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heavenly Canaan : and therefore it is a folly to a-
It is therefore wholsome advice of St. Peter, to behave ourselves as Atrangers and pilgrims; to look upon all things here, as pilgrims do upon those objects that present themselves on the way, merely in passing, without concern or affection : if God is pleased to favour you with temporal conveniences, thank him for the blessing, and use it to his honour, not to his prejudice, and your own ruin. Give your heart to him, and never enslave it tą
any creature : it is too small to be divided
and unless you give it him entire, you give him nothing: you cannot settle it upon creatures, and raise it up to heaven : for St. Paul tells us, a sensual man tastes not those things that are spiritual, and therefore exhorts all, to live in the world, as if they were out of it; to possess temporal things without affection; to use them with moderation, and leave them with indifference; to fear nothing but sin, and love nothing but God; for nothing can withdraw us from God, but sin; and nothing can put us in possession of him, but love.
Therefore no temporal concerns must so take up our thoughts or time, as to leave no room for those of our souls. And if they endanger our salvation, or, in St. Peter's phrase, war against the soul, we must absolutely forsake them.
Some objects war against the soul openly : such are all those that tempt to sin, and allure us under pretence of pleasure or profit: such as cannot be desired, without a crime; nor enjoyed, without rebellion against God and heaven, and against our own souls.
These we must absolutely forgo: they not only war against the soul, but stab it : they rob it of fanctifying grace, cut off its title to heaven, and expose it to the just anger of an offended Deity. Others are less dangerous indeed, but still they war against the soul, by withdrawing it from the practice of those virtues Christianity prescribes; which perfect the soul, and prepare it for a glorious reward hereafter. These we may enjoy, but with moderation, according to the rules of right reason, not of passion and sensuality ; which, by obferving no mean, neither in their flight or pursuit, turn the most innocent fatisfactions into unlawful enjoyments.
St. Peter not only exhorts Christians to refrain fram all carnal desires, but also to practise all
manner of virtues: and this not merely for their own advantage, but to wipe off an unjust imputation, laid to their charge by the Gentiles, that their doctrine was scandalous, and their religion impure. Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that whereas they Speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they mall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. The Nicolaites (sprung from one of the first deacons) gave ground for these aspersions. Their tenets were impure; their lives as bad as their doctrine. That had nothing of the Christian but the name. However, their crimes reflected on the orthodox Church, which, bearing the same name, was supposed, by the Gentiles, guilty of the same enormities. To these St. Peter writes, and conjures them to confute the calumny by the sanctity of their lives : For so is the will of God; that with well-doing, ye may put to filence the ignorance of foolish men.
The articles of our belief are true, and its morals the most sublime. Nothing can be more conformable to reason, nothing more conducing to the highest perfection. They teach us our duty to God; they regulate our conduct to our neighbour : nor do they only direct our exterior actions, but bridle our very thoughts. So that did our lives correspond to our laws, this world would be turned into a paradise: we should enjoy a taste of heaven on earth, and be both happy here and hereafter. At our baptism we vowed to square our lives by the maxims of the gospel: by this we became Christians, that is, followers of Christ, and members of his Church. However, notwithstanding all these vows and promises, all these obligations of interest, duty and gratitude, too many give occasion, by their loose lives, to the enemies of Christianity, to blaspheme our religion. It is true, did we judge of the truth of religion by the practice of the greatest part of
its professors, we should be at a stand, and perchance condemn all; malice being so apt to draw inferences from practice ; and to conclude, That religion teaches corrupt morals, whose professors practise them. We ought, therefore, to stand upon our guard; to walk with caution and circumfpection, and shew by our manners the purity of our faith. Our Saviour pronounces a severe Wo upon those, who fcandalize their neighbour : Wo to that man by whom the offence cometh! and then certainly more than a single Wo will fall
upon those, who caft a scandal upon our Saviour himself.
And can we throw a more affronting one on his sanctity, than by persuading his enemies, by our conduct, that he teaches what we practise, and that his doctrine is no less reprehensible than our manners? This is, once more, as much as in us lies, to expose his sacred body to the cross, his person to blafphemy, and his honour to all the defaming obloquy of his enemies.
Indeed, would the enemies of Christianity take the pains to examine its principles, they might blame our sensuality, but not our religion, much less the author of it. And they might perchance justly upbraid us, as St. Stephen did the Jews, Ye have received a law, not by the disposition of angels, but immediately from God, and yet have not kept it, Acts vii. 57. But still a regular life is the shortest way to silence our adversaries, and to defeat their ignorance or malice: and this St. Peter infifts upon, as the most proper to rescue our profeffion from Nander and prejudice : For so is the will of God, that with well-doing, ye may put to filence the ignorance of foolish men.
And therefore he conjures the Christians to confute the charge of treason laid upon them by the Gentiles with so much clamour. Submit your selves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's fake : whether it be to the king, as supreme : or unto governours, as unto them that are sent by him : for fo is the will of God. You must obey your prince, not out of a principle of interest, but of duty; not out of the fear of punishment ; but a senle of religion : For so is the will of God. You must neither contemn his orders, nor revile his person.
Because Christ has redeemed us with his precious blood, some pretended, in the apostles days, as well as ours, he had discharged us of all subjection: that all Christians stood upon the fame level, and consequently, that no body had authority to command, no body an obligation to obey. St. Peter afsures us indeed, we are free; but then he tells us also, that those, who stretch their freedom fo far, abuse the favour, and use their privilege to cover their malice. As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, 1 Pet. ii. 16. Christi an liberty exempts us from the Navery of sin, from the bondage of our passions ; but not from subjection to those, whom God has placed over us. We must obey their commands, and observe their laws, when just, and hear their voice, as God's, whose vicegerents they are on earth, out of a principle of conscience, not out of fear of punishment; as the servants of God,
In fine, honour all men ; love the brotherhood ; fear God; honour the king ; is the apostle's command. Regulate your conduct by a piety, publick, universal, and exemplary; especially before people of another persuasion ; who pry into your actions, to criticise and traduce them. Give no occasion to malice to decry your religion ; but edify all by an irreproachable behaviour : that by your good works, which they hall bebold, they may glorify God in the day of visitation.
Oh, my Redeemer! I beg a thousand pardons for all the fcandals I have cast upon the religion