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Commentary on 1 Peter, Persecution, and the “Court of Providence”


From a commentary recommendation I once came across in the comments at Challies’ blog, I have been reading through Robert Leighton’s “A Practical Commentary on 1 Peter,” a classic 17th century work available on Kindle and elsewhere (1st two chapters at Gracegems), now nearing the end of 1 Peter 4. Though the language is 17th century English, the Kindle version occasionally has transcription mistakes, and the section on baptism (in 1 Peter 3) gets into too much paedobaptist Covenant Theology, overall this is a good detailed, devotional commentary on 1 Peter, a book I had wanted to study for its content on our daily life and dealing with persecution. This topic I see as also related to many things I have read from Charles Spurgeon, and a few previous blog posts (see this post regarding a Spurgeon sermon, this Spurgeon account of the wife with an unbelieving husband, also this one).

Throughout, the contrast between true believers and those who have an appearance of religion (but only superficial, outward) is well-defined, pointing out the true inner joy and thoughts of the believer, versus the lack of such understanding amongst the outward professors—and thus what causes them to scorn the real Christian. Continued mention is made of how outsiders think, their lives focused on “fun” and worldly entertainment, versus the believer’s perspective that simply has different tastes, differing ideas of what is fun and enjoyable. Consider this excerpt:

The Christian and the carnal man are most wonderful to each other. The one wonders to see the other walk so strictly, and deny himself to those carnal liberties which the most take, and take for so necessary, that they think they could not live without them. And the Christian thinks it strange that men should be so bewitched, and still remain children in the vanity of their turmoil, wearying and humoring themselves from morning to night, running after stories and fancies, ever busy doing nothing; wonders that the delights of earth and sin can so long entertain and please men… the ungodly wonder far more at him (the Christian), not knowing the inward cause of his different choice and way.

And

Oh! How much worth is it, and how doth it endear the heart to God, to have found Him sensibly present in the times of trouble, refreshing the soul with dews of spiritual comfort, in the midst of the flames of fiery trial.

Along with this reading, lately I have often considered what Spurgeon called the “court of providence,” as in his sermon #579  about the different ways that God works things out in our lives – in our lives today, with equivalent examples from scripture. The “court of providence” includes times when God raises up people as the means for deliverance (for example, Jeremiah in the cistern, delivered by Ebedmelech); sometimes by silencing enemies, or by raising up friends for them (Joseph in Egypt, so frequently shown favor in the eyes of men; also Ruth with Boaz, the infant Moses, and David’s help from Jonathan).

The Christian may expect that in the course of providence, when he meets with trouble, God will raise up for him at different times, and in unexpected quarters, persons who will take an interest in him, and be the means of working out his deliverance. God sits at the helm of providence, and when the vessel is almost on the rock, He can pilot it into the deep waters again; and when His servants have been obliged by the tempest to reef their sails, He knows how, as the Master of the seas, to change the winds to a gale so favorable that with all sails spread, they can fly before the gale to the desired haven. … Why, it could only have been because God has a way of touching human hearts and making them friendly to His own people! He pleads the cause of His servants. He does not violate the wills of their enemies, but He wisely turns those wills into the channel of friendship.

Reflecting on Spurgeon’s observations here, and other general teachings from Spurgeon, I have become more aware of the little events in my own life, the little kindnesses in which God shows favor. Well did Spurgeon often say it, that some will experience the trial out in the world, in the workplace, while others experience the trial in one’s own house (reference Micah 7:6); yet in God’s mercy, in such cases that one is viewed favorably and experiences relative calm in the workplace.  And in especially trying situations come amazing incidents of God’s providence; the one who resolves that routine auto maintenance can be done on Monday (instead of taking the car to the service shop on Sunday afternoon–following the precept of honoring the Lord’s day), experiences violent reaction at home–but the event works out amazingly well during Monday’s lunch-hour: the shop worker, after saying the wait is two hours, then moves that person’s car to the front of the line; and providentially, a fellow employee is also at the service place, recognizes the other person, and they have a nice conversation while waiting at the auto shop.

Leighton’s commentary on 1 Peter, and this frequent theme in Spurgeon’s preaching, are both helpful to understanding the experience of trials and persecutions in daily life–for relating these points to real-life experiences and the way God shows mercy and kindness to the believer in the midst of such events.

 

 

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  1. November 18, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    Thank you for this review of Robert Leighton’s “A Practical Commentary on 1 Peter,”

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