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the promises of God: whereas they must first take to themselves the promises of God as sinners; and then, through their influence upon the soul, obtain a conformity to the Divine image. “God has given to us exceeding great and precious promises, that by them we may be made partakers of the Divine nature*." Hence the Apostle says, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness, both of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of Gody.” Adopt this method, then: look to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, and “lay hold on him as your sure hope and refuge." First receive him in all the freeness and all the fulness of his salvation; then shall you attain the holiness you desire; and be able to say with the Apostle, “We, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord ?."]
x 2 Pet. i. 4.
y 2 Cor. vii. 1.
2 2 Cor. iji. 18.
THE NECESSITY OF HOLY FEAR.
1 Pet. i. 17. If ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.
CHRISTIANS possess many privileges by means of their relation to God; yet it is not their privileges, but their practical improvement of them, that will determine their state in the eternal world. They are called to be holy after the example of their God; and they must be conformed to his image, if they would be partakers of his glory. There will be no more partiality shewn to them than to others in the day of judgment. God will determine the fate of all by their actions; and the condition for which they are meet, shall be the condition allotted them to all eternity. St. Peter, inculcating the need of holy fear, insists upon it particularly as conducing to fit us for that strict account to which we shall all be very shortly called. In discoursing on his words we shall shew, I. The impartiality of the future judgment
The children of God maintain communion with God as their Father in Christ
[The Apostle speaks of Christians as “ obedient children;" and as calling upon the Father for a supply of their daily wants. This is the privilege of all true Christians; "a spirit of adoption is given them, that they may cry, Abba, Father;" and, because they are children, they may expect to receive all the glory of heaven as their inheritance -]
Nevertheless they will experience no partiality in the day of judgment
[Among men it is but too common for parents to feel an undue bias in concerns relating to their children. But God has established one mode of procedure for all. His written law is the standard to which every thing shall be referred. The principles from which our actions flowed, the manner in which they were performed, and the end for which they were done, will be minutely investigated, and a sentence passed upon us according to their real quality. There will be no difference in this respect between Jew or Gentile, rich or poor; nor will any regard be shewn to men's professions: it will be to no purpose to plead, “ that they had Abraham to their Father," or that they had “cast out devils in the name of Christ;" the one inquiry will be, Were ye holy? and according as this appears, their state will be for ever fixed.]
Interested as we are in the event of that day, let us inquire into, II. The influence which this consideration should
have upon usGod requires us to pass our short span of life in fear
(We are “ sojourners in this world, as all our fathers were. It is but a short time that any of us have to live, and then we shall be removed to our long home. The present state is a state of probation, a moment allotted us to prepare for eternity. Under such circumstances we should be “ working out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Not that we should indulge a servile dread of God as a hard master, and a vindictive judge, but a holy reverential fear of offending him, and a tender concern to please him in all things. This is “ the fear in which we should walk all the day long."]
Nor can any thing tend more to produce this fear in us than the consideration now before us
(Shall I be judged according to my works? Will every action, word, and thought, be weighed in the balance of the sanctuary? Will all my motives be inspected by Him, who “ searcheth the heart, and weigheth the spirits ?” Surely I have need to fear, lest some hidden abomination lurk within me, and lest I should be “ speaking peace to my soul when there is no peace.” I need be studious to please him, whose favour or displeasure are of such importance to my soul. If I must stand or fall for eternity, it becomes me to redouble my care.] Now, methinks, you will say, 'Give me some SPECIAL
DIRECTIONS, that I may know how to carry into effect the Apostle's advice. This I will endea
vour to do in four particulars. 1. Be watchful against all occasions of sin
[Our Lord has taught us to "pray lest we enter into temptation;" for in temptation how rarely do we retain our integrity! Let not those pretend to fear God, who needlessly expose themselves to the assaults of Satan. If we would “keep our garments clean," we must be careful where, and with whom we walk. Does the command to come out from the world" appear severe? it is not severe, but merciful, and necessary. If I bade you not go where the plague was raging, would you account that severe? May God enable all of you carefully to obey it, that you may escape infection, and live!)
2. Reflect frequently on the strictness of that scrutiny which we must undergo
[When tempted to sin, let us not ask, What will the world say? but, How will this appear in God's eyes? How will this affect my eternal state? Apply this thought to your duties as well as to your temptations; How will this service appear when brought to the touchstone of God's law? If this be done, too many of us will have to rank their services among their greatest sins.]
3. Apply continually to the blood of Christ for pardon
[However circumspect we be, our feet will contract some defilement in this polluted world; and "if Christ wash us not, we can have no part with him.” Indeed our very tears need to be washed, and our repentances to be repented of: nor is there any fountain but that of the Redeemer's blood, that can ever cleanse us. There, however, "sins even of a crimson die may be made white as snow." Let there then be no hour wherein we do not bathe in that fountain, lest sin be found upon us in the day that we give up account to God.]
4. Be much in prayer for the direction and assistance of the Holy Spirit,
[In vain will be all our fear and caution, if God do not both direct and uphold us: if he leave us for one moment, we fall; “without him we can do nothing." Let us then be often praying, “ Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” Thus shall we escape the snares that are laid for our feet, and " be preserved blameless unto his heavenly kingdom."]
REDEMPTION FROM A VAIN CONVERSATION.
1 Pet. i. 18, 19, Ye know that ye were not redeemed with
corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers ; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
THE Christian's duty is by no means easy to be performed. It requires the exercise of much firmness and self-denial. The inspired writers, aware of this, enforce it by every consideration that can influence our minds. In the passage before us the Apostle is recommending an holy fear and jealousy lest we should be drawn back into the love of this present world. He first urges this duty from a regard to the impartial tribunal of God”, and then from the very intent of Christ's death. This latter and most powerful argument calls for our attention at this time. To illustrate it we shall consider, I. The extent of man's redemption
The “ conversation" of men in all ages and in all places has been the same
[Different customs indeed have obtained in different countries: but all have walked after the imagination of their own hearts: they have prohibited such things as they thought injurious to the welfare of society, but left themselves at liberty to consult their own inclinations in every thing else. Their practices in time formed a kind of law. What was sanctioned by one generation was followed by another.
a ver. 17.
And the “conversation received by tradition from their fathers” was that which was adopted by every succeeding age.]
It is almost superfluous to observe that such conversation has been “ vain”.
[Let any one ask himself what has his past conversation profited him? Has it given him any solid satisfaction ? No; the remembrance of it cannot at all assuage the anguish of a mind bowed down with affliction, much less of a mind burthened with a sense of guilt. Has it brought honour to God, or any real benefit to mankind ? It has been the means of almost shutting out the knowledge of God from the world; but has never honoured him in any single instance: and as for mankind, if it have in any respect advanced their temporal interests, it has blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts, and encouraged them to walk in the broad way that leadeth to destruction.]
From this however the true Christian has been redeemed
[It is not only from hell that the Christian is delivered, but from sin. He once indeed “walked according to the course of this world (which is the devil's course) fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind even as others :" but now he has seen the vanity of such a life: he proposes to himself another pattern, even Jesus, "who hath set us an example, that we should follow his steps:" he is no longer “conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of his mind.” By the cross of Christ the world is become lothesome to him, even as a crucified objecto: while he is in it indeed, he performs the duties of it in a conscientious manner : but he goes into it only, as a physician into an hospital, from a sense of duty, and for the good of others; and is glad enough to retire from it to a purer atmosphere.]
He endeavours to keep before his eyes, II. The price paid for him
Slaves and captives are redeemed with silver and gold; but gold was of no value in the redemption of our souls
[The whole world was not a sufficient price for one soul: it could not atone for our sin or reconcile an offended God: nor could it at all avail to change our carnal dispositions.
b Eph. ii. 2, 3.
c Gal. vi. 14.