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shed, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zacharias. At the time Jesus denounced on Jerusalem this judgment, it seems that their iniquity was not full; for we read in the 23d of Matthew as follows: “Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them that killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers. How can ye escape the damnation of hell ? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, all these things shall coine upon this generation.
In this portion of our Saviour's words, we learn that those Jews who refused him and his doctrine, would also refuse his disciples and persecute them, for which they would be visited with those awfully severe judgments, which he not only in this place denounced on them, but which he so fully set forth to his disciples in the 24th and 25th chapters of this gospel, as well as in other passages recorded in the New Testament.
Now the relative severity of the sufferings of the house of God, and those devoted Jews, who obeyed not the gospel, is intimated in our text in the following words: “And if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God ?” That is, if we who adhere to the testimony of Jesus, and are faithful to his righteous cause, are visited with these sufferings from the hands of those who are the enemies of our Lord and master, and who have been his persecutors and murderers, what must be the punishment of their wickedness? The conclusion is evident; it
must be vastly greater in its severity, than all that we suffer by their means.
There can be no reasonable doubt but St. Peter, when writing this encouragement to his brethren, who with himself suffered many things from the bloody hands of these enemies of Jesus and his doctrine, had in recollection these words of his divine master to that generation of vipers, which we have before quoted; for he was present when Je. sus so vehemently denounced the judgments of God upon them. And he, no doubt, remembered what he heard his divine master say, which is recorded in the 24th of Matthew, and in the 21st of Luke. If the hearer will be so faithful as to examine those two chapters, he will understand the nature of this subject. The speaker cannot, in the limits of this discourse, quote all that belongs to it.
We have now come to where an important question may be profitably considered. The question is this: Did the apostle Peter here speak of the future punishment which the enemies of the gospel would suffer in the eternal world, and which they would have to suffer to an endless duration, which is common doctrine on this text? We answer, No; for he was not authorised to go beyond the judgments which Jesus, his master, had denounced. And it is an undeniable fact, that in the dreadful judgments which the Saviour described as the punishment of the sins of his enemies, he did not extend their sufferings beyond a mortal state. And it is furthermore of importance to observe, that as Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil ;" so he never extended the judgments of God beyond where the law of Moses and the testimony of the prophets had before carried them.
If we read Moses on the subject of the punishments which God threatened on Israel, in case of their disobedience, we shall be struck with the
greatest horror and astonishment, but shall read nothing about their being punished in a futurc state of existence. See Leviticus xxvi. Here are described all manner of evils to which man is incident in a mortal state. The famine, all manner of sickness, the pestilence, droughts, mildewy, the sword of their enemies, their land in desolation, they in the most cruel captivities, where they should continually waste away before the sword, which would be continually drawn out after them. And in this account, be it remarked, God says, that this punishment is according to their sins. Therefore, whoever says that sin is not punished in this world, denies the word of God; and whoever says that sin is not punished according to its demerits in this mortal state, denies the divine testimony. See what the prophet Jeremiah sets forth in his Lamentations, chapter iv. In order to have any thing of a just idea of this description, it is necessary to imagine the case our own, and suppose ourselves besieged by a powerful enemy, shut in on every side, our stores exhausted, nothing in our markets, our wives and children looking pale upon us, we not a piece of bread to give them, our young men pined away, and appearing like shadows the streets, our most delicate mothers, now losing all natural affection, lay their hands on their little childen-But I cannot proceed. When I meditated this subject, my children came around me, and called up such feelings as I will not attempt to describe. Suppose our infuriate enemy finally enters our town victorious, our brave warriors, who had bared their breasts to the storm of war, are cut to pieces, and all falls into the hands of a most savage and barbarous soldiery. Such is but a faint description of what the prophet set forth in his Lamentations over Jerusalem, over which our Saviour wept, knowing that the time of her visitation was near. In the prophet's account, he makes a comparison, and says, “For the pun. ishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my peo.
ple is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed upon her.”
As recorded in the 21st of Luke, Jesus informed his disciples, that before the judgments which he prophesied would come on the Jews, should commence, they would suffer much persecution from their hands. With this in his mind, how perfectly natural was it for Peter, when speaking of the sufferings which the Christians endured from the persecuting hands of the Jews, to call their attention to consider how much greater sufferings their persecutors were doomed to endure, than they were suffering for the cause of Christ. To the same effect the Saviour spake, when he was going to the cross :
66 And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus, turning unto them, said, (0, how graceful must have been his appearance) Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your chil . dren. For behold the days are coming in the which they shall say, blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, fall on us; and to the hills, cover us. For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry ?”
In his account of the destruction of the Jews, and of the vengeance of God upon them, Jesus was particular in his reference to what had been written on the subject; he says, “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." Let it be further distinctly noticed, that in the three accounts, which are re. corded by Matthew, Mark and Luke, of the denunciations of the judgments of God on the enemies of Jesus, for their sins, the whole is confined to that generation; and not the least intimation of punishment in a future state of existence, any
more than we find in the writings of Moses and the prophets.
We now proceed to speak of the nature of that salvation which is indicated in our text by the following words: “If the righteous scarcely be saved." In order to maintain the opinion, that the apostle meant to speak of the hereafter and endless punishment of the wicked, in our text, it has been supposed, that by the salvation of the righteous, the apostle meant an immortal state of glory and felicity. But let reason be exercised for a moinent on this subject. What is meant by the word scarcely? Does it mean something that is full and complete? Does it not in fact necessarily mean something that is scanty? Yes, it most surely does. Now, is it reasonable or scriptural to apply this word to the state of immortality and eternal glory, which the scriptures promise ? Take the words of Christ to the Sadducees for example, where he speaks of the resurrection state: “Neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” My brethren, do you candidly think that the word scarcely can properly be applied to this state of incomprehensible glory? Look at the description which St. Paul gives of the resurrection state, in his first epistle to the Cor. xv. “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” The candor of this audience is requested to judge, whether this description of glory, power, life and immortality, can well be expressed by the words “scarcely saved ?” Do you believe that the blessed in heaven will use such language to express their salvation, and say, “We are scarcely saved ?” Is St. Peter now with him for whose cause he suf