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his ways, and labour in his service. When Elijah was ready to serve, the Lord provided food for him; he ate and drank, and laid down to rest. "The angel touched him a second time, and said, Arise, and eat, because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went, in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights, unto the mount of God." 1 Kings xix. 7, 8. Thus, Christian, feed upon Christ, "whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed;" and, in the strength derived from Jesus, thou shalt "run without weariness, and walk without fainting," till thou teach the mountain of God, and sit down at the marriage-feast of the Lamb.
"Jesus, we bow before thy feet!
Thy table is divinely stor'd;
'Tis living bread; we thank thee, Lord!
"Joy to the Master of the feast;
His name our souls for ever bless: To God the King, and God the Priest,
A loud Hosanna round the place!"
1 Peter Iv. 3, 4.
For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries; wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you.
SIN, that accursed thing Sin, was the occasion of our Saviour's death; and he died not only to save us from the guilt of sin, that we might not be condemned; but to save us also from the power of sin, that it might not rule over us. This double benefit of the Redeemer's death was signified by the water and the blood which issued from his pierced side; for St. John observes, 1 John v. 6. "This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ: not by water only, but by water and blood." By the blood, we are justified from the guilt of sin; by the water, our polluted nature is purified. Thus is Jesus a complete Saviour. Both these are equally necessary; and what God has joined together, let no man put asunder; for, as they were united in the Redeemer's design, so are they united in the experience of all who believe. When a sinner is awakened and brought to Christ for pardon, then he also feels an earnest desire for this second benefit of his death, a deliverance from the power of sin. So St. Peter teaches us in
VOL. II. L
this chapter, ver. 1. Forasmuch, then, as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind; that is, all Christians should be armed with the same resolution against sin, and for holiness, as Christ was. But Christ, having suffered in the flesh for sin, lived in the Spirit unto God; therefore should we also cease from sin, and live no more to the lusts of men, but to the will of God; for, saith the Apostle, "The time past of our life may suffice." Yes, we have had enough, and too much, of sin; it has taken up too much of our time and affection; henceforth may we live to God! In these useful words we have the four following things:
I. The walk of a natural man described.
II. The great change that grace makes in such a man.
III. The reasonableness of that change: and,
IV. The usage which a changed person may expect from the world.
I. The walk of a natural man described.—He works the will of the Gentiles, and lives in sin. It is not certain whether St. Peter wrote his epistle to the Jews only, or to Gentiles also; nor is it of any consequence to us; for there is no great difference between a carnal Jew, a carnal Gentile, or a carnal Christian. All unconverted people live not according to the will of God. The will of God is the proper rule of our actions: but who inquires after this? who says, with converted Saul, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" No natural man says so; only those who, like Saul, are converted to God. And here is the grand difference between real Christians and all other people. The latter walk according to the flesh; the former according to the Spirit; for, as St. Paul largely shows in the eighth chapter to the Romans, They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. And what are all the thoughts, words, desires, pursuits, and delights of carnal men about, but something of a fleshly kind? they have no knowledge of, no care for, no delight in, any thing that is spiritual or heavenly; nor can they, while in that state: for, as our Lord says, John iii. 6, That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Till a man be born again, he works the will of the Gentiles; he walks according to the flesh. The Lord, in his mercy, discover to those who are in this state the danger of it, and deliver them out of it by his changing grace!
Observe, in the text, the readiness with which men sin; they run to it, it is their delight; their feet are swift to do evil, while to every thing good they are dull and slow. Observe, also, that men sin in company, and encourage each other in sin: "they think it strange that ye run not with them." Adam fell in company, and for the sake of company; and all his - children are not only corrupt, but corrupters: beware then of "evil communications, which corrupt good manners," and take the wise man's advice, "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not." Remark, likewise, the constancy with which men sin; they "wrought the will of the Gentiles;" they worked at sin as a man works at his trade, not occasionally, but daily. Hence sinners are called workers of iniquity, and as such, sentenced by Christ the Judge to eternal misery.
Let us now take notice of the particulars of this wicked course. Lasciviousness is first mentioned. This means wantonness, expressed in looks, words, and actions. Lusts, or criminal desires, and pursuits after unlawful pleasures. Excess of wine; that is. immoderate drinking of any strong liquors. Revellings and banquetings, feasting with songs and music, including the amusement of the playhouse, and similar diversions, which are Satan's traps to catch unwary souls. Abominable idolatries, or the worship of idols, which is an abominable affront to the only living' and true God; and which was generally attended with abominable lewdness, drunkenness, and other vices. These were the practices of the heathen; and are they not also the practices of many called Christians? Are there not in every place some persons who run to this excess of riot? Oh, that such may see the error of their ways, and cry to the Lord for his mercy and grace! And this is next to be considered.
II. The great change that the grace of God makes in a natural man.
The change we mean is far more than the mere reformation of a sinner's life; it is an inward, supernatural change, wrought by the Spirit of God, and by means of the Gospel of Christ. So we read, ver. 6. of this chapter, For this cause was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead; that is, to those believers who were dead when St. Peter wrote, as well as to those who were then living: that they might be judged according to men in the flesh .-—that they might judge and condemn themselves for their fleshly lusts, and mortify their carnal appetites; and so be dead to sin, but live according to God in the Spirit; that, being quickened from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, they might, being helped by the Spirit, be conformed to the will of God, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight.
It is by the preaching of the Gospel that this change is generally effected; for it is the'Gospel only which is "the power of God to salvation." This is God's mighty instrument for "pulling down the strong holds of the devil;" for "opening men's eyes, and turning them from darkness unto light, and from thepower of Satan unto God."
The sinner is usually first alarmed by the Law,