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The Reason of the Hope of a Christian, which he ought
always to give to him who asketh it of him.
I Peter, iii. 14, 15. And be not afraid of their terror,
neither be ye troubled ; but fanétify the Lord God in your bearts : and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness, and fear. THE apostle Peter had a special commission to preach
I the gospel to the Jews, which did not exclude a regard to the uncircumcised Gentiles. He therefore writes this epistle to the Jews who were dispersed from the land of Israel, into various places in the Lesser Asia, and had embraced Christianity; with whom the Gentiles are included, who had become Christians, and had joined with the believing Jews. In consequence of their becoming Christians, they were hated, and suffered persecution by the unbelieving Jews and idolatrous Gentiles; who were disposed to inflict on them all the evils which were in their power; especially the former, who exercised the same ill will towards them which Paul had and acted out before his conversion, and which they manifested towards the apostles and all Christians ; of which we have the history in the Acts of the Apostles.
The Apostle, in this epistle to them, mentions many things to support and comfort them in their afflicted, suffering state, and encourage and animate them to persevere in the profession and practice of Christianity, to whatever reproaches, worldly losses and persecutions they might expose themselves hereby; and gives them
many many directions for their conduct in all circumstances, and towards all persons; especially in the present state of things. Of the latter we find an instance in the * words now before us. The Apostle here alludes to the words of Isaiah in the eighth chapter of his prophecy, When the inhabitants of Judah were threatened with an invasion by the neighbouring nations, he tells them not to be afraid of them, but to sanctify the Lord of Hosts, and make him their fear and their dread. So the apostle tells Christians, when threatened with the great. est evils that the enemies to Christianity could inflict, not to be afraid of their terror, neither be troubled ; but fanctify the Lord God in your hearts. To fanétify the Lord in their hearts was to love him supremely, and truft in him alone, défiring that he might be exalted and glorified above all creatures forever. The same word in the original is translated hallowed, which is here rendered fanctify. “ Hallowed be thy name:" that is, may thy sacred name and glorious character be made known, displayed and glorified to the highest degree, by ali things that take place.
" And be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you the reason of the hope that is in you." Christians are directed to be always able, ready and willing to give the reason of their hope, to every one who asketh it of them. This must be understood with some limitation. By every one who asketh, is rneant every one who asketh in a proper, decent manner, and with an apparent, professed desire to know what reasons Christians can give for their hope. If any asked them to do this, with an apparent design to ridicule.and.mock them, and to get some advantage, and matter of accusation against them, which would expofe them to suf. fering; they were not obliged to answer such, as it would be contrary to the command of Christ : “ Give not that which is holy to dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, left they -trample thein under their feet, and turn again and rent you:
o With meekness and fear." Christians are not to be haughty and infolent in giving the reason of their hope, nor enter into oftentatious and angry disputes with unbelievers. They must not despise and treat them with contempt for their unreasonable disbelief; but pity them, and treat them with condescension, tenderness and benevolence, not shewing or having any angry refentment for any injurious treatment they may have received from thern ; but suffering and bearing all injuries with a meek and quiet spirit and behaviour. All this is implied'in meekness. Fear is here put for Christian humility, in opposition to high-minde edness, and self-confidence, boafting of their privileges and character; by which they are favoured' and distinguished from those who are in a state of darkness and unbelief. It implies a sense of their own exceeding uri. worthiness, and utter insufficiency in themselves to de. fend and maintain the honour of the Christian cause, without constant support and afsistance from divine grace; and continual liableness to fail of their duty, and dishonour Christ, by not speaking and behaving as be. comes their Christian calling and profession. This fear is essential to the Christian character, and becomes Christians at all times. The apostle Paul exhorts Christians 6 not to be high minded, but fear ; to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling;” and tells the Christians at Corinth, that he was among them in fear and much trembling.
The subject proposed to be considered, in a further improvement of the words before us, is, the hope of Christians, and the reason they have to give, and ought always to be ready to give, for this their hope, when properly required of them.
I. It is to be considered what is included in the hope of Christians.
This hope indeed implies and comprehends more than words can express, or the most enlarged iind on earth can conceive. The greatest Christians do in this state comprehend and know but a sinall part of what is con
Jis . THE REASON OF THE Serm. I. tained in this hope. And they depend on the enlightening influences of the Spirit of Christ, for the increasing knowledge of this which they may and ought to obtain in this life. Therefore the apostle Paul prays for the Christians at Ephesus, " that God would give unto them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him ; the eyes of their understanding being enlightened, that they might know what was the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.”. Christians may be assisted in their meditations on this pleasing and important subject, by attending to the following brief and scanty repre. sentation of their hope, taken from the holy fcriptures.
Jesus Christ is the Christian's hope.' What is contained in his person and character ; in what he has done and suffered ; in the manifestations he has made of the divine perfections; in his revealed designs and promises to his church, and to every believer, is all the Christian can hope for, or can desire, and far, infinitely far, exceeds his highest expectations, and the utmost stretch of his conception and imagination. Jesus Christ has an , infinite fulness for finners. He has all they want, and they cannot conceive or wish for any greater or other good. And he gives himself, and all he has, his infinite fulness, to every believer. .
Christians hope by Christ to obtain the free pardon of all their fins, however many and great they are, and to be delivered from the curse of the law of God, even eternal destruction and misery, and from all evil. As the children of God, they hope for his kind protection to defend them from all real evil while in this world ; that what is in itself evil shall be made to them a real good, so that all things shall conspire to promote their greatest good. They hope, in the best way and manner, and the most proper time, to be delivered from all fin and moral depravity, and made perfectly holy, by Christ their Saviour ; and that their falvation shall be for, the glory of God and the Redeemer forever; otherwise, it would be no falvation to them. They trust in
the wisdom and goodness of Christ to order the time and manner of their death so as fhall be moft for his glory and their good. They hope that when they drop their bodies into the grave they shall immediately enter into a world of light and complete happiness, being wholly transformed into the moral likeness of Christ;' and in the enjoyment of him, and of his favour and love, and beholding his glory; and in the happy fociety of the redeemed, shall enjoy uninterrupted, increasing felicity without end.
The Christian's hope includes in it an assured and pleasing prospect that Christ will destroy the works and kingdom of the devil on earth, and set up his own kingdom, and give his people the possession of the world, for at least a thousand years; which happy time for the meek, the saints, to pofless the earth, and delight in the abundance of peace and happiness, shall commence and continue in a time and manner most agreeable to Infinite Wisdom and Goodness. And the Christian expects the set time will come, and is hastening on, when Chrift will come to judgment, raise the dead, and afsemble all the children of Adam before him, when he will fentence the impenitent wicked to everlasting punishment, and invite and bring his friends into the pofleffion of his eternal kingdom, to enjoy perfect and progressing hap. piness forever; and that they shall fee, and have a most pleasing and eternally increasing conviction, when all the enemies of Christ are put under his feet, and all things are adjusted and brought to their proper and designed issue, that all events which have taken place, even all the evil, sin and mifery which has been, and will exist for ever, are included in the divine purpose and plan, which was in the highest wifdom, and goodness fixed and ordained from eternity, and are necessary, in the most proper and defirable manner, and to the highest possible degree, to promote the glory of
God in the most clear manifestation and brightest difI play of the divine perfections, and produce the highest happiness and glory of the eternal kingdom of God.