on 1-peter 3 :15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts - To sanctify God may signify to offer him the praises due to his grace, but as to sanctify literally signifies to make holy, it is impossible that God should be thus sanctified. We have often already seen that ἁγιαζω signifies to separate from earth, that is, from any common use or purpose, that the thing or person thus separated may be devoted to a sacred use. Perhaps we should understand Peter's words thus: Entertain just notions of God; of his nature, power, will, justice, goodness, and truth. Do not conceive of him as being actuated by such passions as men; separate him in your hearts from every thing earthly, human, fickle, rigidly severe, or capriciously merciful. Consider that he can neither be like man, feel like man, nor act like man. Ascribe no human passions to him, for this would desecrate not sanctify him. Do not confine him in your conceptions to place, space, vacuity, heaven, or earth; endeavor to think worthily of the immensity and eternity of his nature, of his omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Avoid the error of the heathens, who bound even their Dii Majores, their greatest gods, by fate, as many well-meaning Christians do the true God by decrees; conceive of him as infinitely free to act or not act, as he pleases. Consider the goodness of his nature; for goodness, in every possible state of perfection and infinitude, belongs to him. Ascribe no malevolence to him; nor any work, purpose, or decree, that implies it: this is not only a human passion, but a passion of fallen man. Do not suppose that he can do evil, or that he can destroy when he might save; that he ever did, or ever can, hate any of those whom he made in his own image and in his own likeness, so as by a positive decree to doom them, unborn, to everlasting perdition, or, what is of the same import, pass them by without affording them the means of salvation, and consequently rendering it impossible for them to be saved. Thus endeavor to conceive of him; and, by so doing, you separate him from all that is imperfect, human, evil, capricious, changeable, and unkind. Ever remember that he has wisdom without error, power, without limits, truth without falsity, love without hatred, holiness without evil, and justice without rigour or severity on the one hand, or capricious tenderness on the other. In a word, that he neither can be, say, purpose, or do, any thing that is not infinitely just, holy, wise, true, and gracious; that he hates nothing that he has made; and has so loved the world, the whole human race, as to give his only-begotten Son to die for them, that they might not perish, but have everlasting life. Thus sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and you will ever be ready to give a reason of the hope that is in you to every serious and candid inquirer after truth. Most religious systems and creeds are incapable of rational explanation, because founded on some misconception of the Divine nature.
"They set at odds heaven's jarring attributes,
And with one excellence another wound."
The system of humanizing God, and making him, by our unjust conceptions of him, to act as ourselves would in certain circumstances, has been the bane of both religion and piety; and on this ground infidels have laughed us to scorn. It is high time that we should no longer know God after the flesh; for even if we have known Jesus Christ after the flesh, we are to know him so no more.
What I have written above is not against any particular creed of religious people, it is against any or all to whom it may justly apply, it may even be against some portions of my own; for even in this respect I am obliged daily to labor to sanctify the Lord God in my heart, to abstract him from every thing earthly and human, and apprehend him as far as possible in his own essential nature and attributes through the light of his Spirit and the medium of his own revelation. To act thus requires no common effort of soul: and just apprehensions of this kind are not acquired without much prayer, much self-reflection, much time, and much of the grace and mercy of God.
Instead of τον Θεον, God, ABC, four others, both the Syriac, Erpen's Arabic, the Coptic, Vulgate, and Armenian, with Clement and Fulgentius, read τον Χριστον, Christ. Sanctify Christ in your hearts. This reading is at least equal to the other in the authorities by which it is supported; but which was written by St. Peter we know not.
A reason of the hope - An account of your hope of the resurrection of the dead and eternal life in God's glory. This was the great object of their hope, as Christ was the grand object of their faith.
The word απολογια, which we translate answer, signifies a defense; from this we have our word apology, which did not originally signify an excuse for an act, but a defense of that act. The defences of Christianity by the primitive fathers are called apologies. See the note on Acts 21:1.
With meekness and fear - Several excellent MSS. add the word αλλα, but, here, and it improves the sense considerably: Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, But with meekness and fear. Do not permit your readiness to answer, nor the confidence you have in the goodness of your cause, to lead you to answer pertly or superciliously to any person; defend the truth with all possible gentleness and fear, lest while you are doing it you should forget his presence whose cause you support, or say any thing unbecoming the dignity and holiness of the religion which you have espoused, or inconsistent with that heavenly temper which the Spirit of your indwelling Lord must infallibly produce.
on 1-peter 3 :15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts - In Isaiah Isa 8:13 this is, "sanctify the Lord of hosts himself;" that is, in that connection, regard him as your Protector, and be afraid of him, and not of what man can do. The sense in the passage before us is, "In your hearts, or in the affections of the soul, regard the Lord God as holy, and act toward him with that confidence which a proper respect for one so great and so holy demands. In the midst of dangers, be not intimidated; dread not what man can do, but evince proper reliance on a holy God, and flee to him with the confidence which is due to one so glorious." This contains, however, a more general direction, applicable to Christians at all times. It is, that in our hearts we are to esteem God as a holy being, and in all our deportment to act toward him as such. The object of Peter in quoting the passage from Isaiah, was to lull the fears of those whom he addressed, and preserve them from any alarms in view of the persecutions to which they might be exposed; the trials which would be brought upon them by people. Thus, in entire accordance with the sentiment as employed by Isaiah, he says, "Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts." That is, "in order to keep the mind calm in trials, sanctify the Lord in your hearts; regard him as your holy God and Saviour; make him your refuge. This will allay all your fears, and secure you from all that you dread." The sentiment of the passage then is, that the sanctifying of the Lord God in our hearts, or proper confidence in him as a holy and righteous God, will deliver us from fear. As this is a very important sentiment for Christians, it may be proper, in order to a just exposition of the passage, to dwell a moment on it:
I. What is meant by our sanctifying the Lord God? It cannot mean to make him holy, for he is perfectly holy, whatever may be our estimate of him; and our views of him evidently can make no change in his character. The meaning therefore must be, that we should regard him as holy in our estimate of him, or in the feelings which we have toward him. This may include the following things:
(1) To esteem or regard him as a holy being, in contradistinction from all those feelings which rise up in the heart against him - the feelings of complaining and murmuring under his dispensations, as if he were severe and harsh; the feelings of dissatisfaction with his government, as if it were partial and unequal; the feelings of rebellion, as if his claims were unfounded or unjust.
(2) to desire that he may be regarded by others as holy, in accordance with the petition in the Lord's prayer, Matthew 6:9, "hallowed be thy name;" that is, "let thy name be esteemed to be holy everywhere;" a feeling in opposition to that which is regardless of the honor which he may receive in the world. When we esteem a friend, we desire that all due respect should be shown him by others; we wish that all who know him should have the same views that we have; we are sensitive to his honor, just in proportion as we love him.
(3) to act toward him as holy: that is, to obey his laws, and acquiesce in all his requirements, as if they were just and good. This implies:
(a) that we are to speak of him as holy, in opposition to the language of disrespect and irreverence so common among mankind;
(b) that we are to flee to him in trouble, in contradistinction from withholding our hearts from him, and flying to other sources of consolation and support.
II. What is it to do this in the heart? Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; that is, in contradistinction from a mere external service. This may imply the following things:
(1) In contradistinction from a mere intellectual assent to the proposition that he is holy. Many admit the doctrine that God is holy into their creeds, who never suffer the sentiment to find its way to the heart. All is right on this subject in the articles of their faith; all in their hearts may be murmuring and complaining. In their creeds he is spoken of as just and good; in their hearts they regard him as partial and unjust, as severe and stern, as unamiable and cruel.
(2) in contradistinction From a mere outward form of devotion. In our prayers, and in our hymns, we, of course, "ascribe holiness to our Maker." But how much of this is the mere language of form! How little does the heart accompany it! And even in the most solemn and sublime ascriptions of praise, how often are the feelings of the heart entirely at variance with what is expressed by the lips! What would more justly offend us, than for a professed friend to approach us with the language of friendship, when every feeling of his heart belied his expressions, and we knew that his honeyed words were false and hollow!
III. Such a sanctifying of the Lord in our hearts will save us from fear. We dread danger, we dread sickness, we dread death, we dread the eternal world. We are alarmed when our affairs are tending to bankruptcy; we are alarmed when a friend is sick and ready to die; we are alarmed if our country is invaded by a foe, and the enemy already approaches our dwelling. The sentiment in the passage before us is, that if we sanctify the Lord God with proper affections, we shall be delivered from these alarms, and the mind will be calm:
(1) The fear of the Lord, as Leighton (in loc.) expresses it, "as greatest, overtops and nullifies all lesser fears: the heart possessed with this fear hath no room for the other." It is an absorbing emotion; making everything else comparatively of no importance. If we fear God, we have nothing else to fear. The highest emotion which there can be in the soul is the fear of God; and when that exists, the soul will be calm amidst all that might tend otherwise to disturb it. "What time I am afraid," says David, "I will trust in thee," Psalm 56:3. "We are not, careful," said Daniel and his friends, "to answer thee, O king. Our God can deliver us; but if not, we will not worship the image," Daniel 3:16.
(2) if we sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, there will be a belief that he will do all things well, and the mind will be calm. However dark his dispensations may be, we shall be assured that everything is ordered aright. In a storm at sea, a child may be calm when he feels that his father is at the helm, and assures him that there is no danger. In a battle, the mind of a soldier may be calm, if he has confidence in his commander, and he assures him that all is safe. So in anything, if we have the assurance that the best thing is done that can be, that the issues will all be right, the mind will be calm. But in this respect the highest confidence that can exist, is that which is reposed in God.
(3) there will be the assurance that all is safe. "Though I walk," says David, "through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me," Psalm 23:4. "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble: therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof," Psalm 46:1-3. Let us ever then regard the Lord as holy, just, and good. Let us flee to him in all the trials of the present life, and in the hour of death repose on his arm. Every other source of trust will fail; and whatever else may be our reliance, when the hour of anguish approaches, that reliance will fail, and that which we dreaded will overwhelm us. Nor riches, nor honors, nor earthly friends, can save us from those alarms, or be a security for our souls when "the rains descend, and the floods come, and the winds blow" upon us.
on 1-peter 3 :15
3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts - Have an holy fear, and a full trust in his wise providence. The hope - Of eternal life. With meekness - For anger would hurt your cause as well as your soul. And fear - A filial fear of offending God, and a jealousy over yourselves, lest ye speak amiss.