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sacrifice; relies, with confidence, on his own merits; and disdains the notion of an inter
He holds, that nothing more could be intended by a Revelation, if such were given, than the promotion of our virtue ; and that we want not its aid, for that purpose: that we read our duty in the sense of our own minds; which Reason enforces in as high terms, as the Gospel, in a more engaging way, and on principles more sublime and generous.
Above all, the Gospel speaks much of the succours of Grace, as necessary to infuse and to confirm our virtue; a language, which the Pride of virtue will not understand: And of a Heaven, and a Hell; by which if any thing more be meant than the proper natural effects of virtue and vice itself, the idea is rejected, as superfluous and even childish,
To such an extreme of folly, and even impiety, may the Pride of virtue carry us; and so fatally may the Gospel be hid from those, whom this last infirmity of human nature blinds by its specious illusions! And that this is no ideal picture, but one taken from the life, will appear to those who know any thing of human nature; and of the perverse prejudices, by which some ingenious, and others wise virtuous men, have suffered themselves to be misled in their religious inquiries'.
Enough has been said to shew the issue of intellectual and moral Pride: And how it comes to pass that men lose themselves, who reason, on Religion, without modesty, or would be virtuous without Religion.
The application is short, but striking. It is, That men should examine themselves well, before they presume to think slightly of the Gospel. They may learn to suspect the power and influence of their grosser passions, when they see that even these refined ones may corrupt their judgement, and betray them into Infidelity.
The Apostle says expressly, that if the Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost : and who, that rejects the Gospel, but must tremble for himself, when his REASON, nay his VIRTUE, may be the instrument of his ruin?
f Lord Shaftesbury, and others.
PREACHED NOVEMBER 13, 1774.
1 PETER iii. 15.
-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. THESE words have been often and justly quoted to prove the rational genius of our religion : but they have sometimes been quoted to prove much more, “The obligation, “ that Christians are under, to justify their
religion, in the way of argument, against all
opposers, and to satisfy all the difficulties “ and objections, that can be brought against “ it.” A magnificent pretension! but surely without authority from the text, as I shall briefly shew, by enquiring,
1. Who the persons are, to whom this
direction is given:
2. What that hope is, which is in them,
and concerning which they are supposed to be interrogated: And therefore
3. Lastly, what the proper answer, or apo
logy must be, of those persons, when required to give a reason of such hope.
The resolution of these questions will afford us a clear insight into the meaning of the text: and then we shall be enabled to make some pertinent and useful reflexions upon it.
1. St. Peter addresses himself to the elect strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bythinia —i. e. most probably, to Jewish Christians, dispersed through these countries, in which they were properly strangers; though, in some sense, all good men are strangers and sojourners on earth, and therefore the use of this term may not necessarily exclude such Heathen converts to the faith, as lived in those quarters. But whatever be the precise meaning of the term, it is clear, that all persons of this general denomination, or all the stranger Christians, residing in the places, here mentioned, are, without distinction, concerned in this catholic epistle. There is not a word that implies any difference of age,, or sex, or education, or rank: not the least regard is had to the office of some, or the qualifications of others: all indiscriminately, of the class specified, who had knowledge and understanding enough to profess themselves Christians, are the objects of the Apostle's address: and of these, universally, is the requisition made, that they be ready always to give an answer to every man, that asketh a reason of the hope that is in them. But what then
2. Is that Hope, of which all such persons were expected and required to render a reason? Plainly the general hope of Christians, the hope of eternal life, the hope of a resurrection from the dead, the blessed hope, in short, of salvation through Jesus Christ.
The context shews, that it was this hope, and this only, of which they were to give an account.. For, in the preceding verse, the Apostle had been speaking of the trials which they should undergo for the sake of their religion. Possibly, they were, then, in a state of persecution; or, it was foreseen that they soon would be in that state. But and if ye suffer,