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On the invitations of the gospel.
Revelation xxii, 17.
The spirit and the bride say— Come!'-: and let SERMON I.
him, that heareth, say—'Come!'--! and let him, that is athirst, come! and, whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely !
1 Peter iii. 15.
Be ready always to give an answer to every man, thať
asketh you a reason of the hope, that is in you, with meekness and fear !
SAINT Peter addressed the command in the text to Christians, who were under a state of persecution. Hence it is introduced with this extraordinary congratulation-If ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye.'
Happy indeed must the first Christians have been, if this sentiment be correct : for what did they not suffer for the sake of righteousness ? Contempt, reproach, loss, affliction in various forms, torture, and even death itself, these were the common portion of men, who confessed the name of their Saviour. We count ourselves happy in escaping these miseries. But the
apostles counted them happy, which endured them; for they were thereby brought more immediately into a state of entire dependence upon their Redeemer ; and the chastening itself under his blessing, however grievous, yielded the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them, which were exercised thereby.
Nevertheless, though this was the appointed happiness of all, who really suffered, and suffered willingly, for righteousness' sake, it was necessary in order to their partaking of that happiness eventually, that they should always be in a state of preparation for the suffering, by which it was to be preceded. Some men are bold at a distance, but shrink, when the trial comes. Saint Peter himself had said — Lord, I am ready 'to go with thee both into prison and unto · death '- : and yet on that same night he thrice denied his master. He is therefore well qualified to teach others the means of avoiding a sin, into which he was himself betrayed.
What then is his exhortation to those Christians, who were ever subject to persecution, and who therefore might on any day be called to suffer for the name of their Saviour ? What
was the habitual temper, in which they were to live, that so the fiery trial, when it came, might not find them unprepared ?
The answer to this question is given in the words, which immediately follow the congratulation you have heard
have heard ; and they enclose the text, as a part of them. Be not afraid of their 'terror,'-says the experienced apostle-neither be troubled ! But sanctify the lord, God, in your hearts, 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, having a good conscience, that, ' whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil-doers, they may be ashamed, that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ!'
These words of the apostle are an expanded commentary on his Lord's declaration—"Be
ye “ also ready! For in such an hour as ye think not, the son of man cometh. Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning, and 'ye yourselves like unto men, that wait for their • Lord!' It is incumbent on those, who would be ready to meet the Lord, when he cometh, or to meet his messengers, when they summon
them to martyrdom or to judgment, to have always, if it were possible, a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men, to give no unnecessary occasion of scandal to the cause of their Redeemer, but especially to live near to God, to sanctify him in their hearts, and thence to preserve themselves free from those perturbations, which the fear of man and the apprehension of his censure or of their own sufferings might produce. But withal it especially became those, who were constantly liable to be questioned concerning their faith, to be ready at any moment to give an answer to every man, that should ask them a reason of the hope, that was in them ; while yet this answer, however unreasonably demanded, was always to be given by them with meekness and fear, not with confidence and boasting, because confidence would expose them to the danger of defeat, while meekness would lead them to seek their help from God, and thus tend to secure them from falling.
This is the substance and tenour of saint Peter's exhortation in the context. It is evident, that his command to be ready always to give an