Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Peter 2:25 - 2:25

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Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Peter 2:25 - 2:25

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1Pe_2:25. Ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

NOTHING so reconciles the Christian to sufferings, or so quickens him to exertions, as a recollection of the mercies he has experienced at the Lord’s hands. The Apostle is speaking here to servants, who were likely to meet with cruel and oppressive usage from their masters on account of their holy profession. To encourage them to a meek submission to their trials, he reminds them of the example which the Lord Jesus Christ had set them, when, for the redemption of their souls, he had endured all the agonies of crucifixion; and of the exceedingly rich mercy which they had experienced, in having been brought to the knowledge of Christ, and to the enjoyment of his salvation. “They were healed:” they were healed “through the stripes inflicted on their Divine Master;” who was now “the Shepherd and Overseer,” as he had been the Redeemer and Saviour, of their souls. Enjoying then such benefits through the superabounding grace of Christ, they ought willingly and cheerfully to endure for him whatever, in his providence, he might permit to be inflicted on them.

This appears to be the scope of the passage before us: in discoursing upon which, I shall have occasion to consider,

I.       Our state by nature—

All of us in our unconverted state have been “as sheep going astray.” The Prophet Isaiah, whose words the Apostle cites, declares this to have been the condition of all without exception: “All we like sheep have gone astray [Note: Isa_53:6.].” In respect of folly, we have resembled the silly sheep; which wanders it knows not whither, and exposes itself to dangers, from which, by continuing in the fold, it might have been exempt. In respect of criminality, our conduct justly subjects us to blame, from which the senseless animal is free: for our departure from God has been,

1.       Wilful, without any just occasion—

[The mind of every unregenerate man is alienated from God: he hates his law: he is averse to his yoke: “he says to God, Depart from me; I desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” All indeed do not choose the same path; but, as the prophet says, they “go every one to his own way:” one in a way of open profaneness; another in a way of self-righteous formality: but in this all are agreed, that they listen not to the voice of the good Shepherd, nor walk in the footsteps of his flock — — —

And now, I would ask, What reason have they for this? “Has God been a wilderness to them? a land of darkness? Wherefore have they said, We are lords: we will come no more unto thee [Note: Jer_2:31.]?” The true reason of our departure from him has been, that we have “not liked to retain him in our knowledge [Note: Rom_1:28.]:” on the contrary, the notices which we have had of his power and grace “we have imprisoned in unrighteousness [Note: Rom_1:18.]:” and actually “knowing that they who did such things were worthy of death, we have both done them, and had pleasure in those who did them,” choosing them as our friends and daily companions [Note: Rom_1:32.].]

2.       Habitual, without one serious effort to return to him—

[The sheep in its wandering state betrays to all its disquietude; and if it knew which way to go, it would gladly return to the fold that it has left. But the unconverted man goes farther and farther from his God, without so much as a desire to return: or if a desire occasionally arise in his mind, it is so weak and so transient, as to produce no permanent effect. If a sense of guilt and danger obtrude itself upon him, he strives to silence the conviction, and to divert the thought from his mind. If urged to return to the fold of Christ, he replies, “No: I have loved strangers: and after them will I go [Note: Jer_2:25.].” This is their way, from the first moment that they begin to act [Note: Jer_22:21.]: and in this they persist, till the good Shepherd, of his own grace and mercy, searches them out, and brings them back to his fold.]

Then takes place the change which is described in my text, and which leads me to set before you,

II.      Our state by grace—

“We return to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls:” we return to the Lord Jesus Christ,

1.       As our Owner—

[By grace we are taught, what in an unconverted state we little consider, that the Lord Jesus Christ is “that good Shepherd who has laid down his life for his sheep [Note: Joh_10:15.].” This thought, coming with power to the soul, has a constraining influence: it fills us with wonder and admiration at the love of Christ; and at the same time with grief, on account of our having forsaken such a Shepherd. Now we are perfectly amazed at our own ingratitude: and no terms are sufficiently strong whereby to express our self-lothing and self-abhorrence. Aware now that “we have been bought with a price,” even with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus, we are convinced that “we are not our own,” but his; and consequently, that we are bound to “glorify him with our body and our spirit, which are his.” Under this conviction we return to him, and give ourselves up to him as “his purchased possession.”]

2.       As our Provider—

[When once Divine grace has begun to operate effectually on our hearts, we see how we have been all our days feeding on the husks of swine, whilst we deserted the pastures in which it was our privilege to feed. But no longer can we be satisfied with such things — — — Now we affect that better food, which the Lord Jesus Christ has provided for us; and desire to be led into those “pastures, where he maketh his flock to lie down at noon.” Now we begin to understand what is meant by “eating the flesh of Christ and drinking his blood;” and we find “his flesh to be meat indeed, and his blood to be drink indeed;” and the promises, which we once despised, are “sweeter to us than honey or the honey-comb.”]

3.       As our Protector—

[Now we tremble at the thought of the dangers to which we have been exposed: nor can we rest without imploring the protection of our good Shepherd, to deliver us from that roaring lion that seeketh to devour us. No longer can we venture ourselves at a distance from him: we feel that we are unable in ourselves to cope with the feeblest enemy: and we “cast all our care on Him who careth for us.”]

4.       As our Governor—

[To hear the voice of our good Shepherd is now our delight. Wherever he calls, we follow. If we are erring in any thing, a word from him reclaims us. Wherever he calls, we go: whatever he forbids, we shun: whatever he commands, we do. The temptations which once allured us, have now in a great measure lost their power;—the terrors that alarmed us, their influence. What wilt thou have me to do? is now our one inquiry: and, having ascertained that, we are satisfied; nor can all the powers of earth and hell divert us from our purpose to obey his will.]

Such is the change which takes place in conversion. We say not that it is perfected in the first moment; nor that it is ever so perfect, but that it admits of increase. In respect of parts, a babe is perfect as a man; though every part admits of growth. So it is in the new man. All these things are found in him, though imperfect as to their degree. Contemplate then this change,

1.       For the satisfying of your own minds—

[We cannot conceive of any figure better calculated to illustrate the conversion of a soul, than this. The state of a wandering sheep is known to all: the poor rustic that attends the sheep has as perfect an idea of its wants and dangers, as the most enlightened philosopher can have; and can apprehend as well the comparative felicity of those who are within the fold, watched over, and provided for, by a tender and faithful shepherd. Nor is there any difficulty in transferring these ideas to the state of a soul before, and after, its conversion. Consider then whether you are conscious of having experienced such a change? I will admit indeed that there are some who are sanctified, as it were, from the womb, and whose transition from a natural to a spiritual state is not so distinctly marked. But these are very few: and in them the image of a sheep obedient to its shepherd’s voice, is as just, as in any other person whatever. The great mass of mankind have been far off from God; and they, when converted, are brought nigh unto him, as their owner, their provider, their protector, their governor, under all which characters they look unto him, and devote themselves to him, and expect every thing from him. I pray you, brethren, see whether it be thus with you: for, if you are Christians indeed, “you were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”]

2.       For the inflaming of your gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ—

[If you have been brought home to the fold of Christ, need I ask, whence this change arose? You will know full well that it did not originate with you, nor was carried into effect by any power of your own. The silly sheep would as soon return by its own wisdom to the fold it has deserted, as you would accomplish such a change in yourselves. It was the Lord Jesus Christ who sought you out, and apprehended you, and brought you home on his shoulders rejoicing: and if he had not effected it all for you and in you, you would have been roving from him to your latest hour, and would have perished in your sins. Be thankful to him then: adore him for the grace that has so distinguished you. And, whilst you give him glory for having so made you to differ from others and from your former selves, let his mercy constrain you to surrender up yourselves to him wholly, and without reserve.]

3.       To excite your compassion towards a perishing world—

[Were you to see a straying sheep beset with dogs who were tearing it to pieces, who amongst you would not compassionate its wretched condition? Yet is this but a very faint image of the world around you; and not of the heathen world only, but of Christians also. We see not indeed the fate prepared for them: we see not how they are already, as it were, in the jaws of the roaring lion, whose prey they will be to all eternity. But this is not the less true, because we do not see it. It is their real state; and soon shall we see it with our bodily eyes. Our blessed Lord, “when he saw the multitudes around him,” (of persons nominally the Lord’s people,) “he had compassion on them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd.” Do ye then consider the deplorable condition of all around you, and use all possible means to bring them to the fold of Christ — — — And know for your comfort, that “he who shall convert a sinner from the error of his way, will save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins.”]