« السابقةمتابعة »
THE RIGHTEOUS SCARCELY SAVED, AND THE WICKED CERTAINLY DESTROYED,
I PETER iv. 18.
And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the un godly and the sinner appear?
LL mankind may be divided into two great claffes, the righteous and the wicked, the friends and the enemies of God, the heirs of glory and the heirs of hell. Thefe, though mixed together on earth, and in many cases not eafily to be diftinguished by men, are yet effentially different in their characters, and fhall at laft meet with a very different fate. Of how much moment would it be for every one to fee his own character and state before the final feparation, when the judge fhall divide them, one from the other, as a fhepherd divideth the fheep from the goats!
There are many awful tokens of divine justice and holiness in the administration of Providence, which ought to be confidered by us, as preludes to the great day of retribution, when God fhall render to every man, according to his works. The apoftle Peter, in the verses preceding the text, is fpeaking of the divine judgments which were coming upon that generation, and which were in
part, to fall even upon the church and people of God.From this he takes occafion to point out the infinitely. greater danger of impenitent finners, who were expofed, not only to the fame or heavier temporal strokes, but to a final and eternal deftruction, verfe 17, "For the time is "come that judgment must begin at the house of God; "and if it first begin at us, what fhall the end be of them "that obey not the gofpel of God?" Confidering alfo that God in righteous feverity, fees it neceffary to make even his own people to pass through the furnace, and through much tribulation, to enter into the kingdom of God, he inftitutes the comparison in the text, to point out the dreadful state of the finally impenitent; "And if the righteous fcarcely be faved, where fhall-the ungodly and the fin"ner appear?"
In difcourfing further upon this fubject, what I propofe is,
I. To explain the import of the declaration, or fuppofition, in the firft part of the text, that "the righteous "fcarcely are faved."
II. To confider the conclufion drawn from it, by the apostle, "where fhall the ungodly and the finner appear?" III. I fhall make a practical improvement of the fubject for your inftruction and direction.
In the first place then, I am to explain the import of the declaration, or fuppofition, in the firft part of the text, that "the righteous are fcarcely faved." There is the greater neceffity of this, that the expreffion is both ftrong and fingular. There are many paffages indeed, that carry in them truths akin to it, and founded upon it; but the fentiment itself, is almoft peculiar to this paffage, that "the righteous are fcarcely faved." There are fome, who fuppofe that the expreffion is borrowed from, or alludes to Prov. xi. 31. "Behold, the righteous fhall be recompenfed "in the earth: much more the wicked and the finner." The meaning they give thus: Even the righteous must expect to meet with fufferings and calamities on earth, much more, wicked men, under the juft difpleasure of a holy God. But I think it is plain, that the apoftle in our
text, has an eye to the decifive judgment of the laft day; for he fays in the preceding verfe, "What fhall the end be "of them, that obey not the gofpel of God." It is no where faid in fcripture, that wicked men fhall be punished in the prefent life, in a manner fully adequate to their guilt, much less that a just and visible proportion is to be observed between their fufferings and thofe of the fervants of God. On the contrary, they are called the men of the world; it is faid, they have their part and portion in this life, and their profperity, compared with the trials and fufferings of good men, appears to have been in every age a fource of temptation to the children of God.
We must therefore understand the apoftle, as fpeaking of the eternal ftate, both of the righteous and the wicked, in the correspondent parts of this paffage. What then is the meaning of the righteous being fcarcely faved? It cannot mean that there is any defect or ftraitness in the mercy of God. The invitation to finners in the gofpel, is not only urgent, but full, free, and infinitely gracious, It cannot mean that there is any defect in the mind or power of our Redeemer, as if the fecurity of those who put their trust in him were to be doubted, or their victory over all the enemies of their falvation were uncertain, To affix any fuch meaning to the words, would be to fet them in direct oppofition to many other paffages of fcripture, and to do the greateft injury to the divine wifdom and truth. In order therefore, to open the import of this interesting declaration, you may obferve the following things;
1. The righteous may be faid to be fcarcely faved, becaufe all are juftly liable to divine vengeance, and it is only of the free grace, and fovereign mercy of God, that any are faved. This, my brethren, is a truth of the greatelt moment, repeated in almost every page of the facred oracles, but which none can either understand or approve, till they are effectually humbled by the fpirit of God. It is however, the fum and fubftance of the gofpel. See in what terms it is defcribed by the apostle Paul, Eph. ii, 4-10. "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great "love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead “in fins, hath quickened us together with Chrift: (by
"grace ye are faved) and hath raised us up together, and "made us fit together in heavenly places in Chrift Jefus,
That in the ages to come he might fhew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us, through "Chrift Jefus. For by grace are ye faved through faith; "and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not "of works, left any man fhould boaft: For we are his "workmanship, created in Chrift Jefus unto good works, "which God hath before ordained that we fhould walk in
them." There is not a believer on earth, nor a faint in heaven, but who is ready to acknowledge, that he was by nature an enemy to God in his mind by wicked works; that he had highly provoked him, and that if God had dealt with him in ftrict justice, he would have been for ever banished from his prefence and enjoyment. Probably many will recollect the time of their ignorance and fecurity, and admire the patience of God towards them, and fee that they are indeed fcarcely faved, fince they have been brought back from the very brink of deftruction, If any malefactor had been arraigned, judged and condemned to die, and after apprehending the juft punishment of his crime, fhould be faved by an act of royal clemency, at a stake or on a fcaffold, would he not confider himself as fcarcely faved. But this is no more than a juft image of the ftate and views of a pardoned finner, and what will continue to be the views of those who have entered into reft. They are clothed with white robes, as an emblem, not of innocence, but abfolution, and the fong of praise which they fing, intimates the condition from which they were brought, Rev. v. 9. "Thou art "worthy to take the book, and to open the feals thereof; "for thou waft flain, and haft redeemed us to God by thy "blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people,
and nation;" verfe 12. " Worthy is the lamb that was "flain, to receive power, and riches, and wifdom, and
ftrength, and honor, and glory, and blessing."
This leads me to obferve, that as their falvation is of fovereign grace in the Father's love, fo it was purchased by the most amazing fufferings of their Redeemer in their room. They are fcarcely faved, not only from the want
of merit in themselves, but from the infinite expence and coft laid out by him for their redemption. Such was the evil of fin, and fo deplorable the ftate of the finner, that the wisdom, truth, and holiness of God, feemed all to demand his perdition. The whole creation could not furnifh a fufficient ranfom; for the redemption of the foul was precious, and it ceafed forever. Then the eternal Son of God, clothed with infinite mercy, and conveyed in fovereign power, prefented himself as our Redeemer, faying, "Lo, I come," &c. Oh, amazing truth! Oh, unfearchable fubject! Juftly may we fay, that the righteous fcarcely are faved, fince it required fo coftly an expiation. Let us remember in faith, what our Saviour endured in the garden and on the crofs, before he could fay it was finished; and we fhall be conftrained to confefs that it was no eafy undertaking to redeem thofe fouls that were forfeited to divine justice.
To conclude this particular, the righteous are fcarcely faved, because the application of this redemption to their fouls, and their being brought to an unfeigned acceptance of it, required the almighty power and energy of the spirit of grace. This alfo is a part of that revealed truth, which the natural man hears with reluctance, and cannot receive. Yet it is not only plainly taught in fcripture, but daily ratified in experience. John i. 13. "Which "were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor "of the will of man, but of God." Without the power of the holy Ghost, the gospel may be preached to finners from day to day, and from year to year, and yet they fhall continue in their natural and miferable ftate.
It is the work of the fpirit to open the blinded underftanding, to awaken the secure and dozing conscience, and to bend the ftubborn will to the obedience of the gofpel. We are alfo plainly given to understand, that if a finner long refifts the motions of the Spirit, the confequence, in the economy of providence, is frequently that this divine agent departs from him, and ceafes any longer to strive with him. Every such person is left to himself, given up to the dominion of his lufts, and the enflaving. power of habit; and fo fills up the meafure of his iniqui