" which is to try yoy, as though some strange “ thing had happened to you.” On the contrary, he tells them, these sufferings ought to be matter of joy; inasmuch as they led to that glory, with which the past sufferings of their great Master had been rewarded :-" But re: “ joice,” says 'he,“ inasmuch as we are par“ takers of Christ's sufferings, that when his “ glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also “ with exceeding joy.” And also, “ If ye be “ reproached for the name of Christ, happy are “ ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth “ upon you.” But at the same time, lest any of them should mistake the nature of these sufferings and rewards, he wisely guards them against imagining that they should be entitled to any reward, who suffer, not for Christianity, but for their crimeș.--" Let none of you,” says he," suffer as a murderer, or as a thjef, or “as an evil doer, or as a busy body in other 66 mens matters; yet, if any man suffer as a Christian, let hiin glorify God on this behalf.” He then proceeds, in the verse before the text, to represent those evils, to which the Christians were to be exposed, as a sort of judgment which God exercises upon good men in this world, to purify and reform them, that they may be able to stand in the great day of account.-" The " time is come,” says he," that judgment must


“ begin at the house of God;" that God should visit and chastise his faithful servants for their sins here, that he may spare them at the last day. He then adds, " And if judgment begin " at ụs, what shall be the end of them that “ obey not the Gospel of God? And if the “ righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the “ ungodly and the sinner appear?” that is, if good men, for whom salvation is reserved, have yet so much to suffer here, before they arrive at heaven; if they must pass through afflictions as the consequence of sin, what have the wicked and impenitent to fear? If we, whom God has adopted as his children, and for whom he has done such great things, have so many evils to undergo, before we can be made perfect, what will become of those who persecutę and afflict us; who are guilty of the worst and most flagrant sins: If those sore judgments which hang over this unhappy nation, will fall so heavy, upon us, who by taith are the house of God, what will be the end of those stubborn, wicked, and incredulous Jews, who have rejected the counsel of God against themselves, and dipped their hands in the blood of the Messiah? Surely, if we have much to fear, and much to suffer from these impending calamities, they much more: if we who are righteous shall



scarcely be saved from them, where shall these ungodly and sinners appear ?


And that this is the true meaning of this passage of St. Peter, is strongly confirmed from the words which follow it, in which he encourages the Jewish converts to bear their sufferings manfully, by assuring them of the assistance of God, and his fidelity in rewarding them ;~. " Let them that suffer,” says he, “according (3 to the will of God, commit their souls to him « in well-doing, as unto a fạithful Creator." Thus we see, that what the Apostle calls in the text being scarcely saved, he here calls being saved by suffering according to the will of God, who, as à faithful Creator, would not fail to reward their constancy by giving them that crown of life which was laid up for them.

Should this sense of the words require any farther confirmation, we need only look back to the Book of Proverbs, from whence they are. taken.—“The righteous,” says Solomon, “shall " be recompensed in the earth,, much more 6 the wicked and the sinner.” It is evident that Solomon does not speak of heaven or eternal salvation, but of the afflictions and chastisements which God, as the Supreme Judge, dispenses to


his children in this life, either to prove or correct them; “ The righteous shall be recompensed. " in the earth.” And if God chastises even good men in this life, to correct their sins, and lead them on to perfection, much more will the: wicked and the sinner feel the severity of his judgments. .

And this is agreeable to God's eternal decree, who will give to every man according to his work. Not indeed always in this life; for he sometimes, for wise reasons, suffers the way of the wicked to prosper, and triumphant guilt to insult over injured innocence. But, sooner or later, they will feel the vengeance of a just God: for though to us short-sighted mortals, the execution of his judgments may seem to be delayed; yet to Him, whose eyes reach to the remotest consequences of action, and to whom a thousand years are but as one day, the crime and its punishment are equally present, and succeed each other in that wise and just order which he hath appointed, who cannot err.


Nor let the righteous repine, though it be their lot to be afflicted and mourn. The Captain of their salvation was made perfect through sufferings, and the servant must not expect to be above his Lord. Nor let them be dejected,


[ocr errors]

though their sufferings be many; or despair of entering into glory, though it be through much tribulation. For though they shall scarcely be saved, yet they shall surely be saved; though, like the Israelites of old, the sea is before them, and the hostile hands of Egypt darken their rear; though “ they are entangled in the land,” and the mountains of Pi-hahiroth have shut them in'; yet the God of Israel is able to divide the waves, and “to lead the children whom he " has redeemed to the promised land; to guide " them in his strength to his holy habitation.” To Him, therefore, let them ever “commit their 6 souls in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator,” who will preserve and raise them up at the last great day to life everlasting.


« ElőzőTovább »