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other. Instead of the cross of affliction, they make the crown or mitre the badge of their church, aud will have it kuown by prosperity, and outward pomp, and so turn the church militant, into the church triumphant, not considering that it is Babylon's voice, not the church's, I sit as a queen, and shall see no sorrow.
Again, they are like him in his saying on the mount at Christ's transfiguration, when he knew not what he said, It is good to be here : so they have little of the true glory of Christ, but the false glory of that monarchy on their seven hills, It is good to be here, say they
Again, in their undue striking with the sword, not the enemies, as he, but the faithful friends and servants of Jesus Christ. But to proceed,
We see here Peter's office or title, an apostle, not chief bishop. Some in their glossing have been so impudent as to add that beside the text; though he gives that title to Christ alone, and to himself only fellow elder, and here, not prince of the apostles, but an apostle, restored and re-established after his fall, by repentance, and by Christ himself after his own death and resurrection. Thus we have in our apostle a singular instance of human fraility on the one side, and of the sweetness of divine grace on the other. Free, and rich grace it is indeed, that'forgives and swallows up multitudes of sins, of greatest sins, not only sins before conversion, as to St. Paul, but foul offences committed after conversion, as to Darid, and to this apostle; not only once raising them from the dead, but when they fall, stretching out the same hand, and raising them again, and restoring them to their station, and comforting them in it by his free spirit, as David prays. Not only to cleanse polluted clay, but to work it into vessels of honour, yea of the most defiled shape to make the most refined vessels, not vessels of honour of the lowest sort, but for the highest and most honourable services, vessels to bear his own < Chapter v. 4.
d John sxi.
precious name to the nations; making the most unworthy and the most unfit, fit by his grace to be his niessengers.
Of Jesus Christ.] Both as the beginning and end of his apostleship, as Christ is called. Alpha and Omega", chosen and called by him, and called to this, to preach him, and salvation wrought by him.
A posile of Jesus Christ.] Sent by him, and the message no other but his name, to make that known. And what this apostleship was then, after some extraordinary way, befitting these first times of the gospel, that the ministry of the word in ordinary is now, and therefore an employment of more difficulty and excellency than is usually conceived by many, not only of those that look upon it, but even of those that are exercised in it, to be ambassadors for the greatest of kings, and upon no mean employment, that great treaty of peace and reconcilement betwixt him and mankind'.
This Epistle is directed to the Elect, who are described here, by their temporal and by their spiritual conditions. The one hath very much dignity and comfort in it; but the other hath neither, but rather the contrary of both: and therefore the apostle, intending their comfort, mentions the one but in passing, to signify to whom particularly he sent his Epistle. But the other is that which he would have their thoughts dwell upon, and therefore he
prosecutes it in his following discourse. And if we look, to the order of the words, their temporal condition is but interjected; for it is said, to the Elect, first, and then to the strangers scattered, &c. And he would have this as it were drowned in the other, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.
That those dispersed strangers that dwelt in the countries here named, were Jews, appears, if we look to the foregoing Epistle, where the same word is used, and expressly appropriated to the Jews. And St. Peter" is called an apostle of the circumcision, as exercising his apostleship most towards them; and e Rev. ii. 11. 1 2 Cor. v. 20. & James i. 1.
h Gal. ii.
there is in some passages of the Epistle somewhat, that, though belonging to all Christians, yet hath, in the strain and way of expression, a particular fitness to the believing Jews, as being particularly verified in them which was spoken of their nation'.
Some argue from the Name, Strangers, that the Gentiles are here meant, which seems not to be: for proselyte Gentiles were indeed called strangers in Jerusalem, and by the Jews. But were not the Jews strangers in these places, Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia? Not strangers dwelling together in a prosperous flourishing condition, as a well planted colony, but strangers of the dispersion, scattered to and fro; and their dispersion was partly, first by the Assyrian captivity, and after that by the Babylonish, and by the invasion of the Romans : and it might be in these very times inereased by the believing Jews flying from the hatred and persecution that was raised againt them at hoine.
These places here mentioned, through which they were dispersed, are all in Asia. So Asia here is Asia the lesser. Where it is to be observed, that some of those who heard St. Peterk, are said to be of those regions. And if any of those then converted were amongst these dispersed, the comfort was no doubt the more grateful from the hand of the same apostle by whom they were first converted; but this is only conjecture. Though divine truths are to be received equally from every minister alike, yet it must be acknowledged that there is something (we know not what to call it) of a more acceptable reception of those who at first were the means of bringing men to God, than of others; like the opinion some have of physicians whom they love.
The apostle comforts these strangers of this dispersion by the spiritual union which they obtained by effectual calling, and so calls off their eyes from their outwasd, dispersed and despised condition, to look above that, as high as the spring of their hapi Gal. ii. 9, 10.
k Acts ij.
piness, the free love and election of God. Scattered in the countries, and yet gathered in God's election, chosen or pickt out; strangers to men amongst whom they dwelt, bút known and foreknown to God; removed from their own country, to which men have naturally an unalterable affection, but made heirs of a better, as follows', and having within them the evidence both of eternal election, and that expected Salvation, the Spirit of holiness m. At the best a christian is but a stranger here, set him where you will, as our apostle teacheth after: And it is his privilege that he is so; and when he thinks not so, he forgets and disparages himself, and descends far below his quality, when he is much taken with any thing in this place of his exile.
But this is the wisdom of a christian, when he can solace himself against the meanness of his outward condition, and any kind of discomfort attending it, with the comfortable assurance of the love of God, that he hath called him to holiness, given him some measure of it, and an endeavour after more; and by this may he conclude, that he hath ordained him unto salvation. If either he is a stranger where he lives, or as a stranger deserted of his friends, and very near stript of all outward comforts; yet may he rejoice in this, that the eternal unchangeable love of God that is from everlasting to everlasting, is sealed to his soul. And O! what will it avail a man to be compassed about with the favour of the world, to sit unmolested in his own home and possessions, and to have them very great and pleasant, to be well monied, and landed, and befriended, and yet estranged and sever'd from God, not having any token of his special love?
To the Elect.] The apostle here denominates all the christians to whom he writes, by the condition of true believers, calling them eléct and sanctified, &C. And the apostle St. Paul writes in the same stile in his epistles to the churches: not that all in these churches were such indeed, but because tirey
1 Acts ii. 3,
professed to be such, and by that their profession and calling as christians, they were obliged to be such; and as many of them as were in any measure true to that their calling and profession, were really such. Besides, it would seem not unworthy of consideration, that in all probability there would be fewer false christians, and the number of true believers usually greater, in the churches in those primitive times, than now in the best reformed churches: Because there could not then be many of them that were from their infancy bred in the christian faith, but for the greatest part were such, as, being of years of discretion, were, by the hearing of the gospel, converted from Paganism and Judaism to the christian religion first, and made a deliberate choice of it, to which there were at that time no great outward encouragements; and therefore the less danger of multitudes of hypocrites, which, as vermin in summer, breed most in the time of the church's prosperity. Though no nation or kingdom had then uni, versally received the faith, but rather hated and persecuted it; yet were there even then amongst them, as the writings of the apostles testify, false brethren, and inordinate walkers, and men of corrupt minds, earthly minded, and led with a spirit of envy and contention, and vain glory:
Although the question that is moved concerning the necessary qualifications of all the members of a true visible church, can no way (as I conceive) be decided from the inscriptions of the Epistles; yet certainly they are useful to teach christians and christian churches what they ought to be, and what their holy profession requires of them, and sharply to reprove the gross unlikeness and inconformity that is in the most part of men, to the description of christians. As there be some that are too strait in their judgment concerning the being and nature of the visible church, so certainly the greatest part of churces are too loose in their practice.
From the dissimilitude betwixt our churches and tliose, we may make this use of reproof, that if an