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FIRST EPISTLE GENERAL
ST. PE T E R.
CHAPTER II. VER. 21-23.
Ver. 21. For even hereunto were ye called ; because Christ also suffered
for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps ; Ver. 22. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his month; Ver. 23. Who when he was reviled, reviled not again ; when he suffered,
he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righ
teously. THE rules that God hath set men to live by, are universally just, and there is a universal obligation upon all men to obey them; but as they are particularly addressed to His own people in his word, they out of question, are particularly bound to yield obedience, and have many peculiar persuasives to it, not extending to others, which are therefore usually represented to them, and pressed upon them, in the holy Scriptures. Thus the preface of the Law runs to Israel : Besides that I am Jehovah, and have supreme power to give men laws, it is added, I am thy God, especially thy deliverer from slavery and bondage, and so have a peculiar right to thy obedience. Deut. vii. 6. Thus, the Apostle here urgeth this point in hand, of inoffensiveness and patience, particularly in Christian servants, but so as it fits every Christian in his station, For hereunto, says he,
ye are called.
Whatsoever others do, though they think it too straight a rule, yet you are tied to it by your own calling and profession as you are Christians ; and this is evidently the highest and clearest reason that can be, and of greatest power with a Christian, namely, the example of Jesus Christ himself: For Christ also suffered for us, &c.
So, it is all but one entire argument, viz., that they ought thus to behave themselves, because it is the very thing they are called to, as their conformity to Jesus Christ, whose they profess to be, yea, with whom, as Christians, they profess themselves to be one.
Hereunto were ye called.] This, in the general, is a thing that ought to be ever before our eye, to consider the nature and end of our calling, and to endeavour in all things to act suitably to it; to think in every occurrence, What doth the calling of a Christian require of me in this ? But the truth is, the most do not mind this. We profess ourselves to be Christians, and never think what kind of behaviour this obliges us to, and what manner of persons it becomes us to be in all holy conversation, but walk disorderly, out of our rank, inordinately. You that are profane, were you called by the Gospel to serve the world and your lusts ? Were you called to swearing and rioting and voluptuousness ? Hear you not the Apostle testifying the contrary, in express terms, that God hath not called us to uncleanness but unto holiness? 1 Thes. iv. 7. You that are of proud contentious spirits, do you act suitably to this holy calling ? No, for we are called to peace, says the same Apostle. 1 Cor. vii. 15. But we study not this holy calling, and therefore, we walk so incongruously, so unlike the Gospel ; we lie and do not the truth, as St. John speaks, 1 John i. 6; our actions belie us.
The particular things that Christians are here said to be called to, are, suffering, as their lot, and patience, as their duty, even under the most unjust and undeserved sufferings.
And both these are as large as the sphere of this calling. Not only servants and others of a mean condition, who, lying
low, are the more subject to rigours and injuries, but generally, all who are called to godliness, are likewise called to sufferings. 2 Tim. ii. 12. All that will follow Christ, must do it in his livery; they must take up their cross. This is a very harsh and unpleasing article of the Gospel to a carnal mind, but the Scrip tures conceal it not. Men are not led blindfold into sufferings, and drawn into a hidden snare by the Gospel's invitations; they are told it very often, that they may not pretend a surprisal, nor have any just plea for starting back again. So our Saviour tells his disciples, why he was so express and plain with them in this, These things have I told you that ye be not offended, John xvi. 1; as if he had said, I have shewed you the ruggedness of your way, that you may not stumble at it, taking it to be a smooth plain one. But then, where this is spoken of, it is usually allayed with the mention of those comforts that accompany these sufferings, or of that glory which follows them. The doctrine of the Apostles, which was so verified in their own persons, was this, That we must through much tribulation, enter into the kingdom of God, Acts xiv. 22. An unpleasant way indeed, if you look no further, but a kingdom at the end of it, and that the kingdom of God, will tranfuse pleasure into the most painful step in it all. It seems a sad condition that falls to the share of godly men in this world, to be eminent in sorrows and troubles. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, Psalm xxxiv. 19: but that which follows, weighs them abundantly down in consolation, that the Lord Himself is engaged in their afflictions, both for their deliverance out of them in due time, and, in the mean time, for their support and preservation under them: The Lord delivers them out of them all, and till He does that, He keepeth all their bones. This was literally verified in the natural body of Christ, as St. John observes, John xix. 36, and it holds spiritually true in his mystical body. The Lord supports the spirits of believers in their troubles, with such solid consolations as are the pillars and strength of their souls, as the bones are of the body, which the Hebrew word for them imports. So, He keepeth all his bones ; and
the desperate condition of wicked men is opposed to this, verse 21, to illustrate it, Evil shall slay the wicked.
Thus, John xvi. 33, they are forewarned in the close, what to expect at the world's hands, as they were divers times before in that same sermon; but it is a sweet testament, take it altogether: Ye shall have tribulation in the world, but peace in Me. And seeing He hath jointly bequeathed these two to his followers, were it not great folly to renounce such a bargain, and to let
for fear of this trouble? The trouble is but in the world, but the peace is in Him, who weighs down thousands of worlds.
So then, they do exceedingly mistake and misreckon, who would reconcile Christ and the world, who would have the Church of Christ, or, at least, themselves for their own shares, . enjoy both kinds of peace together ; would willingly have peace in Christ, but are very loath to part with the world's peace. They would be Christians, but they are very ill satisfied when they hear of any thing but ease and prosperity in that estate, and willingly forget the tenor of the Gospel in this; and so, when times of trouble and sufferings come, their minds are as new and uncouth to it, as if they had not been told of it before hand. They like better St. Peter's carnal advice to Christ, to avoid suffering, Matt. xvi. 22, than his Apostolic doctrine to Christians, teaching them, that as Christ suffered, so they likewise are called to suffering. Men are ready to think as Peter did, that Christ should favour himself more in his own body, his Church, than to expose it to so much suffering; and most would be of Rome's mind in this, at least in affection, that the badge of the Church should be pomp and prosperity, and not the cross: the true cross and afflictions are too heavy and painful.
But God's thoughts are not as ours : those whom He calls to a kingdom, He calls to sufferings as the way to it. He will have the heirs of heaven know, that they are not at home on earth, and that this is not their rest. He will not have them, with the abused world, fancy a happiness here, and, as St.