and enjoyment of God's people. In God there can be no increase or decrease of grace and peace; but in us there are both, so that we may well say, "Since moon-like our graces now wax and now wane, but sun-like Thy favour is ever the same." This Divine multiplication is "through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord." It is ours by a spiritual and heavenly knowledge. Nature can do nothing in the communication or continuation of this knowledge, for it is all of God. He is our Teacher Who endears Himself to us in the lessons He is so pleased to give, aye, vastly more pleased to give than we are to receive. He made full provision for our spiritual education when He entrusted us to the kind keeping and tender care of Zion's Preserver and Provider. This we see in the opening up of the Covenant of grace in Jer. 31:33,34, and Heb. 8:10,11. This knowledge is secured to us in the Person of our Covenant Surety, as we learn from His own words to His Father and ours in John 17:3, "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." By the Unction from the Holy One this knowledge is communicated to God's regenerate children, (1 John 2:20) who are privileged to say, "We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true." (1 John 5:20) And we should never forget that it is by the things that are written that we enjoy the multiplication of grace and peace in our hearts "through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." (1 John 5:13)
Now we are brought to see God the Author and Giver of all good things, and the standard of His giving: "According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness." Grace and peace, and faith and righteousness are ours, not according to our weak faith stretch of mind or feeble attempts at believing, which prove our utter helplessness in producing one of the spiritual things given by the Father, secured to us by the Son, and wrought in us by the Holy Ghost; but every spiritual blessing is ours according to Divine power secured to us in the everlasting covenant of grace, wrought in raising the Head from the dead, and exercised in all the members of His body in the bestowal of faith, hope, love, and every needful grace. A form of godliness is very good, but worthless without the power of God. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1:17) These good gifts of salvation, righteousness, faith, the kingdom and glory of Christ, were ours by sovereign donation before the world began, (2 Tim. 1:9) and they are ours now only by the sovereign power and testimony of the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor. 2:9-12) "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32) This is the secret and source of all spiritual, heavenly, and Divine multiplication. Has He given me grace? He will give more. Has He given me faith? He will increase it. Has He given me hope? He will make it abound. See how Paul clearly enforces this in Rom. 15:13, "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost."
God's gifts in Christ Jesus are comprehensive yet incomprehensible. A long eternity awaits us for the discovery and enjoyment of His gifts bestowed upon us in Christ Jesus. "He will give grace and glory." (Ps. 84:11) But here the eye of faith sees a risen and ascended Jesus with all power given unto Him in heaven and in earth, (Matt. 28:18) and all this "that He should give eternal life to as many as the Father gave to Him." (John 17:2) In His hands are all the blessings needful for holding our souls in life. He is God All-sufficient and gives us everything necessary for the life of grace that now is, and for the life of glory, which is to come. Spiritual life is His gift--is Himself. He says, "I am the Resurrection and the Life." (John 11:25) David says, The LORD is my life. (Ps. 27:1) Paul says, "Christ Who is our Life." (Col. 3:4) Again he says, "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me." (Gal. 2:20) The knowledge of the blessed fact that Christ is in me, and that I am in Christ, begets an increase of love to Him and conformity to His likeness. This causes me to long for, seek after, and delight in the company of God and the godly--to be guided wholly by His counsel--to be blessed with communion and fellowship with Father, Son, and Spirit. Thus led by the Spirit of our Adorable Master, we bless Him for the "all things," strange and perplexing though many of them may be, knowing "that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8:28)
What a mercy it is for us to know Him as our God, Saviour and Provider, and that He "hath called us to glory and virtue." There is more in His call than many think. It is a holy call separating us from a sinful world to the family and service of a holy God. It is a heavenly call drawing our affections to the home of our Father, where true joys alone are to be found. It is high--"higher than the heavens." To the heights He has gone for His people, there He will take them, which is all secured to them in their holy, heavenly, and high calling. Let us look at a few scriptures on this most important subject. Turn to 1 Thess. 2:12, "That ye would walk worthy of God, Who hath called you unto His kingdom and glory." Come to 1 Thess. 4:7, "For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness." See 2 Thess. 2:14, "Whereunto He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." From darkness to marvelous light the saints are called. (1 Peter 2:9) We are called to inherit a blessing, (1 Peter 3:9) and Peter acknowledges himself with the elect to whom he wrote, as called unto the eternal glory of the God of all grace. (1 Peter 5:10) Glory is not so much a state of the hereafter as men suppose. Faith sees the glory of God in the Person of Jesus Christ, (2 Cor. 4:6) and delights in the glory of Christ as it is revealed in His mediation, obedience, bloodshedding, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession and sovereign rule over all things. To this we are called in regeneration, and this we must enjoy by the virtue of His Spirit.
"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises." That is, by the glory and virtue of Christ revealed in us by the Spirit of glory we possess the Yea and Amen promises of God, which exceed all our conceptions of grandeur and glory, and are so precious to us because in them we behold and enjoy a precious Christ (1 Peter 2:7) in the beauty, dignity and excellency of His person--the suitability of His offices as Prophet, Priest, and King--and the fullness and freeness of His salvation which is with eternal glory. They are precious because they speak to us of "the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:9) redeeming us from all vain, traditional conversation, cleaning us from all sin, and justifying us from all accusation and condemnation. They stir up and exercise "like precious faith," (2 Peter 1:1) while they rejoice the heart with their rich consolations amid all the testing and trial of faith which proves more precious than perishing gold, however pure and precious that may be. (1 Peter 1:7) These promises raise the minds of needy children to rich supplies of heavenly grace suitable to every case, answerable to every want, and sufficient to encourage and carry through every storm, and to bless for evermore. They prove to be most valuable securities, and cheer the heart with the assurance of the payment of all debts, the remedying of all defects, and the removal of all deformities. They do still more, for the apostle says,
"That by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature." It is very remarkable that popery is ever hostile to Peter, and that Peter's gospel annihilates popery. Peter's pretended successors exalt tradition and the church with its rites, ceremonies, vain notions and abominable idolatries. Peter exalts Christ in His preached word, glorious gospel, and precious promises. He tells us that regeneration or the new birth is accomplished by the word of the Lord in the gospel, (1 Peter 1:23-25) and that the purification of the soul is "in obeying the truth through the Spirit." (1 Peter 1:22) In the words before us Peter teaches that God's conveyances of spiritual existence, eternal life, grace and glory, are His "exceeding great and precious promises." Like begets like in nature and in grace. A child is of the same nature as its parent, and not all the sophistry or reasoning in the world can persuade you that it was begotten by a being of another nature, or produced by proxy. Yet this is just what popish presumers inculcate. and Peter reprobates. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:6) So taught the Master--so Peter teaches in the text--and so teaches every true spiritual teacher, every true witness for God. By God's promises, God alone makes us partakers of the Divine nature--begets us to a living hope--quickens us into spiritual life--sanctifies us to Himself--preserves us from death--guides us to glory. In the glass of God's promises we see Jesus the Express Image of our Father's Person, and, O, transforming sight! "we are changed into the same Image from glory to glory, even as of the Lord the Spirit." (2 Cor. 3:18) One with Christ we enjoy God without a go-between--God, not at a distance--God nigh at hand to bless. Here we see "the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Eph. 4:24) This excludes all idea of mixing the human with the Divine--nature with grace--the flesh with the Spirit--man's corrupt will with the holy will of God. He has the means in His own power to make us partakers of His holiness, (Heb. 12:10) by which alone we grow in grace, and increase with the increase of God. (Col. 2:19) Our origin is God. Our increase is God. Our destiny is God. "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them"--false prophets and antichrists--"because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world." (1 John 4:4) We now are brought to glance at a most important statement--
"Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." Corruption and pollution reign rampant throughout these scenes of sin and death. The ground is cursed for man's sake, and God's description of the earth and its men is given in Gen. 6:12, "And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth." That this refers to the whole of Adam's posterity we have the testimony of Paul in Rom. 3:9-19. This we shall never escape from or be rid of so long as we are in the flesh, but the corruption which is in the world--the determination of the natural mind to corrupt God's word and to pollute His way of salvation--is escaped, is left, is excluded from all consideration, as the lying old man is put off, and the truthful, guileless, upright new man is put on, and as the heart bows in unselfish oneness with the Head in Gethsemane, crying, "Not my will, but Thine, be done." (Luke 22:42) On this hallowed ground we willingly, aye, with a God wrought determination, "renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh." Not merely the beastly and groveling habits of the profligate and voluptuous, for men may be corrupt in heart without showing it in their outward life; but the desires of the flesh and of the mind--the fleshly free will of puny man which asserts itself in opposition and hostility to the sovereign will of the God of all grace. Come, gracious Lord, in the preciousness of Thy promises, and make us know that we are inwardly partakers of the Divine nature, and outwardly glorifiers of Thy Holy Name. Amen.