Dedicated To The Men of God Who Preach the Word of God As It
Is To Men As They Are
"Preach The Word"
The Christian Pilgrim
(Notes on the Pilgrim Life)
I Peter 2 . 11, 1 2
IT is with a wealth of emotion that the Apostle
approaches a subject familiar to him and to his race .
This dispersed people, this injured nation had known
more of restless pilgrimage than any other section o f
`Dearly beloved,' he writes, with a heart stirred i n
its deep places with affection for those mixed communities,
living precariously on the edge of intimidating
events. His strong, rugged nature had been refined to
this gentleness : `Dearly beloved, I beseech you .' This
is the essential tone of the Gospel . There was a day
when Peter trusted other weapons of advance : fire and
sword were in his mind. But he had learned a more
excellent way. Not by weapons of force but by winsom e
words is Christ best served, and men are chiefly won.
The verses suggest a succession of portraits .
There is a potrait of the Christian pilgrim in (v. I1, 12).
`I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain
from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.' These are
old words whose meaning his people would immediately
understand . They were as exiles in a land not their
own. Though settled in cities and communities they
had ever the heart of the sojourner . Abraham set the
idea in the mind and suited the language to it . Later
came this appeal to the memory : `Show kindness to the
stranger for thou wast a stranger in the land of Egypt .'
The pilgrim instinct is older than the Christian faith .
Word pictures of old time caravans and the sound o f
camel bells haunt imagination and memory in the readin g
of the Old Testament . The pilgrim idea, as one aspect
of the Christian life, has now and again fallen int o
obscurity and almost into disrepute: it had been over -
stressed until it lost touch with reality : but it returns
ever and again because it expresses something inheren t
in the soul of man.
The question has been asked, Why do people travel ?
The answer has been given in three typical words :
business, pleasure, education. But there are other
reasons: love, adventure, hunger, poverty, freedom, faith.
The simple truth is that we are wayfarers here :
travellers not settlers . This is not the native country of
the soul. There is a voice we cannot silence, a pull we
cannot finally resist: it is the magnetic influence o f
something hid behind the ranges, something beyond fa r
horizons, that lures us, draws us, the homing instinct of
something better than this, a divine homesickness fo r
some `land o' the leal' towards which our feet faithfull y
The secret of Shakespeare has been expressed in this
way: `I think he was one of those men who live in this
world as if they did not belong to it . . . who seem to
have something intangible and remote in their nature ,
and to retain youthfulness as if they were exiles from
some country beyond the ravages of time .' This is just
another way of saying that the pilgrim instinct wa s
strong within him .
That instinct may appear as a resistless restlessness :
I must go down to the sea again,
To the lonely sea and the sky :
And all I ask is a tall ship
And a star to steer her by.
It may be the consciousness of a journey, the pursuit o f
a dream :
We travel from dawn to dusk, till the day is past and by ,
Seeking the holy city beyond the rim of the sky.
Some sense of exile may prompt the move . There may
be something alien to the spirit in the contemporar y
scene, however pleasant it may be . The soul does not
belong to these things ; they are hints of something stil l
more wonderful to which the soul does belong. It is a
longing for the native country : `Oh, to be in England,
now that April's here!' And not so far from that, as i t
may seem, is the language of the best pilgrim of us all :
`I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which i s
far better .'
Our coming there will not be an intrusion : it will be
the fulfilment of a promise : `Where I am, there shall ye
be also.' It will be the realization of a divinely implanted
dream. It will be home, for it will be the Father's House .
Now all this has certain implications, certain duties
and obligations. If you are on your way to a better
country, it is to be expected that your daily life will justify
the hopes you cherish. `I beseech you, as strangers and
pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war agains t
the soul.' Many of these people would remember that
when their fathers came out of Egypt they carried with
them some treasured enrichments of the land they were
leaving. These things became a snare, lusts that warred
against the soul . One of the significant graves that marked
the route of their travel was called Kibroth Hataavah, the
graves of lust. But there were lusts that survived. You
know how it happens. We lose our tempers, but they
always return! When we think we have conquered som e
indulgence, it returns and laughs our illusion to scorn.
Here is the Apostle's safeguarding austerity : `I keep
under my body, lest after I have preached to others,
I myself should be a castaway.' Esau, Samson, David
and the rest crashed in their high places and left a
spotted history behind .
But the pilgrim life is not all restraint and constant
war with sin. It has the incentive of happier constraint ,
the confidence that evil can be so subdued, the victor y
can be so successfully won that men will glorify Go d
(v . 12). It is much to be able to convert men's opinion ,
so that those who once `spoke against you as evildoers ,
begin to glorify God' because they see in you victoriou s
In the environment of pagan „society, it was no simple
matter to live pure, to stand where so many had fallen ,
to be straight and clean when this was against the prevailing
fashion. When men see it, more often than we
suspect, they think of God
Sermon From Dr. John Macbeath