Monday, September 20, 2010

Peter's Last Will and Testament

Image:  Calvin's Farewell

I preached the third message yesterday in our ongoing series through 2 Peter titled, Make your call and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-15).  2 Peter is sometimes referred to as the apostle's "last will and testament" based on his discussion of his impending death in vv. 12-15 (cf. John 21:18-19).

In the conclusion I reflected on some of the last words we have recorded in church history from dying men (Polycarp, Luther, Calvin, etc.).  Several folk asked to have a copy of the quotes so here is part of the ending of the sermon manuscript:

As I thought about this passage, I was struck by the fact that we are hearing here the last testament of a dying apostle. The Puritan Richard Baxter said that a preacher ought to preach as a dying man to dying men. Peter is doing that here.

I also thought of how many of the great men in church history have had their final words recorded.

Some have given their last testament as martyrs. In the early church there was a pastor named Polycarp who was burned at the stake for his faith as an old man. When they told him that if he cursed Christ they would free him, he responded: “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, who hath saved me?” (taken from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs).

When Martin Luther died, it was recorded that he prayed, “Lord God, I thank you that you have willed me to be a poor man upon the earth and a beggar. I do not have home, field, possessions, or money that I relinquish. You have given me a wife and children. I give them back to you. Nourish, teach, and keep them—as you have me thus far—O Father of orphans and widows” (taken from Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry).

Just before John Calvin died, he called in the Ministers of Geneva and addressed them from his sickbed. He recounted that when he first came to Geneva “there was no reformation. All was in confusion.” He recounted his struggles, saying “I have lived in marvelous combats here.” He goes on to recount how he was saluted with mockery by those who shot of guns at his door to scare him, how he had been “hunted from this city” and fled to Strassburg, how he had been called a “scoundrel”and how dogs had been set upon him which bit his cloak and legs.

He continued by admitting, “I have had many faults which you have had to endure” and then said, “all that I have done is of no value. The wicked will seize upon that word, but I repeat that all I have done is of no value, and that I am a miserable creature. But, if I may say so, I have meant well, my faults have always displeased me, and the root of the fear of God has been in my heart. You can say that the wish has been good; and I beg you that the ill be pardoned, but if there has been good in it that you will conform to it and follow it.”

As to doctrine, Calvin added, “I have taught faithfully, and God has given me grace to write. I have done it with utmost fidelity, and have not to my knowledge corrupted or twisted a single passage of Scripture.” He ended, “I have written nothing through hatred against any one, but I have always set before me faithfully what I have thought to be for the glory of God” (from W. Walker, John Calvin, pp. 436-38].

It is said that just before John Newton died, he said, “I am sure of but two things. I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior.”

Just before Adoniram Judson died, he said, “I am willing to live a few years longer, if it should be so ordered. If otherwise, I am willing and glad to die now. I leave myself entirely in the hands of God, to be disposed of according to his holy will” (from C. Anderson, To the Golden Shore, p. 499).

And among the last words of the Apostle Peter, “Make your call and election sure!” Before your exodus (exodos, v. 15) from this earth make sure of your entrance (eisodos, v. 11) into the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.


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