1 Peter iv. 7-11
The Gift Received.
An Address given at the Mildmay Park Conference in 1872.
I would remark on the first words that we read, "The end of all things is at hand;" and if it was at hand when these words were written, what a closer and deeper meaning must they have at the present moment. And, dear friends, every day you and I are brought nearer to eternity—closer to that solemn time when we shall pass off this scene and shall enter into eternity.
There never was a period in the history of this country when the Lord's people should be more watchful, and should exercise more sobriety and temperance, than at the present moment. The facility for getting about, for obtaining this thing or the other, is far greater now than it ever was before; and because of these things, the Lord's people are apt to forget the responsibility that rests upon them to be faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Observe the beginning of this chapter: "Forasmuch, then, as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind.” Be ready to endure suffering; be ready to endure all that you may have to bear, as the servants of the Lord, as the followers and imitators of God, as the redeemed ones that are brought into the same blessed family of God, remembering that He who endured so much for us, requires also that we should bear likewise for Him, all the scoff which we may have poured out upon us.
I think this watching may be looked at in two aspects. We have, indeed, to watch against the malice and the tremendous power which Satan is exercising—how he is blinding the eyes of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus should shine upon them—how he is tempting and drawing away into the world, God's own children. We have to watch against the enemy which is striving to drag us into the vortex of folly, and sin, and vanity, to watch against everything which we know would be offensive to our Lord and Master—oh! let us see to it, that we watch by prayer, remembering our own weakness and inability to resist; and let us go in our weakness to the Lord for strength, and say, in the words of the Psalmist, "Lord, strengthen me with strength in my soul."
And then we are to watch in another aspect. We are to watch, I believe, for the Lord's return. And if He were to return to-night—if God were to call you to-night—would you be ready to meet Him? Let us so live that it would be the very joy of our hearts if this very night the Lord was to come. And how can this be but by living in the fear of Him, and looking continually up into His face?
Amongst those gifts which God has bestowed upon you, is the gift of the Holy Ghost. And if God has bestowed upon us any large measure of the power of the Spirit of God, so that, in a measure, we understand more of His Word than we did understand (and we ought to understand more if we study it day by day), we shall then be better qualified to take that Word—the ministry that God hath given us—and we shall be better qualified to convey it to those with whom we come in contact. May God give us to be faithful and watchful, and to testify boldly for Him in these awful days in which we live.
But there is another point here with regard to the gift. As every man hath received the gift—you know there is another gift, the Gift of all gifts: it is the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ, God's only co-eternal Son. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." So! loved, not a simple love; mark the expression, So! So deep, beyond one's comprehension; it reaches down to the depths of the most degraded and corrupt and fallen—so deep that there is no human being on the face of this earth whom the precious blood of Jesus cannot reach to wash and cleanse from all impurity. We want you to accept this gift. If we have received the Lord Jesus Christ as God's Gift, let us minister the same; let us tell others the great things the Lord hath done, and let us not be ashamed to witness. Let us be ready; if the period should be extended, if the Lord should be tarrying, yet our time may be short. We know not what a day or an hour may bring forth. You remember what our Lord says in the 21st of Luke about that, and I just draw your attention to the few last verses, beginning at the 31st verse: "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time, your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares," for the coming of the Lord draweth near.
You see our blessed Lord Himself gives a warning exhortation to watch. Oh! may God give us grace, day by day and hour by hour, to be watching against the inroads of corruption. Dear friends, . . . what a power the things around us have, what a power they exercise over our mind. How easily our eye is led off to this thing, and our ear to that thing. May God give us grace to resist the evil and to endure temptation, and to be strengthened in our mind and our heart and to watch diligently. Oh! seek to honour and to glorify Him who hath done so much for us.
Just another word. "Above all things, have fervent charity among yourselves, for charity (or love) shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another, without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same." Oh! let us exercise love, charity, forbearance, patience. Let us see to it that we exercise love, and we have need to do it in the present day. Let us walk in love one towards another, remembering what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us—that His unfathomable love led Him to come down to meet our case. Oh! what love, what unspeakable love. Let us exhibit, then, the same mind that was in Him. Let us exercise forbearance, and do not let us be too hasty to find fault with the failings of others; but let us restrain our tongues, restrain our thoughts. Let us exercise love and charity, having before us the example of our blessed Lord and Master. Oh! He has set us an example; we should follow His steps.