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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 ; and they enclose the text, as a part of them. ' Be not afraid of their terror,'-says the experienced apostle-nei“ther 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
answer is grounded partly on the expectation, under which every Christian then lived, of being interrogated upon the reason of his hope by the magistrate. But it is not grounded exclusively on that expectation : for he is required to give an answer to every man, that asketh him a reason of the hope, that is in him, to him, who wishes to be informed, as well as to him, who requires to be obeyed. And surely this is a duty, common to every age. It becomes every man for his own satisfaction to have a sufficient reason of the hope, that is in him ; it is due to others, that he should be always ready to give that reason to every man, that asketh him; and it is due to God, that he should do this with meekness and fear.
But, in order to do full justice to this subject in our treatment of it, there is still a preliminary inquiry to be instituted ; for some men have not the hope, for which the text injoins them to give a reason. The three truths therefore, which I shall hope to illustrate this day, are first, that we ought to make sure, that we have a hope in us, such as that, which saint Peter supposes in the text; secondly, that it becomes us, as rational persons, to have always a reason of that hope ; and, thirdly, that it is our duty, as humble Christians, to give that reason to every man, that asketh us, with meekness and fear. As these principles are intended to be a foundation for some further matter, which I shall hope afterwards to bring before you, I beg your particular attention to them : and may God give you grace to continue in the faith, grounded and settled, that ye may never be moved away from the hope of the gospel!
First, it becomes us to take heed, that we have the hope of the gospel. Some persons think little about it. Others presume, that they have it, because they have read of it, and because, as they know they must die, it is a pleasant thing to persuade themselves, that there is something to be expected after death, which is enjoyable. The first of these classes have no hope : for a hope, which is little in the thoughts, has no reality. The second have a presumptuous hope : for a hope, that is encouraged without evidence, is presumptuous. None can be properly said to have a substantial hope, except those, who are not making the comforts of this world the principal object of their pursuit, but are looking forward to something hereafter, which they both desire and expect to obtain, and thus can say with the apostle Here we have no continuing city : • but we seek one to come.'
Moreover, if this hope be a scriptural hope, it must not only be formed on a scriptural basis, but directed also to objects, which scripture has revealed. It must be not an undefined anticipation of something, that is desirable, not a fanciful imagination of joys, which possibly have no foundation in the nature of things, or, if they have, may not be designed for us by the wisdom of our Maker. The hope of a Christian is defined by the promises of the Bible. It has respect to those wants of our nature, which the Bible discloses, and to those blessed revelations of futurity, which announce to the sincere believer, that his wants shall be eventually and abundantly supplied. Hence it is, that the hope of a Christian, however it may vary in degree or clearness, will always