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The Inscription hath the author and the address,-from whom, and to whom. The Author of this Epistle is designated by his name—Peter ; and his calling—an apostle.
We shall not insist upon his name, that it was imposed by Christ, or what is its signification ; this the Evangelists teach us, John i. 42, Matt, xvi. 18.
By that which is spoken of him in divers passages of the Gospel, he is very remarkable amongst the Apostles, both for his graces and his failings; eminent in zeal and courage, and yet stumbling oft in his forwardness, and once grossly falling. And these, by the providence of God, being recorded in Scripture, give a check to the excess of Rome's conceit concerning this apostle. Their extolling and exalting him above the rest, is not for his cause, much less to the honour of his Lord and master Jesus Christ, for he is injured and dishonoured by it; but it is in favour of themselves. As Alexander distinguished his two friends, that the one was a friend of Alexander, the other a friend of the king, the preferment which they give this Apostle is not in good will to Peter, but in the desire of primacy. But whatsoever he was, they would be much in pain to prove Rome's right to it by succession. And if ever it had any such right, we may confidently say it has forfeited it long ago, by departing from St. Peter's footsteps, and from his faith, and retaining too much those things wherein he was faulty: namely,
His unwillingness to hear of, and consent to, Christ's sufferings,-his Master, spare thyself, or Far be it from thee,-in those they are like him ; for thus they would disburden and exempt the Church from the cross, from the real cross or afflictions, and, instead of that, have nothing but painted, or carved, or gilded crosses ; these they are content to embrace, and worship too, but cannot endure to hear of the other. Instead of the cross of affliction, they make the crown or mitre the badge of their Church, and will have it known by prosperity, and outward pomp; and so turn the church militant, into the Church triumphant, not considering that it is Babylon's voice, not the Church's, I sit as a queen, and shall see no sorrow.
Again, they are like him in his saying on the mount at Christ's transfiguration, when he knew not what he said, It is good to be here : so they have little of the true glory of Christ, but the false glory of that monarchy on their seven hills: It is good to be here, say they.
Again, in their undue striking with the sword, not the enemies, as he, but the faithful friends and servants of Jesus Christ. But to proceed.
We see here Peter's office or title,-an apostle ; not chief bishop. Some in their glossing have been so impudent as to add that beside the text; though in chap. v. ver. 4, he gives that title to Christ alone, and to himself only fellow elder ; and here, not prince of the apostles, but an apostle, restored and re-established after his fall, by repentance, and by Christ himself after his own death and resurrection. (See John xxi.) Thus we have in our Apostle a singular instance of human frailty on the one side, and of the sweetness of divine the other. Free and rich grace it is indeed, that forgives and swallows up multitudes of sins, of the greatest sins, not only sins before conversion, as to St. Paul, but foul offences committed after conversion, as to David, and to this Apostle ; not only once raising them froin the dead, but when they fall, stretching out the same hand, and raising them again, and restoring them to their station, and comforting them in it by his free Spirit, as David prays; not only to cleanse polluted clay, but to work it into vessels of honour, yea, of the most defiled shape to make the most refined vessels, not vessels of honour of the lowest sort, but for the highest and most honourable services, vessels to bear his own precious name to the nations ; making the most unworthy and the most unfit, fit by his grace to be his messengers.
Of Jesus Christ.] Both as the beginning and the end of his apostleship, as Christ is called Alpha and Omeya ; chosen and called by him, and called to this—to preach him, and salvation wrought by him.
Apostle of Jesus Christ.] Sent by him and the message no other than his name, to make that known. And what this apostleship was then, after some 'extraordinary way, befitting these first times of the Gospel, the ministry of the word in ordinary is now, and therefore an employment of more difficulty and excellency than is usually conceived by many, not only of those who look upon it, but even of those who are exercised in it ;—to be ambassadors for the greatest of kings, and upon no mean employment, that great treaty of peace and reconcilement betwixt him and mankind. (V. 2 Cor. v. 20.)
This epistle is directed to the Elect, who are described here by their temporal and by their spiritual conditions. The one hath very much dignity and comfort in it; the other hath neither, but rather the contrary of both; and therefore the Apostle intending their comfort, mentions the one but in passing, to signify to whom particularly he sent his Epistle; but the other is that which he would have their thoughts dwell upon, and therefore he prosecutes it in his following discourse. And if we look to the order of the words, their temporal condition is but interjected; for it is said, To the Elect, first, and then, To the strangers scattered, &c. And he would have this as it were drowned in the other-According to the foreknowledge of God the Father.
That those dispersed strangers who dwelt in the countries here named, were Jews, appears, if we look to the foregoing Epistle, where the same word is used, and expressly appropriated to the Jews. (James i. 1.) St. Peter in Gal. ii. is called an Apostle of the circumcision, as exercising his apostleship most towards them; and there is in some passages of this Epistle, somewhat which, though belonging to all Christians, yet hath, in the strain and way of expression, a particular fitness to the believing Jews, as being particularly verified in them, which was spoken of their nation, chap. ii. ver. 9, 10.
Some argue from the name, Strangers, that the Gentiles are here meant, which seems not to be; for proselyte Gentiles were indeed called strangers in Jerusalem, and by the Jews; but were not the Jews strangers in these places--Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia ?- Not strangers dwelling together in a prosperous flourishing condition, as a well-planted colony, but strangers of the dispersion, scattered to and fro. Their dispersion was partly, first by the Assyrian captivity, and after that by the Babylonish, and by the invasion of the Romans; and it might be in these very times increased by the believing Jews flying from the hatred and persecution raised against them at home.
The places here mentioned, through which they were dispersed, are all in Asia. So Asia here, is Asia the Lesser. Where it is to be observed, that some of those who heard St. Peter, Acts ii. 9, are said to be of those regions. And if any of the number then converted were amongst these dispersed, the comfort was no doubt the more grateful from the hand of the same Apostle by whom they were first converted; but this is only conjecture. Though divine truths are to be received equally from every minister alike, yet it must be acknowledged that there is something (we know not what to call it) of a more acceptable reception of those who at first were the means of bringing men to God, than of others ; like the opinion some have of physicians whom they love.
The Apostle comforts these strangers of this dispersion, by the spiritual union which they obtained by effectual calling ; and so calls off their eyes from their outward, dispersed, and despised condition, to look above that, as high as the spring of their happiness, the free love and election of God. Scattered in the countries, and yet gathered in God's election, chosen or picked out; strangers to men amongst whom they dwelt, but known and foreknown to God; removed from their own country, to which men have naturally an unalterable affection, but heirs made of a better (as follows, ver. 3, 4); and having within them the evidence both of eternal election and of that expected salvation, the Spirit of holiness (ver. 2). At the best a Christian is but a stranger here, set him where you will, as our Apostle teacheth after ; and it is his privilege that he is so ; and when he thinks not so, he forgets and disparages himself; he descends far below his quality, when he is much taken with anything in this place of his exile.
But this is the wisdom of a Christian, when he can solace himself against the meanness of his outward condition, and any kind of discomfort attending it, with the comfortable assurance of the love of God, that he hath called him to holiness, given him some measure of it, and an endeavour after more; and by this may he conclude that he hath ordained him unto salvation. If either he is a stranger where he lives, or as a stranger deserted of his friends, and very near stripped of all outward comforts, yet may he rejoice in this, that the eternal unchangeable love of God, which is from everlasting to everlasting, is sealed to his soul. And O what will it avail a man to be compassed about with the favour of the world, to sit unmolested in his own home and possessions, and to have them very great and pleasant, to be well monied, and landed, and befriended, and yet estranged and severed from God, not having any token of his special love ?
To the Elect.] The Apostle here denominates all the Christians to whom he writes, by the condition of true believers, calling them Elect and Sanctified, 8c., and the Apostle St. Paul writes in the same style in his Epistles to the churches. Not that all in these churches were such indeed, but because they professed to be such, and by that their profession and calling as Christians, they were obliged to be such ; and as many of them as were in any measure true to that their calling and profession were really such. Besides, it would seem not unworthy of consideration, that in all probability there would be fewer false Christians, and the number of true believers would be usually greater, in the churches in those primitive times, than now in the best reformed churches : because there could not then be many of them that were from their infancy bred in the Christian faith, but the greatest part were such as, being of years of discretion, were, by the hearing of the Gospel, converted from Paganism and Judaism to the Christian religion first, and made a deliberate choice of it; to which there were