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Thus they will issue in the good of the sufferers, and the glory of Christ.]
This is the end for which God permits his people to endure them INFER—
1. How little cause have any persons to question their interest in God's favour on account of their trials, or their grief under them!
[Satan takes advantage of the afflictions of the saints to impress their minds with desponding thoughts: their natural turn of mind, too, sometimes favours such impressions. Even bodily disorder also may concur to deject their souls. But the being in heaviness through temptations is no just ground of doubting our acceptance with God. The persons of whom the Apostle speaks in the text, were most undoubtedly in a converted state. Let not any tempted soul then be desponding or dejected h.]
2. What abundant reason have we to be reconciled to afflictions !
[Afflictions are trying to our frail nature, but they are salutary to our souls! We shall ere long see the necessity and benefit of each of our sorrows. The praise and honour in which they will issue will make amends for all. Let us then even now account them “precious :" let us consider how light they are, when compared with the glory of heaven': let us only be concerned to possess our souls in patience m.]
6 They were “begotten again,” had "a lively hope," " believed in Christ," " loved him," "rejoiced in him with joy unspeakable," and had “ received the salvation of their souls." ver. 3, 8, 9.
h Isai. xl. 27–31. i Heb. xii. 11. k Jam. i. 2, 3. 1 Rom. viï. 18.
m Jam. i. 4.
THE CHRISTIAN'S HAPPINESS.
1 Pet. i. 8,9. Whom having not seen, ye love ; in whom, though
now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory : receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
THE world often wonder that Christians do not conform to the vices of the age": and are yet more
a 1 Pet. iv. 4.
surprised, that any should be willing to suffer for the sake of their religion. But every Christian is actuated by a principle of love to Christ; which principle even gathers strength from the opposition it meets with. The Apostle is writing to those who were in heaviness through manifold temptations. He declares, however, that their trials were promoting their eternal good; and that they were supported under them by their attachment to their adorable Redeemer.
In his words we may see,
Christians cannot be distinguished better by any thing, than by their regard to their Divine Master : 1. They love Christ
[Once, like the ungodly around them, they were enemies to Christ and his crossb: they saw no beauty in him, for which he was to be desired. But now he is truly precious to their soulsd: and they claim him as their best friend and portion. This is the character of every true Christian' --If any answer not to this character, they are, and must be, accursed.] 2. They rejoice in Christ
[They have a good hope, if not a full assurance, of an interest in him. They have access to him in their secret duties. They receive strengthening and refreshing communications from him. They rejoice in him, as their faithful and almighty Friend". Their joy in him is “incapable of being fully declared i.” It is
It is a “glorified" joy, such as the saints in heaven possess k. Every Christian indeed does not experience the same measure of joy; nor is any one at all times alike joyful: but no one is a Christian, who does not esteem the light of the Redeemer's countenance above every other good!.]
That their felicity may be more generally experienced, we proceed to state, II. The means by which they attain it
[Many suppose, that if they could have a personal interview with Christ, such as Paul was favoured with, they should b Phil. iii. 19. c Isai. liii. 2.
di Pet, ü. 7. e Cant. y. 16. f Eph. vi. 24.
& 1 Cor. xvi. 22. h Phil. iv. 4. 1 ανεκλαλήτω.
k δεδοξασμένη. i Ps. iv. 6. and lxxiii. 25.
love him, and rejoice in him. But a sight of him with the bodily eyes only never in any instance produced this effect. Many who even heard his discourses, and beheld his miracles, were amongst his bitterest enemies. The Christians to whom St. Peter wrote had never seen Christ. The Apostle twice mentions this circumstance, to shew that their regard for him did not arise from any personal acquaintance with him. Faith is the only mean whereby we are brought to this love and joy: as it is said, “ in whom believing, ye rejoice.” It is only by faith that we can behold the excellency of Christ - - by faith only that we can apply his merits to ourselves by faith only that we can receive his gracious communications. Repentance will lead to this state; and obedience spring from it: but it is faith only that will prevail to bring us into it".]
To increase our ardour in pressing forward to this state, let us consider, III. The blessedness of those who have attained it
[The salvation of the soul is the great " end of our faith.” Present comforts are desirable; but eternal happiness is that which the Christian has principally in view. It is to this that he looks forward, under his first convictions. This is the end for which he cheerfully endures all his privations and conflicts. In every possible state he has an eye to this, as the consummation of all his hopes and desires. And this blessed object is already attained by all true Christians: they do not wait for it till they arrive in heaven; their full reward indeed is reserved for another world. But believers have the foretastes of heaven already communicated to them ; yea, their love to Christ, and their joy in him, are an earnest, as well as pledge, of their eternal inheritance; they now, in a way of anticipation and actual enjoyment, “ receive the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls."] INFER1. What a rational character is the Christian !
[He is thought an enthusiast, for loving and rejoicing in Christ; and they who have no such love or joy appropriate to themselves the name of rational Christians. Now we are willing to meet our adversaries on this ground, and to submit our sentiments to this test. If to admire supreme excellence, to love infinite amiableness, and to rejoice in unbounded goodness, be a rational employment; yea, if the glorified saints and angels be rational, then the Christian is a rational character; and the more so, in proportion as he loves and rejoices in Christ : and their adversaries are most irrational, in that they can love and rejoice in the things of time and sense, and yet feel no love to, nor any joy in, our adorable Lord and Saviour. Let those who are now despised as enthusiasts, think who will be accounted rational in the day of judgment --]
m Eph. iii. 17.
n Rom. xv. 13.
2. How clearly may we know, whether we be real Christians or not!
[There are certainly different degrees of faith, love, and joy; but
every true Christian experiences them in some measure. This is decided by an authority that cannot be doubtedo. Let us then examine what is the supreme object of our affections, and chief source of our joys
Nor let us ever conclude well of our state, unless we can adopt from our hearts the language of St. Paul; “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord P."]
1 Pet. i. 10–12. Of which salvation the prophets have in
quired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you : searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven ; which things the angels desire to look into.
THE same “salvation" that is made known to us, was revealed from the beginning. It was gradually unfolded to the world by many succeeding prophets. It is indeed exhibited as with meridian splendour in the New Testament. Yet by comparing the predictions of the prophets with the writings of the Apostles, we attain at once the fullest evidence of its divine original, and the deepest insight into its mysterious doctrines.
The truth of this observation will appear, while we consider,
I. The substance of the prophecies
Though many things contained in them related only to the times wherein they were written, yet much of them undoubtedly relates to future and distant periods.
The grand scope of them in the general is “ the grace that should come unto us”—
[The Gospel is called "grace,” because it is the highest expression of God's kindness towards our guilty world. It declares the wonderful provision which he has made for our recovery, and calls us to receive his blessings as a free unmerited gift. It represents every part of our salvation as the effect of his grace, and requires us now, as well as hereafter, to give him all the glory of it.]
More particularly Christ is the sum and substance of the prophecies
[God himself tells us that " the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecya:" the prophets " testified plainly of the sufferings of Christ.” So minutely did they describe the smallest and most improbable circumstances of his death, that their writings appear rather like a narration than a prophecyb: nor did they speak less accurately respecting "his glory that should follow.' Every step of his exaltation, from his resurrection to his future coming to judge the world, is distinctly marked; and the triumph of his Gospel over the benighted Gentiles is proclaimed with confidence and exultation 4.]
As in this light they deserve the deepest attention, so do they also on account of, II. The importance of them
The words before us mark the importance of the prophecies in a variety of views : 1. They were dictated by “the Spirit of Christ”—
[The Holy Ghost was the agent whom Christ employed from the beginninge: through him did Christ inspire the prophets, and enlighten the world. Thus were all the prophecies clearly of divine original; and can any thing more strongly mark their value and importance?]
a Rev. xix. 10. and John v. 39. b See Ps. xxii. 8, 16, 18. and lxix. 21. and Isai. lii. c Ps. lxviii. 18. and ii. 6. d Ps. ii. 8. Compare Rom. xv. 9–12. e Compare 1 Pet. iii. 18—20.
f 2 Pet. i. 21.