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wise virtuous men, have suffered themselves to be misled in their religious inquiries.

Enough has been said to shew the issue of intellectual and moral Pride: And how it comes to pass that men lose themselves, who reason, on Religion, without modesty, or would be virtuous without Religion.

The application is short, but striking. It is, That men should examine themselves well, before they presume to think slightly of the Gospel. They may learn to suspect the power and influence of their grosser passions, when they see that even these refined ones may corrupt their judgement, and betray them into Infidelity.

The Apostle says expressly, that if the Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost and who, that rejects the Gospel, but must tremble for himself, when his REASON, nay his VIRTUE, may be the instrument of his ruin?

f Lord Shaftesbury, and others.

SERMON XXXVI.

PREACHED NOVEMBER 13, 1774.

1 PETER iii. 15.

-Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh You a reason of the hope, that is in You, with meekness and fear.

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THESE words have been often and justly quoted to prove the rational genius of our religion but they have sometimes been quoted to prove much more, "The obligation, "that Christians are under, to justify their "religion, in the way of argument, against all

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opposers, and to satisfy all the difficulties " and objections, that can be brought against "it.". A magnificent pretension! but surely without authority from the text, as I shall briefly shew, by enquiring,

1. Who the persons are, to whom this direction is given:

2. What that hope is, which is in them, and concerning which they are supposed to be interrogated: And therefore

3. Lastly, what the proper answer, or apology must be, of those persons, when required to give a reason of such hope.

The resolution of these questions will afford us a clear insight into the meaning of the text: and then we shall be enabled to make some pertinent and useful reflexions upon it.

1. St. Peter addresses himself to the elect strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bythinia-i. e. most probably, to Jewish Christians, dispersed through these countries, in which they were properly strangers; though, in some sense, all good men are strangers and sojourners on earth, and therefore the use of this term may not necessarily exclude such Heathen converts to the faith, as lived in those quarters. But whatever be the precise meaning of the term, it is clear, that all persons of this general denomination, or all the stranger Christians, residing in the places, here mentioned, are,

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without distinction, concerned in this catholic epistle. There is not a word that implies any difference of age, or sex, or education, or rank: not the least regard is had to the office of some, or the qualifications of others: all indiscriminately, of the class specified, who had knowledge and understanding enough to profess themselves Christians, are the objects of the Apostle's address: and of these, universally, is the requisition made, that they be ready always to give an answer to every man, that asketh a reason of the hope that is in them. But what then

2. Is that Hope, of which all such persons were expected and required to render a reason? Plainly the general hope of Christians, the hope of eternal life, the hope of a resurrection from the dead, the blessed hope, in short, of salvation through Jesus Christ.

The context shews, that it was this hope, and this only, of which they were to give an account. For, in the preceding verse, the Apostle had been speaking of the trials which they should undergo for the sake of their religion. Possibly, they were, then, in a state of persecution; or, it was foreseen that they soon would be in that state. But and if ye suffer,

says he, for righteousness sake, happy are ye. Why? because they knew the hope of their calling, and the ample recompense that would be made them in a future life for all such sufferings. Therefore, he advises that they should always have this precious hope present to them, and well established in their minds: nay, and that, for their own better support in the midst of their sufferings, and for the vindication of themselves to others, their persecutors, perhaps, who might ask on what grounds they exposed themselves to such torments, they should have in readiness an answer, or apology for their own conduct, setting forth the reason they had to confide in that hope; from which reason it would appear that they acted, as became prudent men, and not as blind, frantic enthusiasts.

It being now seen, to whom the text is directed, and what the hope, under con sideration, is, we have no difficulty in answering

3. The last question, "What the proper "answer might, or rather must be, of such persons, when required to give a reason of "such hope?"

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