1 Peter 3:14-17
But and if you suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are you: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;…
1. The ordinary causes of astonishment and perplexity of spirit in the time of adversity are these —
(1) When the evil a person lies under was wholly unexpected.
(2) When a man in his calamity is quite forlorn and destitute, has no friend to condole his misery, nor to support him under it.
(3) When the evil is lasting and invincible, such as the miserable patient can reasonably propose to himself no deliverance from.
2. These grounds of perturbation are not to be found in those afflictions which the righteous meet with for righteousness sake.
(1) Persecution of one kind or other is what the true Christian may expect, and so forearm himself (Luke 9:2; John 15:20; John 16:20, 33; Mark 10:29, 80; Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12).
(2) The righteous, in the extremest heat of persecution, are not entirely forsaken; but even then they have a great and faithful friend, viz., the Almighty God, who commiserates their distress, bears the heaviest end of the burden, and encourages them under all their troubles (Psalm 91:15; Isaiah 43:2; Isaiah 49:13-16; 2 Corinthians 4:9; Hebrews 13:5).
(3) The calamity with which the righteous are afflicted for righteousness' sake is not past hope and remedy. No; they are fully assured of deliverance from it, if not after the manner which they desire, yet in the way which is best for them (Psalm 34:19; Psalm 91:14-16; 2 Chronicles 1:9, 10; 2 Timothy 4:16-18).
I. GOD CAN DELIVER HIS CHURCH AND PEOPLE WHILE THEY ARE IN THE EXTREMEST DANGERS AND DIFFICULTIES (2 Peter 2:9).
II. IN SUCH CASES HE HATH VERY OFTEN DELIVERED THEM.
1. Some of these deliverances were accomplished, not by prodigious and amazing strokes of Divine power in suspending or transcending the force and course of natural causes, but by gentle and ordinary means, gloriously conducted by the wise providence of God (Exodus 2; 1 Samuel 23:1; Esther 6:1).
2. Whereas it is said that we are no more to look for miracles, I answer that it is presumptuous to limit the Holy One of Israel, peremptorily to set bounds to the infinitely wise and powerful God where He has not expressly set them to Himself.
3. Let this matter be as it may, yet I hope it will be granted that God is still the God of salvation; that "His hand is not shortened that it cannot save," etc.; that He even is the Lover and Protector of truth and righteousness and the Helper of the helpless; that He can abate the pride, assuage the malice, and confound the devices of the Church's enemies; and, finally, that He can raise up deliverers to the persecuted when and where it was least expected.
III. THERE ARE THE STRONGEST REASONS FOR THEIR BELIEVING THAT AT LENGTH GOD WILL DELIVER THEM ONE WAY OR OTHER.
1. He will deliver them by a temporal deliverance, if that be most agreeable to His wise counsels, to the methods of His providence in governing the world and His Church, and to their true and greatest welfare.
2. If He think it not proper to remove sufferings from them, He will remove them from suffering.
IV. BY HEARKENING TO THIS COUNSEL OF ST. PETER THE CHRISTIAN WILL EXCEEDINGLY CONSULT THE PEACE OF HIS OWN MIND.
1. Excessive and irregular sorrow is of itself a very great calamity; it enfeebles the soul; at once it increases a man's affliction and disables him from bearing the same (Proverbs 15:13; Proverbs 18:14).
2. As for anxiety of mind, it distracts and disquiets those who are under its dominion after a most miserable manner.
3. Who can express the misery of those who, in the time of persecution, give way to anger, revenge, impatience, and murmuring? By their blustering passions they raise a perpetual storm within, and are like the troubled sea which cannot rest.
4. Whereas, if they who are persecuted for righteousness sake do wisely follow this direction; if, instead of abandoning themselves to immoderate grief and to pernicious impatience, they maintain a holy cheerfulness of spirit, patience, and contentedness of mind, and cast all their care upon God; then they will find, to their unspeakable comfort, that the blessed fruits of this prudent and religious practice are these: a reviving and supporting cordial to their hearts; an admirable and sweet repose within, while there is nothing but storm without; and that vigour of soul which will enable them bravely to bear up under the heaviest load of adversity.
V. SPECIAL MOTIVES AND CONSIDERATIONS FOR WHICH THE CHRISTIAN SHOULD AVOID ANY OF THOSE PARTICULAR INWARD TROUBLES OR DISORDERS OF MIND TO WHICH HE IS LIABLE IN THE STATE OF PERSECUTION, IF HE BE NOT UPON HIS GUARD AND CONTINUALLY SUPPORTED BY THE GRACE OF GOD.
1. Anxious and disquieting thoughtfulness and sorrow are very expressly forbidden the Christians (Matthew 6:25, etc.; John 14:1, 27; John 16:33; Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7).
2. An undisturbed, well-grounded, and governed quietness and alacrity of spirit under sufferings is the highest pitch of faith, and a signal honour done to the attributes and promises of God. Whereas dejecting sorrow and anxious perplexity of mind is too great a proof of the want or weakness of faith, and a tacit reproach to God.
3. This holy cheerfulness and tranquillity of mind does exceedingly become the servants of God, especially in the time of persecution, and the opposite temper of irregular sorrow and anxiety is extremely unsuitable.
4. The Christian will entertain a horror at immoderate sorrow and anxiety of mind when he seriously considers the dreadful spiritual inconveniences and evils which may follow thereupon, if they be not prevented by the singular goodness of God.
(1) Excessive sorrow and anxiety are apt to create in those over whom they prevail an indisposition to the exercise of several graces and duties, the exercise whereof is nevertheless highly necessary in the conjuncture of persecution and distress, viz., faith and dependence on God, resignation, prayer, thanksgiving, etc.
(2) Though the persecuted and afflicted Christian has much need of Divine consolations from the Word of God and the immediate influences of His Spirit, yet excessive sorrow and anxiety do exceedingly stand in the way of his partaking of these consolations.
(3) Immoderate sorrow and anxiety expose those over whom they prevail to many other dangerous evils and inconveniences. These sinful infirmities incline men to be weary and faint under the cross, to be over-desirous of shaking it off, and to hearken to sinful overtures for that effect.
Parallel VersesKJV: But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;