"The end of all things is at hand."

The fourth chapter of the first epistle of Peter, in which this striking word occurs, also contains a further statement not less remarkable - "The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God." Evidently therefore the accompanying exhortations have definitely in view these closing days. They have consequently especial application to ourselves, and for this reason should possess momentous interest.

"Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin, no longer to live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles," etc. How striking is this argument! There is no time to be lost; the end is at hand, judgment is at the doors, and begins with us who are of the house of God. "Holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever." (Ps. 93:5.) Living to the lusts of men ought to be perfectly abhorrent to us; long enough have we travelled that fearful road. Pandering to our own will is lust, and lust is born of the flesh, and therefore is flesh. The will of the flesh is the will of the Gentiles; how can we run "with them"? It is absolutely appalling to contemplate, and reminds us of that word in Titus - "hateful, and hating one another." But they "shall give account to Him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead." Mark the urgency, the imminence of the case. The Judge is ready; are we? He standeth before the door! Have we our hand upon the latch to open to Him? Have we everything in readiness for Him to make His own award upon it?

The apostle writes to believers, to saints, but he writes of judgment. Let us not overlook it, but face the solemn fact. Surely if we know our standing in grace, having positive peace with God, and are in practical righteousness according to that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord, we shrink not from judgment, neither from the word nor the thought. Boldness in the day of judgment is our true prerogative; but how many are they - saints by calling - whom their own consciences make cowards! Who can deny that the Holy Ghost has here an especially suited word for such? It is time to stir; for judgment is advancing apace. It will not linger. It begins not with the world, but with us. Yes, even with "US." Dear reader, do you quake or quail in view of this? or have you everything in readiness for the righteous appraisal of the Judge? Every matter between you and God, between you and your Lord, entirely cleared up? Not a particle of reserve on any point whatever? And is your service, that which He appointed you, all filled up? your mission, whatever it was, fulfilled to the day? If stamping our work will not suit our earthly master, how much less the heavenly And is all honestly and honourably squared with the world? If we be known to men of world as of His company, and we leave this earth with all sorts of evidences behind us of crossed and crooked transactions, obligations unfulfilled, and claims which cannot be met, will not these things be cast, like a filthy clout, around the holy, blessed name of Him whom we have made our banner? Little, perhaps, need we reckon what the world will think of us; but are we entitled to compromise His name? Oh, if anything could grieve us then, surely it would be the reflection that in our houses and our businesses we had left behind us many a tell-tale indication how little, after all, we had made of Him! "Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame." If such a word were needed by the saints at Corinth while yet apostolically cared-for, how much more in these days of declension? If at this time we are subjects of the divine government, pre-eminently it is "that we should not be condemned with the world." But all who in His house resist His authority must remember that God is not mocked; judgment is fast approaching, and His word is, "Begin at my sanctuary." (Ezek. 9:6.) If we are not sighing and crying for the existing abominations, we have not won our mark. The Lord must at length vindicate His name and glory by giving full effect to His holy indignation against all allowed evil, and all that is not brought into subjection to Him must be swept away when He makes bare His arm. Assuredly He will preserve His saints, but the perverse will He not pity, nor will His eye spare! It is for us to suffer now rather than to sin; for in the days of His flesh Christ suffered Himself, and for us too, yet not in this connection as bearing sins, but as not sinning, in order that we should arm ourselves with the same mind, resisting, if needs be, unto blood, striving against sin rather than follow the flesh in its lusts, to which through grace we have died. But this involves suffering, even when armed with His mind. For when the will works I must needs on the one hand resist it, and suffer, or on the other hand yield to it and sin. Thus the apostle draws sharply-defined contrasts; doing the will of the Gentiles, or doing the will of God; being judged according to men in the flesh, or living according to God in the Spirit.

Then follow the Christian graces - sobriety, watchfulness, prayer; these are Godward. And then among ourselves love in divine energy and fervency, love which hides another's fault rather than exposes it (while seeking none the less its correction), and that hospitality which is ungrudging. After these come exhortations as to service. Every receiver of a gift is responsible for its exercise to edification. He is a steward of the manifold grace of God. God is the alone source, and so much so, that if anyone speak he is God's mouth, and must speak as such; that is, as for God and from God. So if he be a distributor of God's good things to others, it is according to the competency of God to bless. Whatever the nature of our service, do we sever it from its source, not only its lustre, but its very character is violated; for how, then, can God in all things be glorified through Jesus Christ? Again, the apostle forewarns the saints of suffering - the fiery trial of persecution loomed luridly ahead, and the devil, their arch-adversary, as a roaring lion was pacing threateningly around; but they were not to be surprised nor affrighted. They had only to take care that their sufferings were of the right sort; that is, not for evil-doing, but for well-doing. If partakers, or having the fellowship, of Christ's sufferings, how much reason have we to rejoice! If reproached for His name's sake, how much cause to be happy! If suffering as Christians, how much occasion to glorify God! for to us suffering is the converse of judgment. But all that is merely nominally right will, so far from escaping judgment, be the first to fall under it. God will bring all His own through the arrayed opposition, but it is no little thing; let us not think lightly of it. He who died for our eternal salvation is the ever-living Captain of our present salvation, and He will bring us through, but only He can; for with difficulty are even the righteous saved from the phalanx of evil against them here. But if by the will of God we suffer in well-doing, we can commit the keeping of our souls to our faithful Creator. Even a Jew could do this; how much more we!

And the elders are specially exhorted. How beautifully does he appeal for his warrant in this to the sufferings of Christ and His waiting glories, standing on the line which linked these contrasted things, as a witness of the one and a partaker of the other. How pathetically does he commend to their disinterested care and solicitude the flock of God, that they should feed and take oversight thereof. Himself an elder and a shepherd of the sheep (John 21:15-17), he points to the epiphany of the chief Shepherd, and the unfading crown of glory He would then bestow. The younger are exhorted to submit to the elder; yea, all to be girded with humility toward one another, humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of Him who, resisting the proud, giveth grace to the humble, and will exalt us in due time. Meanwhile the cares are to be cast where once were the sins - "upon Him;" for He careth for us. We are to be sober, to be watchful; for fearfully alert is Satan, making much mischief now by his serpent wiles, as then he sought to destroy as a lion roaring upon his prey, whom resist steadfast in the faith. This implies that we have not to attack him, nor to encounter him in conflict; but simply resisting him, the issue is as certain as it is prompt - "he shall flee from you."

Thus the ground is cleared. Suffering alarms us not - the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon us. Judgment appals us not - perfect love has cast out all fear; we are perfected in love. Satan affrights us not - we are more than conquerors through Him that loveth us. And finally, "the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

W. Rickards. (Derby).

One sometimes wonders that a good part of the life of a devoted and spiritual person should be passed in mistakes and wanderings. One asks oneself how the presence of the Spirit of God, necessary to produce this life, comports with these mistakes. I say, on the contrary, that, in the government of God, it is a necessary consequence. Can God place His stamp upon that which is contrary to His thoughts? Will He refuse blessing as the answer to real devotedness, because there is error? He cannot sanction the former, nor deny Himself to the latter? What is the consequence? Blessing is found as well as tender care. He keeps the foundation even through all the wanderings; but He abandons to their natural consequences the evil and the false confidence which accompany it; otherwise He would justify evil. J. N. Darby.

The more absolute and infinite the confusion, the more Christ is Christ.