1 PETER 2:11-20. “11 Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 having your behavior seemly among the Gentiles’, that, wherein they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they behold, glorifyGod in the day of visitation. 13 Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king, as supreme; 14 or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evildoers and for praise to them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. FearGod. Honor the king. 18 Servants, be in subjection to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 19 For this is acceptable, if for conscience toward God a man endureth grieves, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if, when ye sin, and are buffeted for it, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”
3. There is difference between remission of sins and mortification of them.
The distinction should be made clear for the sake of combating those who confound and pervert the two principles by their false doctrines. In regard to remission, the Pope and many others have taught that forgiveness of sins is obtained through the foolishness of men’s own self-elected works, the satisfactions of their own devising. This error has ever prevailed in the world. Cain was the first to make it, and it will continue to the end. And where this error is refuted, false teachers are found who, on the other hand, accept and boast of the doctrine of grace without enjoying its happy results. They proceed as if mere forgiveness were enough, and without further effect than averting punishment; as if it leaves us where we were before, not ameliorating in any wise our moral condition; and as if no more is to be known about Christ and the Gospel.
Therefore, they who claim to be Christians must learn that, having obtained forgiveness without merit on their part, they should henceforth give no place to sins, but rather resist their former evillusts and avoid and flee from the fruits and works thereof. Such is the substance of this lesson.
4. But note from the apostle’s words how his view has changed since the time when, as a fisherman of Bethsaida, he went about with the Lord previous to the Lord’s death and resurrection. At that time Peter and the other apostles, in fact the entire Jewishnation, had no other conception of Christ’s kingdom — the kingdom of God — than as an earthly one wherein they should know only happiness, figuring as wealthy farmers, citizens, noblemen, counts and lords. The sum of the world’s goods should be theirs, and all the gentiles their vassals. They were to be thenceforth undisturbed by enemies, wars, famine or misfortune, and to enjoy the extremity of peace, leisure and happiness under their supreme King, the Messiah. Such were their hopes, even their expectations. With these pleasing fancies were their minds filled. And just so today are the Jews full and drunken with their visionary dreams.
6. But how is indifference to this life to be accomplished? Peter goes on to say: “Be subject to every ordinance of man... whether to the king…or unto governors”; again, “Servants, be in subjection to your masters…also to the froward.” How is it consistent with royal citizenship in a celestial country to be a pilgrim on earth? How can we live here with wives and children, houses and lands, and being citizens under a temporal government, and yet not be at home? There is a distinction here which, as before said, was at first difficult for the belovedapostles themselves to understand. But to Christians, especially those of today, it should be clear. Christ and the apostles do not, in this teaching, design the rejection of external government and human authority — what Peter here terms ordinances of men. No, they permit these to remain as they are; moreover, they enjoin us to submit to and make use of them.
7. This is the difference to be kept in mind: We are to conduct ourselves in our earthly stations and occupations as not regarding this life our true kingdom and best good. And we are not to think the life beyond holds nothing more nor better than what we possess here, as do the Jews and the Turks. Although they believe in the resurrection of the dead, they carnallyimagine the future life will be like the present except for its perfectpeace and happiness, its freedom from misfortune, persecution and all ills. It is the prerogative of the Pope and his holy epicures to believe nothing in any respect.
8. So should Christians in all stations of life — lords and ladies, servants and maids — conduct themselves as guests of earth. Let them, in that capacity, eat and drink, make use of clothing and shoes, houses and lands, as long as God wills, yet be prepared to take up their journey when these things pass, and to move on out of life as the guest moves on out of the house or the city which is not his home. Let them conduct themselves as does the guest, with civility toward those with whom they come in contact, not infringing on the rights of any. For a visitor may not unrestrainedly follow his own pleasure and inclinations in the house of a stranger. The saying is: “If you would be a guest, you must behave civilly; otherwise you may promptly be shown the door or the dungeon.”
9. Christians should be aware of their citizenship in a better country, that they may rightly adapt themselves to this world. Let them not occupy the present life as if intending to remain in it; nor as do the monks, who flee responsibility, avoiding civiloffice and trying to run out of the world. For Peter says rather that we are not to escape our fellows and live each for himself, but to remain in our several conditions in life, united with other mortals as God has bound us, and serving one another. At the same time, we are to regard this life as a journey through a country where we have no citizenship — where we are not at home; to think of ourselves as travelers or pilgrims occupying for a night the same inn, eating and drinking there and then leaving the place.
10. Let not the occupants of the humbler stations — servants and subjects — grumble: “Why should I vex myself with unpleasant household tasks, with farmwork or heavy labor? This life is not my home anyway, and I may as well have it better. Therefore, I will abandon my station and enjoy myself; the monks and priests have, in their stations, withdrawn themselves from the world and yet drunk deeply, satisfying fleshly lusts.” No, this is not the right way. If you are unwilling to put up with your lot, as the guest in a tavern and among strangers must do, you also may not eat and drink.
Similarly, they who are favored with loftier positions in life may not, upon this authority, abandon themselves to the idea of living in the sheer idleness and lustfulpleasure their more favored station permits, as if they were to be here always. Let them reason thus: “This life, it is true, is transitory — a voyage, a pilgrimage, leading to our actual fatherland. But since it is God’s will that everyone should serve his fellows here in his respective station, in the officecommitted to him, we will do whatever is enjoined upon us. We will serve our subjects, our neighbors, our wives and children so long as we can, we would not relax our service even if we knew we had to depart this very hour and leave all earthly things. For, God be praised, had we to die now we would know where we belong, where our home is. While we are here, however, on the way, it is ours to fulfill the obligations of our earthly citizenship. Therefore, we will live with our fellows in obedience to the law of our abiding-place, even unto the hour wherein we must cross the threshold outward, that we may depart in honor, leaving no occasion for complaint.
Accordingly, we sing: “Now we pray thee, Holy Spirit, for true faith,” etc., when we depart home from this wretchedness. This sentiment accords beautifully with the text here where Peter calls us “sojourners and pilgrims” — wayfarers in earthly wretchedness, desiring home and casting our thoughts beyond the gates of our sojourning-place. Second, though we must suffer this wretched condition in a foreignland, we are under obligation to render every honor to the host and to respect the inn, making the best of whatever may befall us.
Consequently many of them ceased to till the land and neglected to provide for a livelihood. To these Jeremiah writes (ch. 29:10): “Ye must have patience, for ye are not so soon to return — not till seventy years be accomplished.” Meanwhile, though in wretchedness and captivity, they were to do as he bids in verses 5-7: “Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plantgardens, and eat the fruit of them. Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters: and multiply ye there, and be not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray unto Jehovah for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”
That there in their misery they should build houses and make themselves citizens of Babylon, should marry and rear children — yes, give their children in marriage — as if they were to remain there permanently — this injunction of the prophet was altogether disagreeable and annoying to them. And still more offensive was the command to pray for the city and kingdom wherein they were captives. Much rather would they have prayed for liberation; for, influenced by the other prophets, they hoped to return home the following year.
Nevertheless, the prophet bids them meet all the requirements of citizens of that country; and more than that, to pray for their hosts in the same spirit in which they would pray for their neighbors and fellow-citizens, asking God for peace and prosperity upon the city.
15. He who is guided by these facts, who comprehends the distinction between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of the world, will know how to resist successfully all classes of fanatics. For these latter paint this life in a terrible aspect. They want to run out of the world entirely, and are unwilling to associate with anyone; or they proceed to disturb civil regulations and to overthrow all order; or again, as with the Pope, they interfere in secular rule, desiring temporal authority, wholly under the name and color of Christianity.
16. In short, a Christian must be one who, as Paul says ( 1 Corinthians 7:29-31), uses this world as not abusing it, who buys and possesses as though he possessed not, who has wife and children as though he had them not and who builds as though not building. How is it possible to reconcile these seeming inconsistencies? By making the Christianfaith distinct from the faith of the Jews and Turks — yes, of the Papists even: by accepting the fact that the Christian’s attitude toward this earthly life is the attitude of the guest; that in such capacity is he to build, to buy, to have dealings and hold intercourse with his fellows, to join them in all temporal affairs — a guest who respects his host’s wishes, the laws of the realm and of the city and the customs of the inn, but at the same time the Christian refrains from attesting his satisfaction with this life as if he intended to remain here and hoped for nothing better. Thus will the Christian pass through every temporal event in the right way — having every possession as though not having it, using and yet not cleaving to it; not so occupied with the temporal as to lose the eternal, but leaving behind — for-getting — the former while striving after the latter as the goal set before him.
17. Therefore, they who presume to run out of the world by going into the desert or the wilderness; who, unwilling to occupy the inn but finding it indispensable nevertheless, must become their own hosts — these are great and unreasonable fools. Surely they must eat and drink and have clothing and shelter. With these things they cannot dispense, even if they can withdraw from all society. Nor is their action forsaking and fleeing the world, as they imagine it to be. Whatever your station and condition, whatever your occupation in life, of necessity you must be somewhere on earth while mortallife is yours. Nor has God separated you from men; he has placed you in society. Each individual is created and born for the sake of other individuals. But observe, wherever you are and whatever your station, you are, I say, to flee the world.
What tolerance would there be for one foolish enough to declare: “I will not eat nor drink here. I will behave peculiarly, smashing windows and turning things upside down, for this is not my abiding-place”? For the very purpose of advancing himself on his journey, the traveler should make use of the inn, accepting whatever is offered.
19. Likewise should Christians use the world, constantly casting their thoughts beyond this life, notwithstanding they have here house and home, wife and children. These are for the present life only, yet the Christian owes them due consideration, the while he asserts: “Today we are here, tomorrow elsewhere. Now we avail ourselves of this inn, the next day of another. We do not expect to remain here.”
Relative to this subject, Peter in his beautiful Pentecostal sermon says concerning David, who nevertheless was a holy king, that he did not ascend into the heavens, but, having fulfilled the will of God, fell asleep.
Peter, so far from being willing to disparage David’s office and rule, to criticize him therein for wrong-doing, rather magnifies it in glowing terms.
David was a king, and cast not aside his crown; no, he retained his royalglory. He held his office as a God-intrusted one, in the execution whereof he served God. Similarly should the righteousruler do — in fact, all men in their respective offices and stations. Let them remember they are not placed where they are to choose their own pleasure, but solely for the service of God. Such is their duty so long as they are here — transients, like the stranger at the inn with other guests, who conducts himself with respect to the needs and the pleasure of his fellows, doing as they do, and in case of danger and necessity uniting with them in the effort to help and protect.
20. King David did not regard his kingdom and his God-bestowed blessings as his real glory, but as his office, his opportunities for service in this earthly pilgrimage. In it all he remains a guest, expecting to leave this tarrying-place for a certain abode. Hence he says ( Psalm 39:12): “I am a stranger with thee, a sojourner, as all my fathers were.” How is that? Has a king of David’s glorious rank occasion to speak thus? Is he a guest who occupies a royalthrone, who is lord of landed estate and of more than twelve hundredthousand people according to his own calculation? This is David’s meaning: In his kingdom he serves God as a transient here on earth, and set apart by God for that purpose; but at the same time as a citizen of God’s kingdom in another life, another existence, which he regards more glorious than earthly glory, and as affording something better than a temporal crown.
It is necessary to strive if we are to withstand the lusts of the flesh; for these, Peter says, war against the soul — against faith and the good conscience in man. If lust triumphs, our hold on the Spirit and on faith is lost. Now, if you would not be defeated, you must valiantly contend against carnal inclinations, being careful to overcome them and to maintain your spiritual, eternal good. In this instance, our own welfare demands the conquest.
23. In the second place, God’s honor calls for it. God’s honor here on earth is affected by our manner of life. We are to avoid giving occasion for our enemies to open their mouths in calumniation of God’s name and his Word. Rather must we magnify the name of God by our confession and general conduct, and thus win others, who shall with us confess and honor him. Christ commands ( Matthew 5:16): “Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”