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tament;, and partly to exhort them to the practice of godliness, and a conversation suitable to the gospel.
1. This he doth more generally, as to sundry duties incumbent on all believers, which we need not now insist on, chap. ii. 13.
2. More particularly, as to some duties that concerned them in their special relations, callings, and conditions ; as of subjects to magistrates, servants to masters, husbands and wives mutually to each other, of sufferers to their oppressors and persecutors, ministers towards their people, of the younger sort towards their elders, intermixing several duties of concernment to all.
We shall only take notice of what lies before us in the former part of this third chapter.
The subject matter, about which the apostle treats in the beginning of this chapter, is the duties of husbands and wives to each other; for such is our weakness, if not wickedness, that we need direction in every condition. Wives, first, must see to discharge their duties. Two are here particularized.
I. Wives are to be in subjection to their own husbands, yea, though they were unbelievers, that so they might be won hereby ; that when they saw such fruits and effects of the word in their wives, they might be induced to a liking of it. This is instructive to us. Hast thou a careless husband, that does not regard the great business of religion ? Look to thy own duty; it may be, by thy regular and conscientious walking thou mayest gain him. Copy over the sermon in thy life, that he may tead it there, if he will not hear it: words will not do, thou hast tried ; let thy gospel-becoming conversation read him a lecture; let thy religious actions speak so much the louder ; thou knowest not what works may do.
II. Here is a particular direction to teach them how they must be adorned. And that
1. Negatively; ver. 3, “Whose adorning, let it not be,” &c. He doth not absolutely condemn all kinds of ornaments, but that which is excessive, (say commentators,) and above persons? rank and condition in the world, and which they spend too much time about; he taxes that which springs from pride, vanity, &c. or tends to the provoking or cherishing of it; that which doth bespeak an unchaste heart, or may cause scandal to others, especially when this is accompanied with the neglect of inward beauty and spiritual ornaments.
If the gallants of our day would look more into this glass, and less into others, it is probable, the frame of their souls would be more conformable to the rule of the word ; yea, and their bodies too; but it may be, many never look at it, or but
very seldom, for they seem to miss it very strangely. It is true, it is ordinary in this case, rather to observe what others do than what the word of God says; and if some persons' inward man had been more strictly looked after, and the outward man less, their souls had been more clean and pure; yea, they had spent that time about them, which they might very well have spared as to the body.
Well look to it, however, that there be not thread-bare souls under silken garments. Be careful lest external, gaudy dresses, be only marks to cover unclean, polluted hearts. It avails not to have the outside curiously adorned and decked, so as nothing can be espied amiss, if the inside be odious in the sight of God.
2. Positively : “But let it be the hidden man of the heart," ver. 4. Would you be curious and critical in adorning any thing? Let it be the inward man ; spiritual ornaments are to be preferred. Let none say, these are low, mean things, and will not set them off; they are mistaken, this would be to contradict the apostle, for he tells us, that a meek and quiet spirit is an ornament; yea, and what is more, it “is, in the sight of God, of great price." Divine graces, will make you more truly amiable, than outward, adventitious finery.
But some, we do not say all, seek more to please themselves and a vain world than God; who had rather be the objects of others' admiration, than have divine approbation : hence it is, that they take more pains on a Lord's day morning about their bodies, and that needlessly, than they do upon their knees for their souls. But say some, what ? would
have us out of fashion ? No. This inward adorning was the old fashion, and the best, see ver. 5. And, it is probable, that antiquity here, is an argument for the excellency of it; it is a fashion which new modes will scarcely amend.
He comes then to acquaint husbands with something of their duty ; “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge," &c. ver. 7, either, say some upon the place, according to the knowledge of the divine will which by the gospel they had obtained ; or, prudently and wisely, as becometh those that understand their duty. They must give their wives honour, because the weaker vessels, and joint heirs of the grace of life. Before, wives were to be subject in another sense, but here, they stand upon a level with their husbands, there being neither male nor female in Christ, one being accepted by him as well as another; also, that their “ prayers be not hindered.”
Having dismissed that subject, he comes in ver. 8, to acquaint them, that, as brethren, they were to maintain and nourish mutual love and regard for one another : “ Finally, be ye all
of one mind,” &c. An excellent lesson for church members. “ Be of one mind,” as to essentials at least, in the great and fundamental articles of faith; and, as much as can be, in accidentals, and circumstantials too. Work goes on a great deal better, when persons are like minded, in the circumstantials of religion; yet it is not absolutely, and indispensably necessary, neither is it to be expected that it will be so, in minute punctilios; but there should be a mutual forbearance, for all that love as brethren. Though there be some different apprehensions and various sentiments, in those matters that are eccentric from fundamental truths, let not this alienate one anothers' affections ; for then nothing will go on to purpose. We have seen what a flame hath been kindled in the world, by an overheated zeal for the appendages of religion; many have been so eager about fringes and phylacteries,
that they have neglected the substance, which hath been no little support to Satan's kingdom, and no little hindrance to the building of God's house. O that the enemy of souls might be no longer successful this way amongst us! Let us endeavour to avoid every thing that might hinder an amicable accommodation amongst christian brethren.
In the next place, the apostle comes to shew them, how, as distressed and afflicted ones, they should demean themselves towards oppressors and persecutors; ver. 9, “ Not rendering evil,” &c.
And hereof he renders sundry reasons: namely, because hereto “ they were called," and hereby they “should inherit a blessing ;" which he confirms by a testimony of David, promising life and good days, to those that “eschew evil and do good, and threatening them that do contrary, ver. 10, 11, 12, cited out of Psalm xxxiv. Another reason or motive, to provoke them to such conduct towards their persecutors, is, because this would be for their security, as in the words of the text. “ And who is he that will harm you, if,” &c. The interrogation implies a vehement negation. “Who is he?" None will do it, nay, indeed none can do it ; either they will be overcome and convinced by your good deeds, or, if not, should they go on doing their worst, it will be but some outward prejudice; they may do much against you, but it will be no real detriment when all things are cast up. You may meet with difficulties and discouragements, with disturbances and divertisements ; yet, when all is summed up together, in the conclusion it will appear that you are no losers. Let your persecutors do what they will, mind you your work ; it will be the best course that you can take to keep on in the path of piety, for there will be your security. Doctrine.
-The way of real sanctity is really a way of safety.
Or, you may add, as being somewhat more agreeable to the coherence; in suffering times, the way of real sanctity is really a way of safety.
We shall endeavour to prosecute the observation,
First, By way of explication. And here our province will be, to open the nature of this real sanctity, or holiness, which is the same.
And observe there are two descriptions of holiness, both of which are requisite. The one in the principle, this is in the heart. The other in the practice, this is in the life. There is holiness in the root, and holiness in the fruit.* The first is necessary to the second; for that which is not, cannot act; there must be a principle, else how should there be any operations? and the second is necessary, as a proof and discovery of the former.
1. There must be holiness in the principle.
There must be a real thorough change, wrought in the soul by divine grace. The understanding must be enlightened, the will renewed, and a peace concluded between God and the soul; no less will serve your turn. If a man be not alive, how can he walk? It is not to be expected. There must be spiritual life, or else how should there be spiritual acts : for every tree brings forth fruit after its kind, both in a natural and spiritual sense. Can any one imagine, that they who are spiritually asleep, yea, dead in trespasses and sins, should run in the ways of God's cominands, and that with an enlargedness of heart? Whilst a person is in his old frame, a captive to Satan, a stranger to God, he has not got into this way, and how then should he walk in it?
2. There must be holiness in the practice.
This is the exercise of the former principle in the life and conversation, this springs from the other, and is a manifestation of it, and these must go together. Those things which we own, believe, and possess, must appear to the world for the conviction of beholders. We must do works which may be seen, though not that they may be seen. Christianity is more than a notion, or a nice speculation.
We are far from decrying practical godliness; though our holiness be not that for which we are justified, yet it is that without which we shall not be saved. This is the way both to glorify God, and to be glorified by him ; and he that is endeavouring to find out a nearer way to heaven, is but labouring in vain ; yea, he is industriously at work to destroy himself. It is necessary that thou have the root of the matter in thee, and this manifested by the fruits of new obedience. A principle of holiness there must be in the heart, and the practice of it in thy life; these the Lord hath joined together in those
* In actu primo, et in actu secundo.
that belong to him, and he is no good man that puts them asunder. So that you may take this account of our sanctity, that holiness, (as it is in us) consists in our complete conformity to the Holy One. Godliness is God-likeness.
This conformity unto God is two-fold.
First, Our holiness includes a conformity to the nature of God. We must be holy as God is holy; though we cannot be equally so, according to our sphere and finite capacity ; an equal degree of purity is beyond our reach, and therefore not enjoined. God is the Holy One by way of eminency, far surpassing both men and angels
. He is essentially holy, we but participatively so; it is but a quality in us, it is essence in him. He is holy effectively, for he makes others so; now this, as to us, is impossible; men may be made instrumental to convey holiness, but they cannot bestow it by a proper efficiency : this appertains not to a created, but a creating power; yet we must have the same kind of holiness. A copy may have the likeness of the original, though there be not the same perfection ; so, though believers have not an equal degree of holiness with God, yet they may be like him.
Believers are said to be partakers of the divine nature; namely, as they resemble God in his attributes. When we are patient, merciful, just, faithful, true, loving as God is, we shew forth the divine attributes unto the world. Hereby God becomes, (as it were) visible in man, when we show forth the virtues of him, “who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light.” We must resemble him in his affections. When we love what God loves, when we hate what God hates, when what pleaseth God pleaseth us also, when what provokes his Spirit provokes ours: this is holiness in us, as it is in conformity to his nature.
Secondly, Our holiness requires that there be a conformity to the will of God. The will of God is the rule of holiness, as his nature is the pattern of it; and there is no more of holiness in any work, than there is of the will of God in it. David as a holy man, is described by both these in Acts xiii. 22, “ A man after my own heart;" there is conformity to the nature of God: “who shall fulfil all my will ;" there is conformity to his will. The result of both is holiness. So our conformity to God, is our imitation of him, and by our walking with him we make him our pattern, and his will our rule. If we walk in the way of holiness, we regulate ourselves, and all that we do according to the divine laws, not consulting secular interest or what carnal reason would suggest, but what says the Lord in such and such a case ? how runs the will of the Great King ? what say the statutes of heaven, in this and the other matter ?