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Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. What! If he washed not his feet ? No, his soul, from the pollution of sin. Transitions like this, from things natural to things spiritual, were usual with our Saviour. Thus, when he had healed a blind man, he took occasion to observe, For judgment I am come into this world, that they who see not, may see; and that they who see, may be made blind. The answer in the present instance was to this effect ; • Dost thou account it too great a stoop for me to wash thy feet? Let me tell the, I must stoop lower than this, or woe be to thee! I must cleanse thee from a defilement much more loathsome than this, or thou canst have no part with ine in my kingdom.'
Peter, perceiving now that he spake of the purifying of bis soul from sin, suddenly changed his tone. Lord, saith he, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. q. d. "If this be thy meaning, I know that I need to be cleansed throughout.'.
Jesus saith unto him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet; but is clean every whit, and ye are clean, but not all. As it is sufficient for persons who bave bathed their bodies in the stream to wash the deglement attached to their feet by walking on shore ; so they that have believed in Christ, shall never come into condemnation, and need not the repetition of a passing from death to life ; but merely an application for the pardon of their daily sins. Such was the character of all the disciples, except Judas, who, notwith standing his profession, was yet in bis sins.
From this interesting conversation, we are taught several im. portant truths.
First: We may sin against Christ, under a show of modesty and reverence for his name. There is no doubt but that Peter's first objection sprang from these motives: and bad he yielded to the first answer, perhaps he had been blameless ; but to resist after he was assured that his Lord had a good reason for what he did, though he at present did not comprehend it, was setting up his own wisdom and will against his. Nor was this the first instance in wbich Peter was guilty of so doing. When our Saviour spake of going up to Jerusalem, and of suffering many things, and being killed, and rising again the third day, he rebuked him, saying, Be it far from
thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee. In all this he savoured not the things that were of God, but the things that were of men.
There is much of this spirit in our self-righteous objections to the grace of the gospel, and self-willed oppositions to Christ's revealed will. One pleads, that salvation by mere grace is dishon. ourable to God's moral government : bat let bim know, from the example of Peter, that there may be a regard to Christ's honour, wbich he doth not require at our hands; and that we should act much more becoming by acquiescing in his will, than by obtruding our own conceits in opposition to it. Another alleges, It is too much for a sioner so unworthy as I am, to hope for so great salvation. But can you do with less ? and is it the comparatively worthy that mercy delighteth to honour ? True wisdom will fall in with that way of honouring God which is revealed in the gospel; and genuine modesty will not dispute with the Saviour, but bumbly take him at his word. And the same spirit that receives his grace with. out hesitation, will obey his precepts without delay; not asking why or wherefore the Lord requireth this, but accounting it our meat to do his will.
Secondly: A cordial and practical acquiescence in the way of salvation through the blood of Christ, is necessary to a participa. tion of his benefits. It may seem rather singular that Christ sbould suspend his blessing on his own act--If I wash thee not, &c. but that act supposes the concurrence of the party. He stood ready to wash Peter, and stands ready to wash the foulest of sinners. If therefore they be not washed, it is owing to their preference of pollution, or their self-righteous objections to the way of being cleansed. To feel ourselves entirely polluted, and ready to perish ; to despair of being cleansed by any thing that we can perform, or work ourselves up to; to place no dependence on prayers or tears, on our bitterest repentance or most upfeigned faith, considered as acts of holiness ; and to repair altogether, vile as we are, to the blood of Jesus, as to a fountain set open for sin and for uncleanness—this is the binge of true religion; without which, we shall have no interest with bim in bis benefits, nor portion with bim in bis heavenly kingdom. If we come not to him as polluted sinners to be washed, our iniquities are still upon our head; and Vol. VIII.
if we die in this state, they will go down with us to the grave, rise with us at the resurrection, be found upon us at judgment, and for ever bar against us those gates, through which nothing unclean can enter. lo this case, so far as we are concerned, the Saviour might as well have never come into the world, nor have laid down bis life : nay, better; for if our filthiness be found upon us at the last day, it will be the bitterest of all aggravations, that the kingdom of Christ has been nigh unto us.
Thirdly : Though the believer, who hath passed from death to life, shall never come into condemnation ; yet he standeth in need of continual cleansing from bis daily defilements. The notion that it is inconsistent for a believer to pray for the pardon of his sins, is contrary to the express directions of Christ, and to the example of the godly in all ages. It belongs to a life of faith on the Son of God; and without it, whatever self-flattering ideas we may entertain, we are dead while we live: and in whatever degree we come short of such a life, wearing away our transgressions by forgetfulness, instead of washing them away by repeated application to the blood of the cross, we incur the displeasure of Christ, and forsake our own mercies.
EVANGELICAL TRUTH THE GRAND OBJECT OF
1 Peter i. 12.
It is a truth allowed by all Christians, that the dispensation under which we live, affords us far greater advantages for spirituality and heavenly enjoyment, than any other which preceded it. Tous, life and immortality are brought to light. The spirit that properly belongs to it, is not a spirit of bondage, but of adoption ; crying, Abba, Father. The happiness attainable under it approaches near to that of the heavenly world ; so nigh does its land border as it were upon it, that believers in the present state are said to be come to mount Sion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the innumerable company of angels, to the spirits of the just made perfect, &c. Yet it is not less true, that the greater part of professing Christians live as though they stood upon no such ground, and possessed no such opportunities. We possess an Old Testament spirit amidst New Testament advantages. A promise is left us of entering into rest ; but we seem, at least, to come short of it. How is this? Is it not owing, in a great degree, to the neglect of the gospel ? Having assented to a system of doctrines, we fancy we know almost the whole that is to be known upon this subject, and have nothing more to do but to hold them fast against the errors of the times, and take heed that we do not dishonour them by inconsistency of conduct. Hence what is called religious conversation seldom turns upon the gospel, unless any part of it be called in question : but either upon our own want of spirituality, or the pleasures that we have formerly experienced ; or perhaps, upon the talents of this or that popular preacher.
When a company of Christians meet together, and feel a wish for improving conversation, let one of them take a Bible and read; and, as he reads, let him frequently pause, and let any one who can, make a remark, or ask a serious question, so as upon the wbole to promote the understanding of what is read. This would draw off the attention from less profitable things ; and the blessing of the Lord attending it, would, ere we are aware, produce those holy pleasures which, while poring over our own barrenness, we shall sigh after in vain.
To comfort the primitive Christians, who, as well as we, were in heaviness through munifold temptations, Peter took no other course than to declare unto them the glorious truths of the gospel, and the vast advantages which they had over all others of former ages, in possessing the knowledge of them. Three things in particular he holds up to their consideration : 1. That the prophets were ministering servants to us ; Not unto themselves, but unto us, did they minister things which are now reported. They sowed that we might reap. 2. That the things which they foretold, and which we possess, were the objects of their own most intense research. Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently ; searching whut, and what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ, which was in them, did signify, when it testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 3. That such is the excellence and glory of the gospel, as not only to be the study of prophets, but of angels : Which things the angels desire to look into.
It is generally supposed, I believe, that the phrase look into,* alludes to the cherubim which were placed bending over the mercy-seat, and looking as it were with intenseness at it. Thus Mary stooped, and looked into the sepulchre, in hope of discovering her Lord.; 'and thus believers are described as looking into the perfect law of liberty, or the gospel of Christ.
In former ages, the angels employed their capacious powers on other themes. At first, the display of the divine perfections in creation fürnished them with matter for praise and gladness. The morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy. Afterwards, the providence of God, in the government of the world, enlarged their mental boundary. One cried to another, saying, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts : the whole earth is full of his glory! But since the coming of the Son of God in our nature, and the laying down of his life, they appear to have been so engaged on this subject, as to be comparatively indifferent to every other. In the other works of God, they had seen sometimes one perfection glorified, and sometimes another ; but here all unite their beams, and form one general blaze. These are the things, therefore, which now they desire to look into.
The powers of angels are far superior to those of men. Their means of instruction also, and long experience of divine things, must render them far more capable of understanding the gospel
* Meng axuttu, to bend, or stoop.