2Pe_1:12-15. Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you, always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.
IN every period of the world, the servants of God, at the close of life, have laboured with more than ordinary assiduity to impress on the minds of their people the truths, which, from the commencement of their ministry, they have inculcated. When Moses had brought the Israelites to the very borders of Canaan, he was ordered to “write a song, and to teach it to the children of Israel, that to the latest period of time it might be a witness against them for the Lord,” in the event of their turning from him to serve other gods [Note: Deu_31:19; Deu_31:29-30; Deu_32:1-43.]. Joshua, in like manner, at the close of his life, called for all Israel, and charged them to “fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and truth;” and, on their engaging so to do, he said, “Ye are witnesses against yourselves, that ye have chosen you the Lord to serve him [Note: Jos_23:2; Jos_24:14; Jos_24:21-22.].” St. Paul also, how affectionately did he warn the elders of Ephesus, who had come to take their leave of him at Miletus [Note: Act_20:17; Act_20:28.]! Thus does the Apostle Peter, in this his second epistle to the Jewish converts dispersed throughout the world, endeavour to “stir them up,” by calling to their remembrance the truths he had inculcated, that so they might, after his removal from them, retain their steadfastness even to the end [Note: 2Pe_3:17. with the text.].
In conformity with these examples, I would, after ministering to you for half a century, point out [Note: This was a Jubilee Sermon, preached on that special occasion.],
First, what, in conformity with St. Peter’s example, I have, from the beginning, laboured to instil into your minds.
I might here, in the review of my whole ministerial life, adopt the words which St. Paul used at the close of his career: “Having obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come; that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people (the Jewish people) and to the Gentiles [Note: Act_26:22-23.].” Yes, I can appeal to all who have ever known me, that to proclaim a suffering and triumphant Messiah, as revealed to us by Moses and the prophets, has been the one object of my life, without any variation as arising from the persons addressed, “whether small or great,” and without ever turning aside after novelties, or fond conceits, or matters of doubtful disputation. From the beginning, “I determined,” like that blessed Apostle, “to know nothing amongst you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
But I will draw your attention rather to St. Peter’s conduct, and to his expressions as contained in the foregoing context. He says, “I will endeavour that you may be able, after my decease, to have these things always in remembrance.”
What “these things” were which he here refers to, I will endeavour to explain. He addresses himself to those who had obtained like precious faith with him, through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:” and he calls upon them to “add to their faith, virtue,” and a whole series of other graces suited to the Christian character [Note: ver. 1, 5.]. These were the things which their profession of Christianity indispensably required, and which alone could justify any pretensions to the knowledge of Christ, or give them a hope of acceptance in the eternal world [Note: ver. 8, 9.].
Now, my brethren, these are the things which I also, according to the grace given to me, have inculcated, from the first moment that I came amongst you. And these are the things which I am anxious that “you should bear always in remembrance after my decease.” I am aware that you, my stated hearers, both “know these things, and are, for the most part, established in the truths that have been set before you.” But I know also what danger there is of your forgetting them, when he, who has so long declared them unto you, is removed to a better world. You cannot but recollect, that the whole people of Israel, within the short space of forty days after that Moses had absented himself from them, turned away from Jehovah to worship the golden calf [Note: Deu_9:11-12.]: and that “King Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, no longer than whilst he was under the eye, and the instruction, of Jehoiada the priest [Note: 2Ch_24:2.].” What then can I expect, but that many of you will “let slip the things which you have heard [Note: Heb_2:1.],” and “turn aside from the holy commandments delivered to you [Note: 2Pe_2:21.]?” Excuse me, therefore, if I lay hold on this present opportunity to bring to your remembrance what you have so often heard delivered to you with all plainness and fidelity.
If it be asked why Peter adopted this course towards his Jewish converts, and why I endeavour to follow his example, I will proceed to shew you,
Secondly, Why he was, as I myself also am, anxious that you should “have these things always in remembrance.”
Amongst the numberless reasons that might be assigned, I shall content myself with stating the three following:—
First, I would impress these things on your minds, because on your remembrance of them depends the everlasting welfare of your souls.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation of all your hopes. You all know that you are sinners, and that, as sinners, you are under a sentence of condemnation. And how shall that sentence be reversed? Need you be told, that you can never, by any works of your own, purchase the remission of your sins? You know you cannot. You know, that even your best actions are very imperfect, and incapable of claiming for you any recompence, if tried by the test of God’s holy law: so that for them, no less than for any fouler transgressions, you need forgiveness at the hands of God. Hence, I trust, you are ready to say with St. Paul, “I desire to be found in Christ, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith [Note: Php_3:9.].”
At the same time, you know the necessity of universal holiness in order to prove and attest the sincerity of your faith. I bless God, there is not amongst you all, so far as I know, even one single individual, that leans to Antinomian licentiousness, or that has any conceit that his faith can avail for his salvation, unless it “work by love [Note: Gal_5:6.],” and “purify the heart [Note: Act_15:8.].”
Yes, I am happy to say, that “ye know these things, and are, for the most part, established in them.” But is there no danger of your declining from them, when the tongue that now inculcates them shall be silent in the grave? Even in the midst of all endeavours to keep you in the “good old way,” have you never seen any “turned from the simplicity that is in Christ [Note: 2Co_11:3.]?” Alas! alas! even in the apostolic Churches such declensions were common: we must not wonder, therefore, if, amongst ourselves, some be drawn aside by Satan [Note: 1Ti_5:15.], to “make shipwreck of their faith, and of a good conscience [Note: 1Ti_1:19.].” But what must be the result of such instability? The Apostle tells us, that “if any man draw back, my soul,” says God, “shall have no pleasure in him.” Yes, beyond a possibility of doubt, every such person, whoever he be, and whatever he may imagine, “draws back unto perdition [Note: Heb_10:38-39.];” and his last end is worse than his beginning [Note: 2Pe_2:20.].”
And shall it be thus with any of you, my brethren? God forbid. I tremble at the thought of it, and will endeavour, as far as in me lies, to prevent so awful an issue to my present ministrations. Let me tell you again and again, (for “to speak the same things to you, to me is not grievous, but for you it is safe [Note: Php_3:1.];”) let me tell you, I say, that “there is no other foundation for any sinner in the universe to build upon, but that which God himself has laid in Zion, which is Jesus Christ [Note: 1Co_3:11.].” And let me further declare, that “it is not a dead faith that shall save you, but one which is productive of good works [Note: Jam_2:14; Jam_2:20; Jam_2:26.];” and that “without holiness, real, universal holiness, no man shall see the Lord [Note: Heb_12:14.].”
Next, the Apostle laboured to impress these things on their minds, because he knew that his opportunities for reminding them of them were coming to an end.
The Lord Jesus Christ had told him many years before, that, when he should be old, he should be bound, and crucified by his enemies [Note: Joh_21:18-19.]. And the time for this catastrophe was now near at hand: yet with such sweet composure did the Apostle contemplate this tremendous death, that he spake of it only as the taking down of a tent or tabernacle, to rear it again in a better place: but, as it would put a termination to his earthly career, he was anxious to improve his few remaining hours in fixing these things upon their minds, in order “that they might have them in remembrance after his decease.” And though I have no reason to expect such an end, yet it cannot now be long before I must be called to “put off this my tabernacle,” and to cease from the work in which I have been engaged these fifty years. I do indeed bless God, that I have one to succeed me in part who shall carry on the work to far greater advantage than I have ever been able to do: but yet, who shall occupy the more ostensible post of your stated minister, God alone knows; and whether he shall maintain amongst you the same doctrine of justification by faith, and hold up before you the same high standard of practical piety, none but God can tell: but this I know, that no doctrine but that of a crucified Saviour, can ever avail for your salvation; and that no measure of holiness, less than that of an entire devotedness of heart and life to God, can ever justify a hope of an interest in Christ. And, whether all this be inculcated on you or not, who can tell whether you shall retain the experience of it in your souls? I look at the Seven Churches of Asia, and see how they were fallen, even whilst the Apostle John yet remained to instruct and warn them. And in what state are they now? Or see, if you will, places in our own land, where once a faithful ministry was established, and to what a state are they now reduced! A Sibbs [Note: The Master of Catharine Hall, in 1626.], and a Preston [Note: The Master of Emmanuel, in 1622.], once ministered in this place; but how little of their mind and spirit was transmitted to later generations, the records of this parish even in my own time, most fully testify. Whilst then God is pleased to continue me amongst you, “I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.” As long as I am able to bear any testimony amongst you, I will still declare, that Jesus, our adorable Lord, is the only Saviour of sinners; and that as his atoning blood alone can ever cleanse you from the guilt of sin, so his blessed Spirit alone can ever renovate you after the Divine image, or make you “meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” Receive ye this, my brethren, as by anticipation, my dying testimony. Treasure it up in your minds, that, “after my decease, you may have it always in remembrance.” It is a comfort to me to think, that “long after I am dead,” I shall, by my printed works, “yet speak to you;” and, though I cannot hope that they should occupy the attention of persons situated as you are, they will exist as records of the doctrines delivered to you, and amongst them, this, as my dying address, will find a place, as a memorial of my love to you, and of my desire for your eternal welfare.
One more reason for St. Peter’s so insisting upon these things was, that he could not otherwise discharge his duty towards those whom he had been commissioned to instruct. He says, “I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance.” His expression here is remarkable: The word “meet,” would be properly translated “just:” He thought it just
.] to do this: he considered, that, to be remiss in the discharge of this duty, would be an act of injustice; an injustice to them; an injustice to God; an injustice to himself. In this light I also consider it, my beloved brethren. If I should not press upon your minds the knowledge of Christ, and the necessity of universal holiness, it would be an act of injustice to you. You have been committed to me by Almighty God, as sheep to a shepherd, that I might watch over you, and lead you into the pastures which God has provided for you; and rather lay down my life for you, than suffer you to fall a prey to that “roaring lion that seeketh to devour you.” It would also be an act of injustice towards God, who is the great Proprietor of the fold, and who will “require at my hands the blood of every one amongst you that has perished through my neglect [Note: Eze_33:7-8.].” Alas! What account shall I give to him when he shall summon me to his tribunal, and inquire into my discharge of my pastoral office? ‘Did I not send you to watch over them? Did I not appoint you a “steward of those great mysteries [Note: 1Co_4:1.]” which I had revealed in my word, the mysteries of redeeming love? Did you not undertake to make known to them all that my dear Son had done and suffered for them? Did you not engage to declare all that my Holy Spirit was empowered to work within them, by transforming them into my perfect image? Why then did you accept the office of an ambassador from me, if you did not intend to discharge it with fidelity? Why did you suffer so much as one single “soul for whom Christ died, to perish” through your neglect [Note: 1Co_8:11.]? Was it for this that I intrusted you with so high a commission, and put my interests into your hands, that you should be so remiss in the discharge of the one, and so careless in the advancement of the other?’ I may add also, it would be an act of injustice to myself. I know that “your blood will be required at my hands:” and I engaged at my ordination to “watch over you as one that must give account” to the Judge of quick and dead [Note: Heb_13:17.]. How then shall I appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, if I neglect to “declare unto you the whole counsel of God?” What shall I say when that question shall be put to me, “Where are those sheep which I committed to thee in the wilderness?” My dear brethren, if I have no concern but about my own soul, I must fulfil the ministry committed to me, and labour, whilst yet any remnant of power is continued to me, to stir up in your minds a love to that Saviour who has died for you, and to bring you to that conformity to his image, which can alone fit you for the enjoyment of his presence and glory.
But now, in the third place, what shall I say in order to effect my purpose? What considerations shall I urge upon you in order the more effectually to impress your minds with the truths which I have before stated? I will adopt the line of argument suggested by the Apostle himself in the preceding context.
An adherence to these things is what you engaged for in your baptismal covenant. Then Christ was received by you as your Lord and Saviour: and you professed to look for remission of sins altogether in his name, and through faith in his blood and righteousness. At the same time you gave up yourselves to him to be sanctified in body, soul, and spirit by his grace, and to live altogether to his glory. But, if you recede in any respect from these engagements, you abandon all the hopes which were then held out to you by that covenant of being “purged from your sins [Note: ver. 9.],” and you forfeit that remission, which, if you received your baptism aright, or subsequently realized the engagements then entered into, was then conceded to you. And are you willing to cast off thus your Christian profession, and to sacrifice your interest in those “great and precious promises” which were then tendered to you in the Saviour’s name, and “by which you might have been made partakers of the Divine nature [Note: ver. 4.],” and heirs of the Divine glory? Think, I pray you, of the loss you will sustain, and the tremendous responsibility that will attach to you: and beg of God, that he will never leave you thus, nor suffer you to “receive all this grace in vain [Note: 2Co_6:1.].”
Further let me say, These are the things on which your perseverance in the divine life entirely depends [Note: ver. 10.]. A simple life of faith on the Lord Jesus Christ is to you what the union of a branch is to its parent stock. If from adopting any notions whatever your communion with him is interrupted, nothing but decay and death can ensue. So likewise, if there be any one grace which you do not cultivate, the neglect of that will open the door to numberless other evils, and you will be “left to fall” and perish. It matters not what that virtue is which you neglect: if “intemperance,” or “impatience,” or “uncharitableness,” or “ungodliness” of any kind [Note: ver. 6, 7.] be suffered to retain an ascendant over you, it will, as water in a leaky ship, in a little time fully occupy your soul, and finally sink you to perdition. “A right hand or a right eye,” however necessary it may appear to your present happiness, will, if retained, “destroy both body and soul in hell [Note: Mar_9:43-48.].” The union of faith and holiness must be complete and abiding, even as the root of the tree with the fruit: both, in their place, are necessary to “make your calling and election sure:” and, if either fail, you will inevitably and eternally perish.
Once more—It is by bearing these things in remembrance that you will ensure to yourselves a happy dismission from the body at the hour of death, and an abundant entrance into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [Note: ver. 11.].” As to any thing of exalted joy in the hour of death, I do not see much of that in the death of the Scripture-saints, nor do I think that, as a general occurrence, we are authorized to expect it. But peace in a dying hour we may expect: “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace [Note: Psa_37:37.].” But how is this to be secured? It is by cleaving to the Lord Jesus Christ with full purpose of heart, and by endeavouring to glorify him by a holy life and conversation. An entire reliance on him is necessary. Nothing but a view of his all-atoning sacrifice can satisfy the mind in a dying hour. We may now run after notions that are mooted and propagated in the Christian world: but they will afford us little comfort when we are about to enter into the presence of our Judge, and to receive at his hands our eternal doom. Nothing, I say, but a view of Christ as the appointed Saviour of the world, will give us boldness at that day. But, if now we “live entirely by faith on him, as having loved us and given himself for us [Note: Gal_2:20.],” we shall be able then to commit our souls into his hands with an assured hope of acceptance, and a blessed prospect of dwelling with him for ever. At the same time, however, we must have the testimony of our conscience, that, amidst all our infirmities, we did not retain any allowed iniquity, but did endeavour to walk “as he walked,” and to “purify ourselves even as he was pure.” If in relation to this matter “our heart condemn us not, then shall we have confidence toward God [Note: 1Jn_3:21.].”
Now consider, my dear brethren, how desirable this blessing is. To have misgiving fears in the hour of death will be very terrible: but to possess a sweet assured confidence that we are accepted of our God, and to have “an abundant entrance into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour,” like that of a ship, with wind and tide in its favour, into its destined port, what felicity will that be ! And how greatly is it to be desired ! Would you then possess this blessing, keep in remembrance the things which I have preached to you; and get your minds so fully and continually occupied with them, that, after my decease, as well as during my few remaining hours, they may have their full influence upon you; and that, when we shall meet around the throne of God, I may have you as “my joy and crown of rejoicing to all eternity [Note: 1Th_2:19.].”