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ON SANCTIFYING THE LORD.
PETER 111. 15°
But sanctify the Lord God in your bearts.
HE people to whom this Epistle was originally written, had already received the gospel of Christ, and had happily experienced it to be the power of God unto salvation. But at the time it was wrote, like the rest of the primitive Christians, they were called to endure hardness, as good soldiers of Christ Jesus, they were greatly persecuted by their countrymen, the Jews, who continued enemies to the Gospel ; and at the same time, Satan was not idle, but they weré grievously tempted and tried by him. The Apostle, knowing these things, tenderly sympathized with them; and well knowing the weakness and frailty of human nature, and how exceedingly apt we are to faint and grow weary in the day of adversity, he endeavoured to administer all the spiritual comfort and encouragement to them that he possibly could: With this view he assured them, that "the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous;" and therefore, notwithstanding their present trials, they had no just cause to think that they were forgotten by him ; that the ears of the Lord are ever attentive to their prayers, so that making their requests known to God, they might rest satisfied he would both hear and graciously answer them. He also assured them, that " the face of the Lord is against all them that do evil;" and more especially against those who hate and persecute his own people ; and he adds, “ Who is he that shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good ?” As if he would bid defiance to all their enemies, to hurt or harm them, while they steadily walked in the ways of God. “But," saith he, “ if ye be persecuted for righteousness sake, happy are ye, and be not afraid of their terror, neither be ye troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in
your hearts." This advice was exactly suited to the state of the people for whom it was intended ; it was a word in season, and no doubt was made a blessing to them: But it was not only designed for the people to whom it was first given, but for all the children of God, in every age and nation, unto: whom this Epistle should ever come. We may therefore consider the Apostle Peter as being personally present, and in the Name of his blessed Master, recommending this excellent advice to every one of us; and seeing these things are so, id is both our duty and interest seriously to consider the meaning of these words, and to make the best use of them, that we post sibly can.
What, then, is implied in sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts?
To sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, implies, or rather pre-supposes, that we have already given up our hearts to God, in obedience to that word, "My son, give me thy heart; and that we have seriously, sacredly, and; solemnly joined ourselves to the Lord, in the bonds of a perpetual covenant, never to be forgotten; or according to the expressive language of the New Testament, it implies, that we are truly converted, or " renewed in the spirit of our mind, in righteousness, and true holiness.” It would be impossible for us to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, till this change is wrought in us, seeing that an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. It is true, that some people are ignorant enough to suppose that they sanctify the Lord God in their hearts, while at the same time they dishonour nim in their life and convers sation ; but this we know is impossible, as every tree is known by its fruit; And it must follow, if the life and conversation (the fruit) be evil,, it is because the tree (the heart) is evil; from which it proceeds. It therefore nearly concerns all men to take care that the good foundation be laid in them, and that a real work of grace is wrought in their hearts, so that they may bring forth fruit to the glory of God.
Let this change be wrought in the soul, and then to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts will imply, that we have: a steady, constant, practical trust and confidence in him, considered as a God of infinite wisdom, poruer, and goodness. And first, that we have this confidence in him, considered as a God infinite in power. The truth of this will appear, if we consider that passage in the Old Testament, from which these words are taken for they are originally the words of the propheç Isaiah: At a time when the Israelites were in ao. small danger, the Prophet said unto them, in the Name of the
Lord, “ Fear ye not their fear, neither be ye afraid ; but sanctify the Lord God of Hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” As if he had said, Why are you afraid of your enemies; they are, indeed, many in number, and mighty in power; but what then? Do you not know that there is a God in Israel, with whom it is all one to deliver by many or by few? Who can make one of you chase a thousand, and two to put ten thousand to flight. : So likewise the Apostle, when the people were exposed to persecuţion and temptation at the same time, he gave them this seasonable advice, " Sanctify the Lord God,” by putting your whole trust and confidence in him. Many of the ancient saints and servants of the Lord were eminent for this : They, trusted in the Lord on the most trying occasions, and when they were exposed to the greatest dangers. This was the case with the three Hebrew young men, of whom we have an account by the prophet Daniel: They were made' acquainted with the king's decree, If any man, of what rank or degree soever he was, should refuse to fall down and worship the golden image, which the king had set up, when hearing the sound of certain musical instruments, he should be cast; the same hour, into a burning fiery furnace: But as these three men steadily trusted in God; when they were brought before, and accused to the enraged king; with all possible calmness they replied,
i. We are not careful to answer thee touching this matter; for be it known unto thee; O king, we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up" And although they were cast into the burning fiery furnace, yea, and the furnace heated one seven times more than it was wont to be heated; yet the God in whom they trusted, preserved them from the violence of the Aames. “Did not we,” said the astonished king, “ cast three men bound, into the midst of the fire? Behold; I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fre, and they have no hurt, and the form of the fourth, is like the Son of God!" As they sanctified the Lord God in their hearts, they were preserved; notwithstanding the intense heat of the fire; the smell of it was not to be found upon their raiment, nor was an hair of their head sinred: They trusted in the Lord, and were not confounded.
So Daniel likewise sanctified the Lord God in his heart: He well knew the designs of his enemies, and that they had procured that impious decree, in order to take away his life ; but as he was enabled steadily to trust in the Lord, he paid no regard to it, but weat into his chutiber, and prayed to his
God three times a day, just as he had done before; yea, and hé opened the windows of his chamber, which looked towards Jerusalem, the beloved city. Would not many think, that this was carrying matters too får ? Was not Daniel very imprudent? Might he not have prayed (till the time fixed by the decree was expired) in some private place, or in the dead of the night, when his enemies would not have found him out? Daniel believed the God to whom he prayed, was able to deliver him; therefore he was not governed by such worldly prudence: He would not give his enemies any just grounds to say, that he could not rely upon the Lord his God, in the time of danger : And according to his faith so it was done unto him; for although he was cast into the lion's den, yet the Lord sent his angel, and shut the lion's mouths, so that they had no power to hurt him, and he was brought out of that extreme danger, to the astonishment of all who saw or heard of the extraordinary deliverance.
Now this infinitely powerful God is still the same at this day that he was in the days of Daniel : His arm is not shortened, nor is his ear grown heavy, but he is still mighty to save, and strong to deliver : And although we may not be cast into a burning fiery furnace ; yet we may be called, in the course of Divine Providence, to pass through fiery trials : And though we may never be cast into a lion's den, yet perhaps we may sometimes say with David, “ My soul is among lions.” The Lord therefore grants us this blessed privilege, to trust him entirely, in our greatest dangers, to look to him for all the help we want, under our heaviest afflictions: And for protection from all the enemies of our peace and happiness; he gives us the strongest assurances, that if we thus sanctify him in our hearts, by trusting in him, we shall never be confounded: He graciously declares, “When ye pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you; when ye pass through the fire, you shall not be burnt, neither shall the fame kindle upon you:” And to encourage us the more, he bids us“ look to the generations of old, and see whether he has not been faithful to his word.” “ Did ever any trust in the Lord, and was confounded, or abide in his fear and was forsaken, or whom did he ever reject, who called upon his Name?' If we then trust in the Lord Jehovah, we shall experience his utmost power to save; as our day is, so shall our strength be, and we shall have suffering grace for suffering times.
2. To sanctify the Lord God in our hearts also implies, that we have the same confidence in God, considered as infi
nitely wise, as well as infinitely powerful. There is no diffin culty in acknowledging this to be the truth: We all confess that God is infinitely wise in all his ways, as well as holy in all his works; and that as he created the world by his almighty, power, so he governs it by his all-wise and gracious providence : We profess to believe, that nothing happens to us by chance, that the hairs of our head are numbered, and that no evil can befal us, without the knowledge and permission of God. But it is one thing to confess all this with our lips, and it is yet another, and a much greater, to believe it in our hearts, so as to be properly affected thereby. And we shall find, (as strange as some may think it,) that it is no uncommon thing for us to acknowledge, that God is indeed, infinitely wise ; and yet, at the same time, to be affected, yea, and some times to speak too, as if we thought ourselves wiser than he. Is it not so when we murmur, when impatience and discontent find a place in our breasts? And is it not thus, also, when we hear any one complain and say, “ If my lot had only been cast in such or such a place, and had I only been in such easy and happy circumstances, as many of my friends are; then indeed I might have served God with some degree of satisfaction ; I'might then have made a shining figure in the church, and my soul might have prospered abundantly: But alas ! I am so disagreeably situated, and so unhappily circumstanced : I am so embarrassed, encumbered, and entangled, that it is next to impossible for me to serve God as I ought !** Now what is all this, but in effect saying, “ Am not I wiser than God, and could not I have chosen for myself much better than he has done for me?” Nay, but we are called to believe, that the God whom we serve, is infinitely wise, and that he cannot possibly make any mistake, in any part of his conduct towards us, whether of a providential or of a gracious nature; and that he has always the same end in view, in all þis conduct, in all the methods ke takes with us: He always designs his own eternal glory, and our present and eternal good : He never did, and he never will vary from this rule; it is impossible he should, while he continues to be infinitely wise and gracious.
I know that some men will say, that God sometimes afflicts his children, merely to shew his sovereign power over them : But this is a design altogether unworthy of the infinitely wise and blessed God, and he tells us the contrary himself: “If he afflicts us, it is for our profit, that we may partake of his kind ness. What should we think of a father, whom the Lord hath blest with children, if he should beat and cruelly abuse them, for no other reason but to shew his power
and authority over them; should we not justly think, that this inhumax