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and precepts containd in this epistle, which he will find so exactly the same with Paul's, that it will be impossible for him to doubt, that the doctrine of both proceeded from one and the same Spirit of God.
Of the Persons to whom Peter's first Epistle was written.
Eusebius, Jerome, Didymus of Alexandria, and many of the ancients, were of opinion, that Peter's first epistle was written to the Jewish Christians scattered through the countries mentioned in the inscription. And their opinion is adopted by Beza, Grotius, Mill, Cave, Tillemont and others. But some of the ancients thought this epistle was written to Gentiles also. See Lardner, Canon iii. p. 225. Bede in his prologue to the Catholic epistles, says, St. Peter's epistles were sent to such as had been proselyted from heathenism to judaism, and after that were converted to the Christian religion.-The author of Misc. Sacra and Benson contend that Peter's first epistle was written to Proselytes of the gate; But Wetstein, that it was written to the Gentiles. Hallet and Sykes argue that both epistles were written to the Gentiles. Lardner thought Peter's epistles were sent to all Christians in general, Jews and Gentiles, living in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, &c. So likewise Estius and Whitby.
In this diversity of opinions, the only rule of determination. must be the inscription, together with the things contained in the epistle itself. From 2 Peter iii. 1. it appears that the epistle was sent to the same people as the first. Wherefore since its inscription is, To them who have obtained like precious faith with us, the first epistle must have been sent to believers in general. Accordingly the valediction, 1 Pet. v. 14. is general: Peace be with you all who are in Christ Jesus. So also is the inscription: To the sojourners of the dispersion of Pontus, &c. elected according to the foreknowledge of God, 1 Pet. i. 1. For the appellation of sojourners, does not necessarily imply that this letter was written to none but Jewish believers. In scripture, all religious men are called sojourners, and strangers, because they do not consider this earth as their home, but look for a better country. (See Gen. xlvii. 9. Ps. xxxix. 12. LXX. Heb. xi. 13.) Wherefore, in writing to the Gentile believers, Peter might call them sojourners, as well as the Jews, and exhort them, chap. i. 17. to pass the time of their sojourning here in fear: And chap. ii. 11.
Beseech them, as travellers to abstain from fleshly lusts.-Farther, the Gentile believers in Pontus, &c. might be called, Sojourners of the dispersion of Pontus, although none of them were driven from their native countries. For the dispersion may signify, that they lived at a distance from each other in the widely extended regions mentioned in the inscription: and that they were few in number, compared with the idolaters and unbelievers, among whom they lived. In this sense, the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem are said to have been dispersed through Judea and Samaria, by the persecution raised after the death of Stephen, Acts viii. 1.-Lastly, the appellation, elected, which is added to that of, strangers of the dispersion, does not imply, that none but Jewish believers are meant. All who profess the gospel, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, are in scripture said to be elected, that is made the visible church and people of God. It may therefore be allowed that the expressions sojourners of the dispersion, elected, &c. comprehend the Gentile christians of Pontus, as well as the Jewish; especially seeing they are said to be elected according to the foreknowledge of God. For that is a plain allusion to God's promise, of blessing all nations in Abraham's seed.
Secondly, There are things written in this Epistle, which are peculiar to the Gentiles, and cannot be understood of the Jews. For example, chap. i. 14. As obedient children, do not fashion yourselves according to the former lusts, in your ignorance: This, as Lardner observes, might very properly be said to persons converted from heathenism, but not to the Jews, who from their infancy knew the true God by means of the Mosaic revelation. Besides, no where in the New Testament, are the Jews represented as living in ignorance or darkness.—Chap. i. 18. Ye were redeemed from your foolish behaviour, delivered to you by your fathers. This might be said of the Gentiles, rather than of the Jews, if by foolish behaviour, the apostle meant the worship of idols, who in scripture are termed ra paraia, Acts xiv. 15. For the idolatrous worship practised by the Gentiles was delivered to them by their fathers. But if by foolish behaviour, the apostle meant a superstitious wicked behaviour, it might be said of the Jews as well as of the Gentiles, that that behaviour was delivered to them by their fathers.-Chap. i. 20. speaking of Christ, the apostle says, Who was manifested in these last times for you. 21. who through him believe in God, who raised him up from the dead. This could neither be said to Jews, nor to Proselytes, as
Benson supposes. For their belief in God, was founded on the revelations made by the prophets, and not on the revelations made to them by Christ. But it well agrees to the Gentiles, who, till they were enlightened by the gospel of Christ, had not the least knowledge of the true God. Besides, no one will say, that Christ was manifested for the Jews and Proselytes only.— Chap. ii. 10. who formerly were not a people, bat now are a people of God. This applies to the Gentiles only. See Rom. ix. 24, 25.-Chap. iv. 3. For the time which hath passed of life, is a sufficient time for us to have wrought out the will of the Gentiles, having walked in lasciviousnesses, lusts, excesses in wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries. Though Peter in this passage joined himself with the persons of whom he speaks, it does not follow, either that he was guilty of idolatry, or that the persons, with whom he joined himself, were Jews. Idolatry was a crime which the Jews, ever since their return from Babylon, had avoided; and which Peter never was guilty of. Neither had he ever wrought the will of the Gentiles, by walking in lasciviousness, &c. This passage therefore is addressed to the Gentile christians alone, with whom the apostle joins himself, to avoid giving them offence, and to render his discourse the more persuasive.
The passages which appear inconsistent with the supposition, that this Epistle was written to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews, are the two following: chap. ii. 9. But ye are an elected race, a kingly priesthood, an holy nation, a purchased people. These honourable appellations, it is true, were in former times appropriated to the Jews, the ancient people of God. But they belong now to all believers, to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. And this is what the apostle here declares; as is plain from his adding: That ye should declare the perfections of him, who hath called you from darkness into his marvellous light, who formerly were not a people, but now are a people of God, &c.— Chap. ii. 12. Have your behaviour among the Gentiles comely, &c. But the Gentiles here, are the unbelieving Gentiles; a sense which the word has, 1 Cor. x. 32. Giving offence neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.
Upon the whole, I agree with those who think the first epistle of Peter was written, to the whole body of Christians, who resided in the countries of Pontus, Galatia, &c. and that whether they were of Jewish or Gentile extraction.
Of the Apostle Peter's Design in writing this Epistle; and of the Matters contained in it.
It is well known, that anciently in proportion as the Christians multiplied in any country, their sufferings became more general and severe. In the latter part, therefore, of the first age, when the rage of the Jews and Gentiles was exceedingly stimulated by the prevalence of the gospel, the apostles of Christ who were then alive, considered themselves as especially called upon to comfort, and encourage their suffering brethren. With this view, the apostle Peter wrote his first epistle to the Christians in Pontus, &c. wherein he represented to them, the obligation the disciples of Christ were under to suffer for their religion; and suggested a variety of motives to persuade them to suffer cheerfully.
The enemies of the Christians, to enrage, not only the magistrates against them, but all who had any regard to the interests of society, represented them every where as atheists, and enemies of mankind, because they would not comply with the common idolatry, nor obey the heathen magistrates in things contrary to their religion. They calumniated them also, as movers of sedition, and as addicted to every species of wickedness. To wipe off these foul aspersions, Peter, in this epistle, earnestly beseeched the brethren of Pontus, &c, to behave, both towards the magistrates and towards their heathen neighbours, in a blameless manner, and to be remarkable for every virtue; that by their general good behaviour, they might make their enemies ashamed of the calumnies which they uttered against them.—Withal, that they might know how to conduct themselves on every occasion, he gave them a particular account of the most important duties of civil and social life. Wherefore, though this epistle had an especial reference to the circumstances of the Christians in the first age, it is still of great use for inforcing the obligations of morality, and in promoting holiness, among the professors of the gospel. Moreover, it contains some deep mysteries, not so plainly discovered in the other inspired writings: such as, 1. That it was the Spirit of Christ, which spake anciently in the Jewish prophets, chap. i. 11. and particularly in Noah, chap. iii. 19.-2. That the ungodly men of the old world, to whom Noah preached, are neither annihilated nor punished; but are at present spirits in prison, reserved to judgment and punishment.—
3. That the water of the flood, which bare up Noah and his family in the ark, and preserved them from perishing, was a type of the water of baptism, and of its efficacy in saving those, who, besides being washed with that water, give the answer of a good conscience, agreeable to the true meaning of baptism.—4. That the devil goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may swallow up consequently, that evil spirits are now employed in tempting men; and that their purpose in tempting them, is to destroy them, chap. v. 8.
As the design of this epistle is excellent, its execution, in the judgment of the best critics, does not fall short of its design. Ostervald says of the first epistle of Peter, "It is one of the "finest books in the New Testament," and of the second, “That "it is a most excellent epistle, and is written with great strength "and majesty.”—Erasmus's opinion of Peter's first Epistle is, "It is worthy of the Prince of the apostles, and full of apostoli"cal dignity and authority." He adds, "It is (verbis parca, "sententiis differta) sparing in words, but full of sense."—Lardner observes, that Peter's two epistles, with his discourses in the Acts, and the multitudes who were converted by these discourses, are monuments of a divine inspiration; and of the fulfilment of Christ's promise to Peter and Andrew, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
Peter's epistles, therefore, being of great and general use, and so excellently composed, should, like the other inspired writings, be read and studied by Christians in every age, with the utmost care; not only for comforting them under affliction, but for directing them to a right behaviour in all the different relations of life.
Of the Place and Time of writing Peter's First Epistle.
From Peter's sending the salutation of the church at Babylon, to the Christians in Pontus, it is generally believed that he wrote his first Epistle in Babylon. But as there was a Babylon in Egypt, and a Babylon in Assyria, and a city to which the name of Babylon is given figuratively Rev. xvii. xviii. namely Rome, the learned are not agreed, which of them is the Babylon meant in the salutation.
Pearson, Mill, and Le Clerc, think the apostle speaks of Babylon in Egypt. But if Peter had founded a church in the Egyp