2Pe_1:16. We have not followed cunningly-devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
AMONGST the various proofs which we have of the truth and certainty of our holy religion, one of great importance is, that amongst all the authors and founders of it no diversity of sentiment obtained upon any essential point of doctrine; whether the teachers of it were learned (like the Evangelist Luke and the Apostle Paul), or unlearned (like the rest of the Apostles), they were all of one mind: nor during the whole apostolic age was there so much as one controversy among them, if we except the doubt that was raised about imposing the yoke of the Mosaic law upon the Gentiles: nor was this question moved by the teachers themselves, but only referred to them by some who were less instructed amongst their converts. This shews, that they were all taught by one and the same Spirit: for it is not to be conceived, that amongst so great a variety of persons, so differently situated, and so differently gifted, there should not have been a considerable diversity of sentiment, sufficient to distract the minds of their hearers, and to cause divisions in the Church. Moreover, we never find one of the inspired Apostles speaking with doubt upon any fundamental point: they knew infallibly, and declared without hesitation, that we are all guilty and helpless in ourselves, all redeemed by the blood of Christ, all renewed by the influences of the Holy Spirit, and all to be summoned to the judgment-seat of Christ, to receive according to what we have done in the body, whether it be good or evil. We cannot but be struck with the confidence with which the Apostle Peter speaks in the words before us, and with the simplicity with which that confidence is expressed.
That I may place his words in a just point of view, I will endeavour to shew,
What he had declared respecting Christ—
The generality of commentators confine “the power and coming” of the Lord Jesus Christ to his future advent to judge the world. But I see no reason for so limiting them: I see nothing in the context that should lead us to such a contracted view of them. I conceive that they include what Christ has done, as well as what he will do; and that the Apostle refers to,
The power with which Christ has come—
Both the epistles of Peter are catholic, addressed to the whole Church. In the former especially he speaks very fully, and forcibly, of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the different ends and purposes of his advent. He declares him to have been “fore-ordained before the foundation of the world, but manifest in these last times for his people [Note: 1Pe_1:20.].” He specifies the end of his manifestation, which was, to “redeem his people by his blood,” and to bear their sins in his own body on the tree [Note: 1Pe_1:18-19; 1Pe_2:24.]. He declares him to have been “raised up from the dead by the Father; that our faith and hope might be in God [Note: 1Pe_1:21.]:” and he states, that by his “resurrection from the dead he hath begotten us again to a lively hope of an incorruptible, and undefiled, and never-fading inheritance [Note: 1Pe_1:3-4.].” He represents him further as “the foundation-stone upon which all his Church and people are built,” and which will infallibly support them all for ever and ever [Note: 1Pe_2:5-6.]. And, lastly, he speaks of him as gone into heaven as our forerunner, and as “reigning there above all the principalities and powers” of heaven, earth, and hell [Note: 1Pe_3:22.].
In the epistle that is before us too, he had spoken fully to the same effect, declaring that “grace and peace were to be multiplied unto us through the knowledge of this Saviour [Note: ver. 2.],” who is the one source and fountain of all good, and has “by his divine power given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness [Note: ver. 3.].”
Now these things Peter had declared: and they are no other than what every minister of Christ must declare. His ordination to his office from all eternity, his execution of it in time for the salvation of a ruined world, his exaltation to glory, from whence he communicates all blessings to his people, and overrules every thing for their eternal good, this must be made known by every minister of Christ, and must be received by every child of man.]
The power with which he will come—
[At a future period, that same Jesus, who was crucified, shall appear again “in power and great glory [Note: 1Pe_1:7.],” and will come to “judge both the quick and dead [Note: 1Pe_4:5.].” Then shall “his glory be fully revealed [Note: 1Pe_4:13.];” and his kingdom be established for ever in the heaven of heavens [Note: ver. 11.].
These things also the Apostle affirmed. And what less could be declared by any one that has undertaken to preach the Gospel?
If they appear to any to be a cunningly-devised fable, I ask, Why do they appear so? The only answer that can be given is this; That these things are too great to be comprehended by us, and too good to be expected or believed. They are great, no doubt; and they are good also, beyond all that any finite intelligence could have conceived. But they are not on that account to be questioned. The creation of the world out of nothing, as far exceeds our conceptions as the redemption of it. Both the one and the other are the offspring of infinite wisdom, and power, and goodness: and, if we were not compelled by the evidence of our senses to acknowledge the wonders of creation, we should be as ready to deny the possibility of them, as we are to question the wonders of redemption. But the Apostle declares, that even these latter had, as far as they could be, been made objects of sense; and every evidence of them that could be submitted to the senses had been given to him.]
In confirmation of this the Apostle proceeds to state,
On what assured grounds he was enabled to bear
his testimony respecting him—
The Apostle had all the evidence respecting the Messiahship of Jesus that was possessed by the Church at large. He had beheld all the miracles that Jesus wrought, and heard all his discourses, and seen his bright example, and witnessed his resurrection and ascension, and had received from him the Holy Ghost according to his promise on the day of Pentecost; and had beheld also the triumphs of the Gospel over all the power and policy of earth and hell. (Of the prophecies which he had seen fulfilled in him, we shall have occasion to speak hereafter.) But in addition to all these, he himself possessed an evidence which had made the deepest impression on his own mind, an evidence, which no other human being, except James and John, was ever permitted to behold, and which he could not forbear to adduce on this occasion in confirmation of all that he had stated [Note: ver. 17, 18.].
He had received the evidence of his senses respecting the power and coming of the Lord Jesus—
[He with James and John had been taken up to Mount Tabor by his Divine Master, who had there been transfigured before them [Note: Mat_17:1-5.]. On that occasion the bright effulgence of the Deity had been made to shine forth in the person of the Lord Jesus, whose “face was as bright as the meridian sun, and whose raiment was as white as the light,” whiter far than any fuller on earth could make them [Note: Mar_9:3.].” This bright effulgence Peter had seen with his bodily eyes.
On that occasion too Moses had been raised from the dead, and Elijah brought down from heaven, to bear their testimony to him. These two persons represented the law and the prophets, both of which had their full accomplishment in him: and they now, as it were, surrendered up their respective offices to him, who was henceforth to be the great Prophet, Priest, and King of his Church and people. Of this also Peter had been “an eye witness.”
But, in addition to this, God the Father had borne witness to his Son by an audible voice from heaven, saying, “This is that my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased: Hear ye him [Note: This is the force of the article in Mat_17:5.].” In these words there was a direct reference to what God had before said to Moses, “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren like unto thee: him shall ye hear: and whosoever will not hear that prophet, I will require it of him [Note: Deu_18:18-19.].” This voice declared, that very Jesus was the prophet so referred to, and the prophet whom all must obey at the peril of their souls. And this voice Peter distinctly heard.]
This evidence fully confirmed all that he had asserted respecting Christ—
[He had declared that Jesus Christ was the only-begotten Son of God, “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person [Note: Heb_1:3.],” and of this, as far as it was possible, he had been an eye, and ear witness. He had declared the sufficiency of his death for the redemption of the whole world: and how could he doubt this when God had audibly proclaimed his acquiescence in it in that view? He had declared, that the salvation or condemnation of every living man would depend on his acceptance or rejection of this Saviour, who was the one Prophet, whom all must hear; the one Priest, in whom all must trust: and the one King, whom all must obey: and so strongly were these truths assured to him by all that he had seen and heard, that he could not doubt of them one moment, or hesitate to appeal to them, in proof that “he had not followed any cunningly-devised fable,” as ignorant Gentiles, or superstitious Jews, were wont to do. And to these things do we also make our appeal: for in these things the three Apostles could not be deceived: and their whole life and death shewed clearly enough, that they had no design or wish to deceive.]
Let not any of you then be moved by the impious and blasphemous attempts which are made to undermine the Gospel—
[You may see in my text the construction which infidels and blasphemers are wont to put upon the truths of revelation: they pour contempt upon them as “cunningly-devised fables,” invented and propagated by designing priests for the advancement of their own interests. But who could ever disprove the truth and authority either of the Old or New Testament? It is easy enough to sneer and cavil at any thing: and impious scoffers ever have treated in this way the truths of revelation, even from the days of Jannes and Jambres, who withstood Moses [Note: 2Ti_3:8.], to the present hour [Note: February, 1820, just after the trial and condemnation of Carlile, for re-publishing a blasphemous and seditious libel—Paine’s “Age of Reason.”].” “Men of corrupt minds, and reprobate concerning the truth,” ever have, and ever will, “sport in this manner with their own deceivings [Note: Compare 2Ti_3:8. with 2Pe_2:10-13; 2Pe_3:3-4.].” But, beloved, search the Scriptures for yourselves: examine the evidences which have been adduced in proof of their divine authority: see the suitableness of the provision which has been made for you by Almighty God in the person and work of his only-begotten Son: and you will soon see, that the great mystery of redemption carries its own evidence along with it, and that what is spoken in Scripture respecting it, is “a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation” — — —]
Let all of you get an experimental acquaintance with the Gospel in your own souls—
[Peter believed the evidences which he had in common with others: but he felt peculiar conviction from those which he derived from his own personal experience. So the people of Samaria, who had believed on Jesus on account of the woman’s testimony, told her afterwards, “Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world [Note: Joh_4:42.].” Thus do you seek, if not the evidences of your senses, yet the evidence of your own experience; for it is certain, that “he who truly believeth in Christ, hath the witness in himself [Note: 1Jn_5:10.]:” he knows the power and grace of Christ in a way that he never could know it from mere argument: and in speaking of Christ he can say, “What my eyes have seen, my ears have heard, my hands have handled of the word of life, that declare I unto you [Note: 1Jn_1:1.].” There are “spiritual senses which may be exercised;” and though their testimony is not satisfactory to others, it is peculiarly convincing to those who possess it. For the good of others then I say, Seek an acquaintance with the established evidences of the Gospel: but for your own good I say, Go up to Jesus upon the holy mount, and there hear and see what God will reveal for the conviction and consolation of your souls. So shall you have an evidence which nothing can shake, and feel yourselves standing on a rock, which defies the assaults both of earth and hell.]