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ment of the altar, the word of God, nay Christ himself, are things that are placed without thee; so also, thy righteousness is placed without thee: therefore, the private sins of our flesh cannot destroy it. For the prophet saith that our sun is eternal : therefore, our righteousness is eternal, and not to be overcome by temporal sins. It is not pride for a man to say that he is righteous: nay, to say the contrary, and to believe in thine heart that thou art not righteous, is to deny Christ and to blaspheme the name of Christ, who gave himself to be our “ wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” i Cor. i.
NEW-BORN BABES IN THE FAITH OF CHRIST, AND THEIR TASTING THE GRACIOUS
SAVOUR OF THE GOSPEL.
1 PETER ii. 2. As new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word.
Here, the simile which he adduces, is this.--Ye are newly born by the word of God; wherefore, be ye
like unto new-born babes : that is, they desire nothing but milk. As therefore they desire the breasts, and milk; so ought ye to desire the word, and be carried out in longings after it with all the heart; and to believe, that all the dainties which it contains, are there treasured up for you, that ye may suck out milk, sincere, and pure from all deceit.
These are figurative words. For he does not speak of corporal milk; even as he does not speak of a corporal sucking, or a corporal birth. But he is speaking here of another milk which is “sincere,” that is, spiritual ; which is imbibed by the soul and sucked out by the heart. This milk should be pure from deceit, for corrupted wares are often sold. It is, however, a matter of great moment, and utterly necessary, that to new-born and infant Christians, sincere and uncorrupt milk should be given. This milk is nothing else than the Gospel itself, which is also the very seed of which we are conceived and born, as we have observed before: and the same is also the food by which we are fed after we have grown up: it is also the armour with which we are furnished and equipped. And what farther shall I say? This same Gospel is every thing to us. And that which, being mingled, corrupts this sincerity, is the doctrine of men. Wherefore it is, that the Holy Spirit here gives an admonition, that every one of those who are born again in Christ, should look well to the kind of milk which he sucks, and should himself learn to judge of every
kind of doctrine.
The breasts also which give forth this milk, and which the infants suck, are those who teach in the church of Christ. Hence, the bridegroom says to the bride in Cant. iv., “ Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins.” Between these, ought to hang the bundle of myrrh ; as the bride saith Cant. i. “A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me, he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.” Which signifies, that Christ only, is always to be preached. This spouse ought always to be betwixt the breasts. Otherwise, if Christ be not purely preached, the milk is corrupted and all things are preposterous and pernicious.
And this preaching is pure, where it is preached as the chief thing of all, that Christ gave himself to death for us, and by it plucked and delivered us from sin, death, and hell : this is fruitful preaching, and, as it were, sweet milk. But by-and-by also, the cross must be preached : namely, that we must suffer as he also suffered : this, is strong drink, and pure wine. Therefore, to the new-born babes in Christ, softer food must first be given; that is, milk must be admininistered. This cannot be done more conveniently than by preaching unto them first, and before all things, Christ; who is by no means harsh, and nothing but sweet and rich grace; wherein, there is nothing that can hurt, nothing that can grieve. And this is that true milk, sincere, and pure from deceit.
And again, by “ milk” here, Peter has reference to the scriptures, which he quotes most abundantly. The Lord commanded, Exod. xxiii. and Deut. xiv." Thou shalt not dress a kid, while it is suckled by its mother.” I pray you for what cause did God command this to be written? Of what consequence was it if the kid were killed while it suckled ? He doubtlessly commanded it, that it might signify that which Peter here teaches. Nor is it any thing else than if he had said, Take heed that thou preach tender things, and by degrees, to new-born and weak Christians. Let them be well fed, and grow fat by the knowledge of Christ. Do not overload them
strong doctrine : for, by reason of their tender age, they are not able to bear it. But by-and-by, when they are grown up and have gained some strength, then kill them and sacrifice them on the cross.
To the same purpose is that caution which we read Deut. xxiv.-That the new married husband ought not to be forced to go to war in the first year, lest he should be slain : but ought to remain at home and delight him. self in his new-married wife. Nor does this signify any thing else, but that we should for a time indulge those who are yet babes in the faith of Christ, and treat them tenderly, until they be grown stronger : whom, by-andby, when they are grown up, the Lord will bring to the cross, and take care that they shall be slain like other Christians : and then, the kid shall be killed.
That ye may grow thereby : if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
It is by no means enough to have heard the Gospel once: it must be inculcated continually, that by it we may grow. According to every one's strength of faith, so be ought to be looked after, and so he ought to be fed. But as for those who have not yet heard the Gospel, do not imagine that these things are spoken to them : they know not what this milk, or this wine is : and therefore, the apostle adds, “ If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” As though he had said, He who has not tasted this, such an one cannot understand this thing in his heart, nor know that its taste is sweet. But those who have tasted it, such are always dwelling upon this food, even the word; they know what the taste of it is, and they are acquainted with its marvellous sweetness.
This tasting, is, when I believe in my heart that Christ gave himself for me, and put himself in my stead : and that now, all my sins and all my destruction are his, and his life mine. When that is taken up and entered into by the heart, its taste is wonderfully sweet : for how can it be that I should not be anointed with joy and pleasure at this, if I rejoice so much when any friend gives me only a hundred pounds ? But he who does not take up this in his heart, he cannot be affected with any joy concerning it. Moreover, they taste the most of these things, who are exercised with the burthen of death, or are tormented with an unhealed conscience to them, as the proverb saith, “ hunger is the best sauce : ' that hunger, renders this food wonderfully savory. For the heart and conscience, when they have begun to feel their plagues, can hear of nothing so sweet as the Gospel : they are always longing for this; they can smell the savor of it afar off: and they can never be satisfied with it. Thus Mary sings, “ He filleth the hungry with good things." Whereas those obstinate men, who live upon their own holiness, and lean upon their own works, and feel nothing of their sins, and plagues, taste nothing of these things. So when a hungry man sits down to the table, all the dishes have to him a savoury taste; but he who has already eaten to the full, has no relish for their savouriness at all; nay, even the most delicious meats are to him disgustful. Therefore, the apostle saith, “ If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” As though he had said, If ye have not yet tasted this, my preaching these things to you is all in vain.
TRUE FAITH, TRUE OBEDIENCE, AND
I PETER i. 13.
Hope with all confidence in the grace which is offered unto you by the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children.
The nature of Christian faith, is, to trust to the word of God with all reliance, to commit itself unto the word with all safety, and to undertake whatever is required with all confidence. And therefore Peter saith, then are the loins of your mind girded up, then is your faith sound and sincere, when you do what you do with this full reliance upon the word of God; not regarding what will be endangered that belongs to you, whether your property, your fame, your body, or even your life. And therefore, he has in these words beautifully described sincere, and truly unfeigned faith. For faith must not be indolent and sleepy, which would rather be a dream than faith, but it must be lively and efficacious : so that the man may expose himself to all things with all contidence, resting wholly on the word, not in the least regarding what kind of a portion God shall allot to him, but undergoing with the same mind both adversity and prosperity. Thus, if I am to die, it behoves me to com mit inyself with all confidence unto Christ, to offer my neck freely, relying upon the word which cannot deceive me, and boldly to triumph over the powers of my adversaries. Moreover, it is necessary that faith go right on, and suffer not itself to be hindered or terrified by any thing, but cast away all opposition which it may either hear, see, or feel. In a word, Peter requires such a faith as standeth not in imagination, nor in word, but
Moreover, Peter saith, “ Hope in the grace which is offered unto you :” that is, ye did not merit this great grace, but it is offered unto you wholly free. For the Gospel, which proclaims this grace unto us, we never