1Pe_1:8-9. Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
THE world often wonder that Christians do not conform to the vices of the age [Note: 1Pe_4:4.]: and are yet more surprised, that any should be willing to suffer for the sake of their religion. But every Christian is actuated by a principle of love to Christ; which principle even gathers strength from the opposition it meets with. The Apostle is writing to those who were in heaviness through manifold temptations. He declares, however, that their trials were promoting their eternal good; and that they were supported under them by their attachment to their adorable Redeemer.
In his words we may see,
The state of true Christians—
Christians cannot be distinguished better by any thing, than by their regard to their Divine Master:
They love Christ—
[Once, like the ungodly around them, they were enemies to Christ and his cross [Note: Php_3:19.]: they “saw no beauty in him, for which he was to be desired [Note: Isa_53:2.].” But now he is truly precious to their souls [Note: 1Pe_2:7.]: and they claim him as their best friend and portion [Note: Son_5:16.]. This is the character of every true Christian [Note: Eph_6:24.] — — — If any answer not to this character, they are, and must be, accursed [Note: 1Co_16:22.].]
They rejoice in Christ—
[They have a good hope, if not a full assurance, of an interest in him. They have access to him in their secret duties. They receive strengthening and refreshing communications from him. They rejoice in him, as their faithful and almighty Friend [Note: Php_4:4.]. Their joy in him is “incapable of being fully declared [Note:
.].” It is a “glorified” joy, such as the saints in heaven possess
.]. Every Christian indeed does not experience the same measure of joy; nor is any one at all times alike joyful: but no one is a Christian, who does not esteem the light of the Redeemer’s countenance above every other good [Note: Psa_4:6; Psa_73:25.].]
That their felicity may be more generally experienced, we proceed to state,
The means by which they attain it—
[Many suppose, that if they could have a personal interview with Christ, such as Paul was favoured with, they should love him, and rejoice in him. But a sight of him with the bodily eyes only never in any instance produced this effect. Many who even heard his discourses, and beheld his miracles, were amongst his bitterest enemies. The Christians to whom St. Peter wrote had never seen Christ. The Apostle twice mentions this circumstance, to shew that their regard for him did not arise from any personal acquaintance with him. Faith is the only mean whereby we are brought to this love and joy: as it is said, “in whom believing, ye rejoice.” It is only by faith that we can behold the excellency of Christ — — — by faith only that we can apply his merits to ourselves — — — by faith only that we can receive his gracious communications [Note: Eph_3:17.]. Repentance will lead to this state; and obedience spring from it: but it is faith only that will prevail to bring us into it [Note: Rom_15:13.].]
To increase our ardour in pressing forward to this state, let us consider,
The blessedness of those who have attained it—
[The salvation of the soul is the great “end of our faith.” Present comforts are desirable; but eternal happiness is that which the Christian has principally in view. It is to this that he looks forward, under his first convictions. This is the end for which he cheerfully endures all his privations and conflicts. In every possible state he has an eye to this, as the consummation of all his hopes and desires. And this blessed object is already attained by all true Christians: they do not wait for it till they arrive in heaven; their full reward indeed is reserved for another world. But believers have the foretastes of heaven already communicated to them; yea, their love to Christ, and their joy in him, are an earnest, as well as pledge, of their eternal inheritance; they now, in a way of anticipation and actual enjoyment, “receive the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.”]
What a rational character is the Christian!
[He is thought an enthusiast, for loving and rejoicing in Christ; and they who have no such love or joy appropriate to themselves the name of rational Christians. Now we are willing to meet our adversaries on this ground, and to submit our sentiments to this test. If to admire supreme excellence, to love infinite amiableness, and to rejoice in unbounded goodness, be a rational employment; yea, if the glorified saints and angels be rational, then the Christian is a rational character; and the more so, in proportion as he loves and rejoices in Christ: and their adversaries are most irrational, in that they can love and rejoice in the things of time and sense, and yet feel no love to, nor any joy in, our adorable Lord and Saviour. Let those who are now despised as enthusiasts, think who will be accounted rational in the day of judgment — — —]
How clearly may we know, whether we be real Christians or not!
[There are certainly different degrees of faith, love, and joy; but every true Christian experiences them in some measure. This is decided by an authority that cannot be doubted [Note: Php_3:3.]. Let us then examine what is the supreme object of our affections, and chief source of our joys — — — Nor let us ever conclude well of our state, unless we can adopt from our hearts the language of St. Paul; “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord [Note: Php_3:8.].”]