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1 PETER V. 7.
Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.
THESE words contain a pressing exhortation to an important duty, and a most persuasive argument to enforce the practice of it. It was an apostle of Christ who gave the exhortation, and he adılressed it to believers in Christ; not to those who barely professed Christianity in opposition to Heathenism, but to real saints, as distinguished from mere nominal Christians, “ who have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof." What their condition was with respect to external things, partly appears from the inscription of the epistle, where they are called “strangers, scattered abroad throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” Such were not likely to enjoy much worldly ease or affluence; and indeed we bave positive evidence that they did not; for we are told expressly, that “ they were in heaviness through manifold temptations,” reproached as evil-doers, and cruelly persecuted for the name of Christ. Nay, as if these trials had been only the beginning of sorrows, the Apostle forewarus them, at the 12th verse of the preceding chapter, that they were soon to enter upon a new scene of sufferings; the severity of which should far ex. ceed any thing they had yet felt. “ Beloved," saith he, “ think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's
sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
We can hardly doubt, that such an awful prospect would beget many anxious, disquieting thoughts. Cares it behoved them to have; not about the trivial accommodations of a present life, theirs would be of a more serious and important nature : How they should quit them. selves like men, and maintain their ground against the craft of seducers, and the furious attacks of persecuting zeal; how they should adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour, and “cut off occasion from those who desired occasion to blaspheme that worthy name by which they were called;" above all, how they should recommend religion to the esteem and choice of their enemies, and become the instruments of saving from eternal death those who thirsted for their own blood, and treated them like the filth and offscouring of all things. Such, we may suppose, would be the principal cares of persecuted saints; and all these they are exhorted to cast upon Gol: For, adds the Apostle, God careth for you.
This is the argument which I shall now endeavour to illustrate,
1. By laying before you the evidence of its truth; and,
2. By showing its propriety and strength for engag. ing us to cast our care upon God.
I. WHEN we consider the character of the persons to whom this exhortation was originally addressed, it will readily occur to us, that the Apostle means something more by the care of God, than that general providence which extends to all the creatures lie hath made. The care he speaks of, is that peculiar and affectionate regard to the saints which he had before described (chap. iii. 12.) “ The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers; but the face of
the Lord is against them that do evil.” Thus it is writ. ten, that “ he withdraweth not his eye from the righte. ous.” “ The Lord is God," saith the prophet Nahum, “ a strong hold in the day of trouble, and he knoweth them that trust in bim.” Many other passages might be quoted which assert, in the most explicit terms, that God careth for his saints in another manner than he doth for the rest of the world. But that you may have a more extensive and encouraging view of the evidence of this truth, consider
How intimately the saints are related to God. “Bebold,” saith the apostle John in name of all the faithful, “ behold, what manner of love the Father hath be. stowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” Nor is this a mere title of honour; the persons on whom it is conferred are invested with a full and un. alterable right to all those privileges which the title im. ports; for, as St. Paul reasons, “ If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” And can it be supposed, that the Father of mercies will abandon his own offspring? Do earthly parents care for their children? and can he who hath implanted that disposi. tion in their nature, be unconcerned about those whom he hath adopted into his family, and regenerated by his Spirit? Is it possible that the streams should bave more sweetness than the fountain whence they flow? No, surely. “If men, being evil, know how to give good gifts to their children, much more will the Father of mercies give good things unto them that ask him.” And is not this a solid ground of confidence and hope? Eve. ry believer in Christ may expect all from God, and infi- . nitely more, than any child can expect from the most af. fectionate and tender-hearted parent upon earth. But this is not all: for
Our Father in heaven bath in a manner laid open his heart to us, and told us plainly what we may lawfully ask and hope to obtain. He hath published his good-will in a variety of great and precious promises; promises that extend to all the necessities of his children; inso. much, that be their condition what it will, they may find some gracious declaration of what God hath purposed to do, which suits their case with as much precision and exactness, as if their particular distress had been the immediate occasion of it. Or if any calamity should present itself to their imagination, against which no effectual provision appears to have been made, there is one promise upon record, to which the believing soul may at all times retreat, (Rom. viii. 28.) “ We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to bis purpose.” These are the words of him who is unchangeable, "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, without any vari. ableness or shadow of turning.” Hear what he saith, (Isa. xlix. 15.) “Can a woman forget her sucking cbild, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee."
, And that we may have fuller assurance of this, we are told by the prophet Malachi, that a book of remembrance is written before God, for them that fear the Lord, and that think upon his name.” Nay, the Scriptures inform us, that there is One in heaven, infinitely dear to the Father, who is not only a faithful Remem. brancer, but a powerful Advocate, and unwearied Inter. cessor, in behalf of all who come to God by 6 him."
And this may be considered as an additional ground of assurance, that believers are the objects of God's peculiar care. “We have a great High-Priest, who is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, who
constantly appears in the presence of God for us.” Thus John beheld bim in vision, “ standing in the midst of the throne, as a Lamb that had been slain,” displaying those wounds which he received, when “he bore our sins in his own body on the tree," as so many mouths filled with the most prevailing arguments for mercy and grace to his redeemed ones, whom he then did, and still doth, represent. We have a specimen of his intercession recorded by that Apostle in the 17th chapter of bis gospel; where, among other tender and affectionate requests, we find the following remarkable words: “ Now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou bast given me. I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which sball believe on me through their word.” In such terms did our Lord recommend his immediate followers, and all his disciples in succeeding generations, to the protection and care of his heavenly Father. And may not this beget in us the fullest and most joyful assurance, that God doth, and al. ways will, care for them? And still more, when we consider, that he who thus intercedes in their behalf, is himself possessed of all power in heaven and in earth, and is constituted Head over all things for the church. 66 I am be," said he, “that was dead, and am now alive, and behold I live for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death."
These are some of the evidences which the Scriptures afford us, that God careth for sanctified believers. The relation he bears to them, the promises he hath given to them, the constant prevailing intercession of bis Son,