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?uence to the fouls of men, to imagine that the gopel is all promises on God's part, and that our part is only to believe them, and to rely upon God for the performance of them, and to be very confident that he will make them good, though we do nothing else but only believe that he will do so. That the Christian religion is only a declaration of God's good will to us, without any expectation of duty from us; this is an error which one could hardly think could ever enter into any who have the liberty to read the Bible, and do attend to what they read and find there.
The three great promises of the gospel, are all very exprefly contained in our Saviour's first sermon upon the mount. There we .find the promise of blessedness often repeated; but never absolutely made, but upon certain conditions, and plainly required on our parts; as repentance, humility, righteousness, mercy, peaceableness, meekness, patience. Forgiveness of sins is likewise promised; but only to those that make a penitent acknowledgment os them, and ask forgiveness for them, and are ready to grant that forgiveness to others, which they beg of God for themselves. The gift of God's Holy Spirit is likewise there promised ; but it is upon condition of our earnest and importunate prayer to God. The gospel is every where full of precepts, enjoining duty and obedience on ovir part, as well as of promises on God's part, assuring blessings to us; nay of terrible threatnings also, if we disobey the precepts of the gospel. St. Paul gives us the sum of the gospel in very few and plain words, declaring upon what terms we may expect: that salvation wlvch the gospel offers to all men, Tit. ii. 11, n, 1 j, 14. The grace of God, which bringeth salvation hath' appeared to all men; teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we jhould live soberly, and righteoufly, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, atalous of good
.works. works. And then he zdds,'these things speak and exhort, and rebuke with all authority; intimating, that though men were very averse to this doctrine, it ought to be inculcated with great authority and earnestness, and those who opposed and despised it, to be severely rebuked; and with great reason, because the contrary doctrine does most effectually undermine and defeat the whole design of the Christian religion.
Secondly, from hence we learn, that if the promises of the gospel have not this effect upon us, to make us partakers of a divine nature, it is our owo fault, and because we are wanting to ourselves. God is- always ready to do his part, if we do not fail in ours. There is a divine power and efficacy goes along with the gospel, to make way for the entertainment of it in the hearts of men, where they put no bar and obstacle to it. But if men will resist the motions of God's blessed Spirit, and quench the light of it, and obstinately hold out against the force of truth ; God will withdraw his grace arid Holy Spirit from them. The gospel would raise us to the perfection of all virtue and goodness, and the promises of it are admirably fitted to relieve the infirmities and weakness of human nature, and to renew us after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness; to take us off from fin and vice, and to allure us to goodness, and to assist and encourage us in the practice of it: But if we will not comply with the gracious design of God in the gospel, and suffer these promises to have their due influence and efficacy upon us; we wilfully deprive ourselves of all the Diessings and benefits of it, we reject the counsel of God against ourselves, and receive the grace of God in vain; and by rejecting and despising his promises, we provoke him to execute his threatnings upon us.
Thirdly and lastly, If the promises of the Christian religion are apt in their own nature to work this great effect upon us, to make us like to God, and to bring us to so near a resemblance of the divine perfections, to make us good, and just, and merciful, and patient, and holy in all manner of conversation, to Purge us from our iniquities, and to make us
a fea peculiar and excellent people, zealous of good works; I fay, if this be the proper tendency of the gospel, and the promises of it, how doth this upbraid the degenerate state of the Christian world at this day, which does so abound in all kind of wickedness and impiety! so that we may cry out as he did, upon reading the gospel;prose fib authoc non est evangelium ; aut nos non sumus,evange\ici; "Either this is not the go"fpel which we read, and the Christian religion which "we profess; or we are no Christians." We are so far from that pitch of goodness and virtue which the Christian religion is apt - to raise men to, and which the Apostle here calls the divine nature, that a great part of us are degenerated into beasts and devils, wallowing in abominable and filthy lusts, indulging ourselves in those devilish passions of malice and hatred, of strife and discord, of revenge and cruelty, of sedition and disturbance of the publick peace to that degree, as if the grace of God had never appeared to us to teach us the contrary. And therefore it concerns all those who have the face to call themselves Christians, to demean themselves at another rate, and for the honour of their religion, and the salvation of their own fouls, to have their conversation as becometh the gospel of Christ; and by departing from the vicious practices of this present evil world, to do what in them lies to prevent the judgments of God which hang over us; or if they cannot do that, to save themselves from this anteward generation.
The support osgoo.i men, under theii sufferings for religion.
i Peter 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.
The first sermon on this test.
THIS epistle was written by St. Peter, who was the Apostle of the circumcision, to the dispersed Jews, who were newly converted to Christianity; and the design of it is to confirm and establish them in the profession of it; and to instruct: them how they ought to demean themselves toward the Heathen or Gentiles among whorrv.they livedj and more particularly to arm and prepare them for those sufferings and persecutions, which he foretells: would shortly overtake them for the profession of Christianity, that when they should happen, they might not be surprised and startled at them, as if some strange and unexpected thing were come upon them; at the izth verse of this chapter, beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you; that is, do not wonder, and be not astonished at it; as ;/ some strange thing happened unto you.
And then he instructs them more particularly, how they ought to behave themselves under those trials and sufferings, when they should happen; not only with patience, which men ought to exercise under all kinds of sufferings, upon wnat account and cause soever; but with joy and chearfulness; considering the glorious example and reward of them, ver. 13.
Vol. V. P But 'But rejoice, in as much as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings: that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy: And at the 14th verse he tells them, that besides the encouragement of so great an example, and so glorious a reward, they should be supported and assisted in a very extraordinary manner by the Spirit of God resting upon them in a glorious manner, as a testimony of the divine power and presence with them: ver. 14. If ye be reproached for the name of Chrifi, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you; or as it is in the best copies, for the Spirit of glory and of power, even the Spirit of God resteth upon you; that is, the glorious power of the divine Spirit is present with you, to comfort and bear up your spirits under these sufferings. But then he cautions them to take great care, that their sufferings be for a good cause, and a good conscience; ver. 15. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil-doer (that is, as an offender in any kind against human laws, made to preserve .the peace and good order of the world) or as a busy body in other mens matters; that is, as a pragmatical person, that meddles out of his own sphere, to the disquiet and disturbance of human society- for to suffer upon any os these accounts, would be matter of shame and trouble, but not of joy and comfort; but if they suffered upon account ot the profession of Christianity, this would be no cause ;of shame and reproach to them; but they ought rather to give God thanks for calling them to suffer in so good a cause, and upon so glorious an account, ver. 16. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian (if that be his only crime) let himnot be asham'ed, but let him glorify God on this behalf; for the time is come, that judgment must begin at the house of God; that is, the wife and just providence of God hath so ordered it at this time, for very good reasons and ends, that the first calamities and sufferings should fall upon Christians, the peculiar people and church of God, for their trial, and a testimony of the truth of that religion, which God was now planting in the world: Ani if it first begin at us (that