« PreviousContinue »
Our labours, therefore, on the subject before us, will be directed to set the several parts of our text before the hearer, in their own true sense, without an attempt to restrain any part from its most natural application. The following particulars require to be distinctly considered :
1. The house of God in distinction from those who obey not the gospel.
2. The judgments of God on both, and their relative severity
3. The nature of that salvation which is indicated in our text by the following words: “If the righteous scarcely be saved.” And
4. Ascertain the meaning of the words, “Where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?”
By house of God, we are to understand the bro. therhood of believers in Christ Jesus, who were united as children of one family, and were faithful to the laws and ordinances of God. Jesus called his disciples the house of his Father, in John xiv. "Let not your hearts be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” St. Paul
very clearly expresses this subject in the following passages: Heb. iíi. “And Moses verily was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; but Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." Here we learn that believers belong to this house as long as they hold fast their confidence: Gal. vi. " As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” This household of faith is the house of God. Ephes. ii. Speaking to Gentile believers, the Apostle says, “Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the
apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone."
By the passages here noticed, we learn that the church of believers in the gospel were called the house of God, the household of faith, &c. in distinction from those who believed not. But we must make a distinction even among those who were unbelievers, who did not obey the gospel of God. Those of whom the apostle speaks in our text, as not obeying the gospel, must, of necessity, be those who had rejected it; for people in remote parts of the earth, who had had no opportunity of hearing of Christ or his doctrine, could not be justly denominated disobedient to its laws. This distinction you will all allow is a very natural one; for surely to speak of the judgments of God on people for not believing and obeying the gospel of which they had had no knowledge, would be a most unreasonable thing.
Our minds are therefore directed toward those who had heard the gospel, who had seen the wonderful and miraculous works of God, designed as evidences of its divinity. In a word, it is perfectly consistent with all circumstances relative to our subject, to fix the words of our text, “What shall the end be of them who obey not the gospel of God," on the Jewish nation, and particularly on Jerusalem, the sect of those authorities, which perpetually persecuted the believers in Jesus, and especially those who taught in his name.
It seems that we have the two classes mentiona ed in our text, clearly designated before us. The persecuted church of believers in Jesus on the one hand, and the Jews, who rejected the Messiah, persecuted and put him to death, and continued to persecute and vex his disciples, on the other.
The attention of the audience is now invited to the consideration of that judgment mentioned in our text, which began with the house of God, but ended on that wicked and adulterous generation, on whom Jesus denounced all the blood which was.
shed, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zacharias. At the time Jesus denounced on Jerusalem this judgment, it seems that their iniquity was not
for we read in the 23d of Matthew as follows: "Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them that killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers. How can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city;
upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation."
In this portion of our Saviour's words, we learn that those Jews who refused him and his doctrine, would also refuse his disciples and persecute them, for which they would be visited with those awfully severe judgments, which he not only in this place denounced on them, but which he so fully set forth to his disciples in the 24th and 25th chapters of this gospel, as well as in other passages recorded in the New Testament.
Now the relative severity of the sufferings of the house of God, and those devoted Jews, who obeyed not the gospel, is intimated in our text in the following words: “And if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel
of God?” That is, if we who adhere to the testiDimony of Jesus, and are faithful to his righteous
cause, are visited with these sufferings from the Hierdie hands of those who are the enemies of our Lord
and master, and who have been his persecutors
and murderers, what must be the punishment of ating their wickedness? The conclusion is evident; it
must be vastly greater in its severity, than all that kn we suffer by their means.
There can be no reasonable doubt but St. Peter, when writing this encouragement to his brethren, who with himself suffered many things from the bloody hands of these enemies of Jesus and his doctrine, had in recollection these words of his divine master to that generation of vipers, which we have before quoted; for he was present when Jesus so vehemently denounced the judgments of God upon them. And he, no doubt, remembered what he heard his divine master say, which is recorded in the 24th of Matthew, and in the 21st of Luke. If the hearer will be so faithful as to examine those two chapters, he will understand the nature of this subject. The speaker cannot, in the limits of this discourse, quote all that belongs to it.
We have now come to where an important question may be profitably considered. The question is this : Did the apostle. Peter here speak of the future punishment which the enemies of the gospel would suffer in the eternal world, and which they would have to suffer to an endless duration, which is the common doctrine on this text? We answer, No; for he was not authorised to go beyond the judgments which Jesus, his master, had denounced. And it is an undeniable fact, that in the dreadful judgments which the Saviour described as the punishment of the sins of his enemies;. he did not extend their sufferings beyond a mortal state. And it is furthermore of importance to observe, that as Jesus said, ".Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil;" so he never extended the judgments of God beyond where the law of Moses and the testimony of the prophets had before carried them.
If we read Moses on the subject of the punishments which God threatened on Israel, in case of their disobedience, we shall be struck with the
TT, greatest horror and astonishment, but shall read
nothing about their being punished in a future state be of existence. See Leviticus xxvi. Here are dethis scribed all manner of evils to which man is incithis dent in a mortal state. The famine, all manner. [ Janau of sickness, the pestilence, droughts, mildews, the med sword of their enemies, their land in desolation, BEST they in the most cruel captivities, where they make should continually waste away before the sword,
which would be continually drawn out, after them. And in this account, be it remarked, God says,
that this punishment is according to their sins. int Therefore, whoever says that sin is not punished
in this world, denies the word of God; and whoRent ever says that sin is not punished according to its Capel demerits in this mortal state, denies the divine af te testimony. See what the prophet Jeremiah sets
forth in his Lamentations, chapter iv. In order portant to have any thing of a just idea of this description, The per it is necessary to imagine the case our own, and
di suppose ourselves besieged by a powerful enemy, il shut in on every side, our stores exhausted, no
thing in our markets, our wives and children looking pale upon us, we not a piece of bread to give
them, our young men pined away, and appearing to like shadows in the streets, our most delicate mo
thers, now losing all natural affection, lay their hands on their little childen-But I cannot proceed. When I meditated this subject, my children came around me, and called up such feelings as I will not attempt to describe. Suppose our infuriate enemy finally enters our town victorious, our brave. warriors, who had bared their breasts to the storm of war, are cut to pieces, and all falls into the hands of a most savage and barbarous soldiery. Such is but a faint description of what the prophet set forth in his Lamentations over Jerusalem, over which our Saviour wept, knowing that the time of her visitation was near. In the prophet's account, he makes a comparison, and says, “For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my peo.