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evil doers; and then, so far from being confounded, or thinking it strange concerning the fiery trial that was about to try them, rather to rejoice in bearing the reproach of Christ, as trusting thus to become partakers of His joy, and to glorify God in the lot ordained for them by His Providence, which was more to be chosen than the best estate of their adversaries. “ For," he goes on to say, " the time is come “ that judgment must begin at the house (or
church) of God : and if it first begin at us, “ what shall the end be of them that obey not “ the gospel of God? And if the righteous
scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly “ and the sinner appear? Wherefore, let them “ that suffer according to the will of God, com“ mit their souls to Him in well-doing, as unto “ a faithful Creator."
Such, my brethren, is the connection of the verse, which I have selected, with the chapter and Epistle in which it is to be found. It seems, in short, to have been originally uttered with a view to some special tribulation then at hand, and foreseen by the Apostle to be of a nature so extremely perilous, and destined at the first to fall so directly on Christ's disciples, that their case, in human opinion, should appear desperate, or hardly admitting any good deliverance. At the same time, however, the passage proposed is one, which, after the above statement, may be considered, in a great measure, independently of the occasion which first suggested it. Unchangeable as God Himself, are the leading features of His dispensations to us ward.
Down to the judgment of the great day, all His dealings with mankind are conducted upon the same broad plan, and brought to the same end. Hence, the question, or more properly the appeal to man's reason," If the
righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the “ ungodly and the sinner appear?”—must, while that day is yet to come, be always seasonable and in place. Nor were it easy to find another passage, adapted more strongly to impress men with a wholesome sense of danger, and to make them fully aware both the righteous who may be growing negligent, and the wicked—of what is eventually in store for them. I design, accordingly, at this time, to hold it forth for the common admonition, giving you, first, to observe the fact which it implies, namely, that the righteous scarcely are saved; and, upon that, the fearful case of ungodly and sinful per
First, then ; let me begin with explaining, what is clearly intimated by the words before us, that the righteous scarcely are saved in the days of vengeance and retribution ;-how the
doctrine should be understood, and how it is evident by many examples contained in Scripture.
Now, it were wrong for any to imagine, on the ground of this awful declaration, that the righteous have cause to doubt whether or not they shall be saved at all. There is nothing of which they can justly doubt, save of their own steadfastness; for, notwithstanding this which the Apostle hath said, the righteous, provided they continue righteous, may be sure of experiencing in the end a most complete and satisfactory salvation. Were the case otherwise—had St. Peter meant any thing contrary - he would not have exhorted in the verse immediately following,—“ Wherefore let them " that suffer according to the will of God, com“ mit their souls unto Him in well-doing, as “ unto a faithful Creator.” So, the meaning of his words can only be, that the righteous are ordained to be brought nigh, together with the wicked, unto destruction,—that they are suffered previously to fall into such great troubles, and difficulties, and dangers, as might well induce a despair of salvation, but for the faithful Creator whom they have to trust in,—and that, when at the last saved, they are saved by His interference, or by ways and methods of His providing. In short, the word scarcely should be understood of the exertions, and endurance more than human, and of the superior wisdom which are put in requisition to save the righteous, not of the event itself,orthefact, that they shall be saved, which standeth sure and unalterable as the truth of God. All who will patiently hold fast by Him in well-doing, shall infallibly by some means be preserved, and find salvation, in their most perilous time of need. The text makes no doubt of this, but merely teaches that, for the most part, they shall not find it without passing through many straits, and experiencing circumstances of much apparent jeopardy.
As to the reason,—why God is wont thus to deal with the righteous, even in saving them, suffice it for the present to remember, that the most righteous have always need of tribulation to improve and perfect their faith, and make them meet for heavenly glory. As to the fact that it is such as I have described it to be, a brief reference to some remarkable judgments already past, will help to illustrate and confirm it, with a view to the one, or more, which remain to come.
Recollect how the case was with Noah and his family, the salvation of whom in the ark is referred to, in the preceding chapter, by St. Peter. May we not, with much propriety, regard him, when he came out thence after the flood, as a striking example of the doctrine above laid down ? Many previous days and years had he laboured, in the midst probably of jests and reproaches, preparing his house of refuge; and then, in that naturally frail vessel, he had to float up and down on the mighty waters of the deluge, while the rains descended, and the winds blew, and all the waves and storms of Divine vengeance were raging around, and above, and beneath him. Surely, according to the description which we have received, that righteous Patriarch, having worked out his salvation with fear and trembling, was yet scarcely saved from destruction. (Genesis vi. vii. viii.) Recollect also the account of Lot ;how scarcely he was saved in the day of the overthrow of Sodom. When the fatal morning arose, the angels hastened Lot, saying, “ Arise, "-lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the
city. And while he lingered, they laid hold
upon his hand,and brought him forth, and “ set him without the city, and said, Escape
for thy life; look not behind thee, neither “ stay thou in all the plain, lest thou be con“ sumed :” (Genesis xix. 15, &c.)—a breach of which injunction, in the single particular of looking behind, proved death to the one of his family who committed it. Moreover remem