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We may LEARN from hence,
[Mere morality is by no means a sufficient criterion whereby to judge of our state: we may be free from gross violations of God's law, and yet be far from yielding obedience to the Gospel. Let us then inquire whether we be obeying the Gospel by a simple dependence upon Christ, and by a spirit and temper suited to our profession? This is the test to which we must bring ourselves, since we shall be tried by it at the last day. In vain will be our morality, if Christ be not our only foundation; and in vain will be our professed adherence to Christ, if we do not adorn the Gospel by a holy conversation. Let us then examine ourselves, that we may know beforehand what our end shall be.] 2. The importance of considering our latter end
[We are ready enough to contemplate the circumstances to which we look forward in the present life; but O, how backward are we to reflect upon our latter end! Yet the events of this life are not worthy of a thought in comparison of eternity. I pray you, brethren, consider how fast your end is approaching, and what it is likely to be, an eternity of bliss in heaven, or an eternity of misery in hell? O, lose not an hour in preparing for your great account! and be careful so to pass through things temporal, that you finally lose not the things eternal ---]
THE DIFFICULTY OF SALVATION.
1 Pet. iv. 18. If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall
the ungodly and the sinner appear ? EARNESTNESS in the concerns of religion is often thought unnecessary; but the attainment of salvation is by no means easy. This appears from the representations which the Scriptures give of religion; a race, a warfare, &c.
The difficulties implied in these metaphors may well alarm the careless. With this view St. Peter suggests the awful query in the text. I. His assumption
The Apostle did not mean to express a doubt, but rather to assume a position which he deemed incontrovertible. The point he assumes is, that the righteous are saved with difficulty.
The truth of this position will appear, if it be considered that the righteous are not saved without, Deep afflictions,
[God's people are for the most part poor and afflicteda. They have much to endure on account of their religion •; and trials are for the most part necessary to their growth in grace. If they were without affliction of some kind, they would have reason to doubt whether they were God's children indeed d. Trials are to them, as the furnace to the gold, to purge them from their dross, and to fit them for the service of their God.] Severe conflicts
[None have made such high attainments, but they still have conflicts to maintain with Satan', and their indwelling corruptions 8: it is by these that God keeps them humble". The images by which vital religion is set forth (as running, wrestling, fighting,) sufficiently attest the truth of my position. As long as two principles remain within us, our conflicts must remain!] Powerful assistances
[Who can get to heaven without them, or even do anything that is good without them? The aid we need, is such as nothing but Omnipotence can supplyk: if ever we be kept at all, it must be by the power of God himself!.]
A very slight view of the fact assumed will suffice to shew us the reasonableness of, II. The appeal he founds upon it
The appeal is stronger than any mere assertion, inasmuch as it makes every man a judge in his own cause. It clearly intimates, that the perdition of the ungodly is, 1. Most certain
[The ungodly, no less than the godly, will be summoned to the judgment-seat of Christ; but the two will be separated
a Zeph. iii. 12.
Eph. i. 19, 20.
b 2 Tim. ii. 12.
c 1 Pet. i. 7.
as sheep from the goats, and widely different portions will be assigned unto them. How can it be supposed to be otherwise, when the difference of their characters is considered?
- If hell be not an abode fit for the righteous, much less is heaven a proper residence for the ungodly ---] 2. Most reasonable
[We confidently appeal even to the ungodly themselves. If such troubles as are often inflicted on the righteous be permitted by God as the salutary purgations of his friends, what shall be inflicted by God as the vindictive chastisements of his enemies ? If such things come on his friends in this state of probation, what shall come on his enemies at the time appointed for final retribution ? If such be the visitations experienced by his friends in the day of his mercy, what must his enemies expect in the day of his wrath? Verily I shall wonder if the conscience of any man be either so blind or so obdurate, as not to feel the force of this appeal. If there be such a hardened sinner, let him consult, and provide an answer to, other similar appeals to Holy Writ" --- To "die without mercy” is bad enough; but there is a “much sorer punishment” awaiting his unhappy soul.] SEE—
1. How desirable it is to ascertain your true character
[Surely it is no difficult matter to ascertain to which of the two forementioned classes you belong. Surely you may soon learn whether you are living in the daily habit of penitence, and faith, and unreserved obedience to your God. If God be true, your eternal state shall correspond with your character, whatever it may be ---]
2. What is that line of conduct which common prudence demands
[If there were no future state, you might go on in your own ways without much concern; but if repentance, faith, and obedience are essential constituents of the character of the righteous, say, whether it be wise to disregard, or even to defer them?' The world may deride a life of piety as folly; but it is true wisdom: yea, " the fear of the Lord is the very beginning of wisdom.” Let every one then seek that righteousness, without which no man shall see the Lord.]
m Ps. i. 5.
n Heb. ii. 3.
ADVICE TO THE PERSECUTED OR TEMPTED.
1 Pet. iv. 19. Wherefore let them that suffer according to the
will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
GOD has mercifully engaged to save his people at the last. They may however meet with many severe conflicts in their way. Nor are they to expect to be saved but with great difficulty. Nevertheless they may safely commit themselves to God, in hope of a happy issue out of all their trials. Hence the Apostle suggests, in a way of inference, the advice in the text.
We propose to shew,
Though all are not called to bear the cross in the same degree, yet all should be prepared to suffer, 1. In their reputation
[That " fear of God" which the Scriptures represent to be the beginning of wisdom,” the world considers as the summit of folly. However wise, learned, or discreet any man may be, he cannot escape the imputation of weakness or enthusiasm, if he will “ follow the Lord fully.” If our Lord and Master was called Beelzebub, his servants can expect no better name.] 2. In their property
[In former times the saints have frequently " suffered the loss of all things :” nor is it uncommon now for friends, and even parents, to withdraw their kindness from godly persons on account of their religion. Who does not know that eininent piety is a bar, rather than a help, to promotion ?
“ They then who would be Christ's disciples, must forsake all, and follow him."] 3. In their liberty and life
[Through the tender mercy of our God we are protected by the laws of the land: but none can tell what changes may yet arise: multitudes even in this kingdom have suffered death for Christ's sake; and, whether called to this trial or not, we should be prepared for it.]
To reconcile us to these dispositions, we proceed to shew, II. Why it is the will of God that we should suffer
God is pleased to permit it, 1. For the trial of our faith
[God can discern our graces, though we should have no opportunity to exercise them; but, if they be not called forth into act, neither have we the comfort of them, nor he the glory : hence God permits “ the fiery trial to try us,” that he may discover both to ourselves and others “what great things he has done for us.
s."] 2. For the advancement of our graces
[Our graces almost invariably languish when our outward circumstances are easy; but in seasons of difficulty they put forth themselves with strength : though Jesus needed no such stimulus, yet even he was "made perfect through sufferings ;" and it is for the accomplishment of the same end, that God has made our road to lie" through much tribulation."] 3. For the manifestation of his own glory
[The patience of the saints is a ground of astonishment to the unbelieving world ; and the supports which God administers to them fills their hearts with gratitude towards him. But what bursts of praise will resound from the myriads of his redeemed, when all the wonders of his love shall be universally and completely known !]
Satisfied with these appointments of the Deity, let us inquire, III, What our conduct should be when called to
sufferThe best of men may be brought, as it were, “ to their wit's end”But the advice in the text is the most proper that
can be given 1. Let us “ commit our souls to God's care and keeping
[We must not attempt to stand in our own strength: nothing less than God's wisdom and power can defeat the conspiracy that is formed against us: we should make him therefore the manager of our cause, and " the keeper" of our souls.]