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ONLY beg leave to introduce to you ARCHBISHOP LEIGHTON. If you be already acquainted with him, I need not say any more. You are pleased; and I withdraw, that you may immediately enjoy his edifying discourse.
But, if you and he have hitherto been strangers, I am sorry for it; because it has been your loss. Having been acquainted with him some years, I recommend him as one of the most pleasing, edifying and savoury companions with whom you can form an intimacy. I have sometimes had occasion to break off the connections I have formed for myself; and to lament those that I have formed for others. This has made me somewhat cautious in these matters. But it has not been thus in respect to this worthy prelate; who now makes a new appearance upon the public stage. He improves by acquaintance, and (which is not often the case) makes himself dearer by familiarity. I know none like him. And I am persuaded, christian Reader, that you and I shall reflect upon the opportunity of making LEIGHTON yours with pleasure: and that you will not grudge the small pittance that you part with, for a treasure so valuable.
As to his external garb; and the manner in which it is put on; I hope, you will allow, that it is the best in which he has yet made his appearance. This is indeed trivial when compared with internal
worth; but it sometimes gives a person courage to speak with a better grace, and makes him heard with greater attention.
I beg pardon for taking this liberty with a character so venerable, and exalted, as that of ARCHBISHOP LEIGHTON is universally allowed to be. He highly deserved to be introduced by some person of eminence; yea, by the late Rev. James Hervey himself. He has indeed exalted him already in the following words. "Thus says an "excellent Author [LEIGHTON]; who writes "with the most amiable spirit of benevolence; "with the most unaffected air of humility; and "like the sacred originals, from which he copies "with a majestic simplicity of stile."
That this work, once more, may be made useful to the church of God, is the sincere prayer of,
First Epistle General of St. Peter.
CHAPTER I. VERSE 1.
Peter an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.
HE grace of God in the heart of man, is a tender plant in a strange unkindly soil; and therefore cannot well prosper and grow, without much care and pains, and that of a skilful hand, and that hath the art of cherishing it: for this end, hath God given the constant ministry of the word to his church, not only for the first work of conversion, but also for confirming and increasing of his grace in the hearts of his children.
And though the extraordinary ministers of the gospel, the apostles, had principally the former for their charge, the converting of unbelievers, Jews and Gentiles, and so the planting of churches, to be after kept, and watered by others, as the apostle intimates, yet did they not neglect the other work of strengthening the grace of God begun in the new converts of those times, both by revisiting them, and exhorting them in person, as they could, and by the supply of their writing to them when absent.
à 1 Cor. iii. 6.
And the benefit of this extends (not by accident, but by the purpose, and good providence of God) to the church of God in all succeeding ages.
This excellent epistle (full of evangelical doctrine and apostolical authority) is a brief, and yet very clear summary both of the consolations and instructions needful for the encouragement and direction of a christian in his journey to Heaven, elevating his thoughts and desires to that happiness, and strengthening him against all opposition in the way, both that of corruption within, and temptations and afflictions from without.
The heads of doctrine contained in it are many, but the main that are most insisted on are these three, faith, obedience and patience, to establish them in believing, to direct them in doing, and comfort them in suffering. And because the first is the ground-work and support of the other two, this first chapter is much in that, persuading them of the truth of that mystery they had received and did believe, viz. their redemption and salvation by Christ Jesus; that inheritance of immortality bought by his blood for them, and the evidence and stability of their right and title to it.
And then he uses this belief, this assurance of the glory to come, as the great persuasive to the other two, both to holy obedience, and constant patience, since nothing can be too much either to forego, or undergo, either to do, or to suffer for the attainment of that blessed state.
And as from the consideration of that object, and matter of the hope of believers, he encourages to patience, and exhorteth to holiness, in this chapter in general; so in the following chapters, he expresses more particularly, both the universal, and special duties of christiaus, both in doing and suffering, often setting before them to whom he wrote, the matchless example of the Lord Jesus, and the greatness of their engagement to follow him.
In the two first verses, we have the inscription
and salutation, in the usual stile of the apostolic epistles.
The inscription hath the author and the address, from whom, and to whom. The author of this epistle is designed by his name, Peter, and his calling, an apostle.
We shall not insist upon his name, that it was imposed by Christ, and what is its signification; this the Evangelists teach us".
By that which is spoken of him in divers passages of the gospel, he is very remarkable amongst the apostles, both for his graces, and his failings, eminent in zeal and courage; and yet stumbling oft in his forwardness, and once grossly falling: And these by the Providence of God being recorded in Scripture, give a check to the excess of Rome's conceit concerning this apostle. Their extolling and exalting him above the rest, is not for his cause, and much less to the honour of his Lord and master Jesus Christ, for he is injured and dishonoured by it; but it is in favour of themselves, as Alexander distinguished his two friends, that the one was a friend of Alexander, the other a friend of the king. That preferment they give this apostle, is not in good will to Peter, but in the desire of primacy. But whatsoever he was, they would be much in pain to prove Rome's right to it by succession. And if ever it had any such right, we may confidently say, it has forfeited it long ago, by departing from St. Peter's footsteps, and from his faith, and retaining too much those things wherein he was faulty, namely,
His unwillingness to hear of, and consent to Christ's sufferings, his master spare thyself, or far be it from thee, in those they are like him for thus they would disburthen and exempt the church from the cross, from the real cross of afflictions, and, instead of that, have nothing but painted, or carved, or gilded crosses; these they are content to embrace, and worship too, but cannot endure to hear of the b John i. 42. Matthew xvi. 18, &c.