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make us melancholy, the dread of approaching disgrace to drive us mad ? let us reflect how we shall one day endure the want of a drop of water to cool our tongues ; with what patience we shall one day bear the scoffs and mockery of devils, and the eyes of the whole world and of all the angels of God, when our secret sins are made known in the day of judgement !
Are we so sensible of pain that we tremble at the bare apprehension of its infliction now? Let us ask ourselves how we shall like to dwell with everlasting burnings ? Let us consider whether it be not an inconsistency, a madness even beyond the madness of Bedlam, to be thus alarmed at the smaller and so indifferent to the greater danger, to be “ afraid of a man that shall die, of the son of man which shall be made as grass, and forget the Lord thy Maker, that hath stretched out the Heavens and laid the foundations of the earth ?” “Be rot afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do!" but if ye must fear these, forget not that there is One who is more terrible than them all. “I will forewarn ye whom ye shall fear! fear Him which after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell! Yea, I say unto you, fear Him?!”
The CHRISTIAN'S TREATMENT ON EARTH.
[Preached at Calcutta, Nov. 1825.)
1 St. Peter iii. 13, 14, Who is he that will harm you if ye be followers of that which
is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye!
This epistle was addressed by St. Peter to men under great tribulation, the converted Jews in different parts of the east, “ the strangers," he calls them, “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia!.” Strangers indeed they were, as dwelling in foreign lands and remote from their beloved Jerusalem ; strangers they were, still more, to whom the world was an uneasy pilgrimage, who were the objects, if Tacitus is to be believed, of the common hatred of the human race, shut out in no small degree from the defence of the laws, and exposed on the slightest pretences, or on no pretence at all, to the heaviest lash of their severity.
Of the dangers and distresses to which the primitive Christians were liable, it would be long, and with my present audience it would be needless to enter into a detail. But this notice of them was required to put you in possession of the general drift and tendency of St. Peter's arguments, which were directed, through a considerable part of both the Epistles which bear his name, to counteract and conquer the peculiar temptation to which a community thus situated were liable. For such men it was, in the first instance, a just and natural apprehension that their faith would fail under the weariness of hope deferred; that their courage would yield, and their spiritual sight grow dim, amid the calamities to which they were exposed, and the dangers which threatened their progress. Secondly, since every thing they did was taken in a bad sense by those around them, it might be feared, lest this want of a good name should make them careless of their actual behaviour ; lest they should begin to neglect appearances in utter despair of persuading mankind to think well of them, and be tempted really to become the wretches they were accused of being. But, in the third place, the probability perhaps was greater still that, though their morals might remain unimpaired, their tempers might be soured and rendered churlish ; that they whom the world hated, might begin, at length, to hate the world ; and that they might endeavour to revenge their own sufferings on all around them, either by a general moroseness and peevishness, or by availing themselves of some of those opportunities which the disorderly state of the remoter Roman provinces supplied, to break forth in violence and rebellion.
1 i St. Peter i. 2.
The two former of these temptations St. Peter opposes in by far the greater part of his Epistles, where he encourages the converts to steadiness in their calling by pointing out the greatness and certainty of the promised recompence; where he extolls the blessedness of that celestial aid which the grace of the Most High affords to all that daily seek it; and where he reminds them, that their hope was for ever rendered vain unless the daily tenour of their lives refuted the calumnies of their adversaries.
The third temptation is that which he chiefly combats in the present chapter ; wherein he exhorts them not only to be courteous and kind to men of the same persuasion with themselves, but to be gentle and forgiving even towards their worst and bitterest persecutors, in the confidence that they would thus not only secure the protection of the Almighty, but that, in very many instances, the hearts of their enemies themselves would be subdued by their persevering virtue and gentleness. “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you if ye be followers of that which is good ? But, and if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terrour, neither be troubled, but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.”
In this latter argument it is plain that there are two distinct but not inconsistent propositions ; first, that, even in this world, the probability is that the faithful and peaceable follower of Christ will not be molested; secondly, that if it should so happen that we are molested for the sake of our righteousness, we have, on this very account, an additional reason for gratitude to God, and for reliance on His help and blessing.
The first of these assertions (so far as the mere abstract probability of the case extends) might seem at first sight to be a thing so clear as to require very little argument to prove it. Few, even in comparison, are found of a temper so utterly devilish as to desire to injure their neighbour without some received or fancied provocation. But as the consistent follower of righteousness gives no just ground of provocation to any; as, on the contrary, his life, so far as his means extend, is occupied in doing good to all, it might be reasonably hoped that his innocence would, amid the strifes and ambuscades of the world, be his helmet, his sword, and his shield; and that he who was the friend of all would, at least, have no one for his enemy. It is plain, however, from the words of St. Peter himself, that this statement of the case must be taken with very considerable exceptions; since, even while he asks the question," who is he that shall harm you ?" he hypothetically subjoins, “ but and if ye be persecuted." Nay more, when he adds, “ if ye be persecuted for righteousness sake,” he admits that