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And, Ist, This difficulty cannot with any shew of justice be ascribed to God. For God is so far from desiring to make salvation difficult to good men, that he affirms the contrary, with an oath, in the strongest terins :-“ As I live,' says he, “I have no pleasure in the death of “ the wicked, but that the wicked turn from “ his way and live.” Now if God is desirous of the conversion and life even of the wicked, we cannot doubt that he has at least an equal desire for the salvation of those who sincerely endeavour to make their calling and election sure by the practice of good works. To such, therefore, our Saviour accordingly promises the good-will of God, and tells them, that “it is “their Father's good pleasure to give them the
kingdom.”. And in another place he says, " the kingdom is prepared for them from the " foundation of the world.” St. Paul also says, “ Ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” And upon another occasion our Saviour tells his hearers, “This is the father's will, that of all “ which he hath given me I should lose no
thing, but should raise it up at the last day," If, therefore, salvation be difficult to the righteous, it cannot be ascribed to God, who would have all men to be saved, and lay hold on eternal
· Nor, 2dly, can this difficulty of salvation be ascribed to Christ: for it would be an affront to him and his Gospel, it would be an undervaluing the efficacy of his death and resurrection, to suppose that he did not sufficiently provide for the salvation of his beloved children and faithful servants; or that he did not remove all impediments that stood in their way to happiness. And, indeed, what could be done more than Christ has done to purchase salvation for us? He has concealed nothing from us that was necessary for us to know; he has withheld nething that could make us wise unto salvation. He has shewn us the only true God and eternal life: he has brought life and immortality to light, and he has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light: he has laid our duty before us in the plainest terms, and he has given us the strongest motives and helps to perform it. -“This do, and thou shalt live,” is the plain and constant language of Christ and his Gospel. And what we were unable to do, he has done for us, by satisfying the offended justice of God, that he might deliver us from the condemnation of sin. And that he might effect this mighty deliverance for us, he became obedient to death, even the death upon the cross. He bore our sins in his own body upon the tree, that he might obtain eternal redemption for us. He disarmed death of its sting, and stripped the grave of its terrors: and that he might still continue his kind offices to us, he is now ascended into heaven, to prepare a place for us, to intercede for us at the throne of God, and to send down his Holy Spirit to support our hearts, and strengthen our weakness against all the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. And now then, after all this, to pretend that he has not done enough to assure his children of salvation; to complain that the way to eternal life is rugged or inaccessible; to affirm that even the best men can scarcely be saved; what is this but to betray the highest degree of ingratitude to God and his Son? what is it but to affront his Gospel and his grace? what is it but to make his death and sufferings ineffectual ? what is it but openly to give the lie to inspiration, which explicitly tells us, that “ Christ is " a merciful high priest, who is able to save " them to the uttermost that come unto God “ by him?”
But then, 3dly, may not this difficulty of the salvation of the righteous proceed from their own imbecility and corruption, and the difficulty of performing the precepts of the Gospel? I answer, it is impossible to maintain this opinion, without supposing God to act in contradiction
to himself. For, if it be true, that God is willing to do us good, and make us partakers of his happiness ; if it be also true, that the Saviour of mankind has done all that could be done to put us in possession of that happiness, it contradicts every idea of reason and justice to suppose, that that happiness should be offered to us upon hard and almost impracticable conditions. What! shall God so love the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but lave everlasting life? Shall Christ come into the - world to save them that believe in him ? Shall he spare neither instructions, nor proinises, nor even life itself to save us: - and yet, after all, throw such impediments in our way, clog the discharge of our duty with such difficulties and embarrassments, prescribe such severe and rigorous conditions, that even the sincere and true Christian shall scarcely be saved ? Such a supposition is surely too contradictory to the wisdom and equity of God, too shocking to the
reason and humanity of men, either to require : or deserve a serious answer.
: Since then God is always disposed to bestow
eternal happiness upon his creatures; since Christ has done every thing that was possible to facilitate the attainment of it; since, lastly,
the conditions on which it is offered are neither grievous nor impracticable; there can be no ground for supposing, as some have done, that it was the intention of St. Peter to affirm, that even the most perfect Christians, the righteous themselves, will scarcely, and with difficulty, be saved.
. What the real intention of St. Peter was in the words of the text, will best appear from considering the general scope of the epistle from which they are taken. It appears to have been addresfed principally to the Jews of the disper sion, who had been lately converted to the Christian faith. And as it was written at a time when the church of God was falling into divers temptations and fiery trials, it was the design of the Apostle, throughout the whole epistle, and more particularly in the chapter from which the words of the text are taken, to comfort these new: converts in their Christian warfare, to strengthen them against the evils which he foresaw would come upon them, and by every argument in his power to induce them to persevere in the faith of Christ. For this purpose, he first warns them not to be surprised at any thing which might happen to them on account of their religious persuasion :-"Beloved,” says he, " think it not strange concerning the fiery trial