« PreviousContinue »
it is evident, that the apostle contemplates advantage to others as well as to ourselves, as the result of having a well-grounded reason for our hope.
Accordingly you are taught in the text, my brethren, that it is incumbent upon us at all times to give an answer to every one, that asketh us a reason of the hope, that is in us, with meekness and fear. The honour of God demands, that we should be always ready to do this ; for his name is dishonored by us, when we are not able to maintain his cause by a display of those evidences, which he has presented to our observation : the welfare of our neighbours demands, that we should do it to every man, that asketh us : and our own safety demands, that we should do it with meekness and fear.
My brethren, these are arguments, which shew the importance of obtaining a clear view of the reasons, on which the hope, that is in you, is founded. But the last, which has been mentioned, carries you a step further. It not only implies, that you have a reason of the hope, that but according to the measure of your opportunities have examined its proofs, and are satisfied of their validity ; but it directs you further, being so satisfied, to give an answer concerning it to every man, that asketh you, and to give it with meekness and fear.
have not taken it upon trust,
is in you,
This duty indeed is urged in the text on motives and principles, peculiar to a state of persecution, because, even amidst the cruelties of heathen oppression and the pain of unmerited torture, meekness is still the distinguishing feature of a christian. But then it may fairly be urged, that the gentleness, of which the severest provocation ought not to be suffered to rob us, should be cherished with still greater circumspection, when it is subjected to no severer test than that of occasional contradiction, unreasonable scepticism, perhaps a little idle ridicule, or at worst a perverse misconstruction of our motives, or an unwarranted suspicion of our character.
At the very best, my brethren, we have this treasure in earthen vessels. The treasure is heavenly, the hope glorious. But the vessel, which holds it, is fragile and earthly. The least inattention on our part impairs our hope, and weakens our hold of the heavenly treasure ; and the more acquaintance we have with ourselves, the less ground shall we discover for presumptuous confidence, or for imagining, that we have any sufficiency of ourselves for the blessed hope of the gospel. The more we examine the reason of our hope, the greater occasion shall we find for meekness and fear; for meekness, because we shall be convinced, that the hope, that is in us, is not our own by any inherent right, but is the free and unmerited gift of our maker; for fear, lest on our past any presumptuous negligence or wilful offence, the prompting of nature, or the effect of temptation, should weaken the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope, which we are bound to hold fast and firm unto the end : and thus we shall become established in the assurance, that self-confidence is self-destruction, that Christ in us is the hope of glory, that in him alone we have everlasting strength, and that our hope in him is then only stedfast and sure, when the spirit of glory and of God resteth
Whenever therefore we speak of the hope, that is in us, we shall speak of it with meekness and fear, as persons, who have no claim to the mercies we enjoy, although through grace we have a most assured hope of their endurance and perpetuity.
If an examination into the reason of our hope shall produce this effect, it will be a blessed effect of it: and be assured, my brethren, that no investigation of the evidences of our faith, which produces any other, is blessed! The holy angels are meek ; Christ himself was meek and lowly in heart; and, if a disciple of Christ pretend to have a hope in him without meekness, that man's religion is vain. When therefore I invite you to an examination of the evidences of your faith, I invite you at the same time to an examination of yourselves : and may God enable you so to judge and know yourselves, that the hope, that is in you, may not be a vain hope, but such, that, while you have all the present comfort and all the everlasting benefit of it, he may have all the glory!
Acts xiv. 15, 16, 17.
The living God, which made Heaven and Earth, and
the sea, and all things, that are therein, who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness.
MANKIND, though surrounded by objects of sense, and familiar only with corporeal substances, have generally concurred in the belief of a spirit, at once infinite, incorporeal, and invisible. What can have occasioned this extraordinary coincidence? How has it happened, that persons, who differ in almost every other particular, in manners, in customs, in language, in government, and
even in religion, have yet almost without exception agreed in admitting the being of a God? It