ADVICE TO SUFFERERS
“WHEREFORE LET THEM THAT SUFFER ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD, COMMIT THE KEEPING OF THEIR SOULS TO HIM IN WELL DOING, AS UNTO A FAITHFUL CREATOR” 1 PETER 4:19
This epistle was written to saints in affliction, specially those of the circumcision, for whom this Peter was an apostle. And it was written to them to counsel, and comfort them in their affliction. To counsel them as to the cause, for which they were in afflictions, and as to the right management of themselves, and their cause, under their affliction. To comfort them also both with respect to their present help from God, and also with reference to the reward that (they faithfully continuing to the end) should of God be bestowed upon them: all which we shall have occasion, more distinctly, to handle in this following discourse.
The text is a conclusion, drawn from the counsel and comfort which the apostle had afore given them in their suffering state. As who should say, my brethren, as you are now afflicted, so sufferings are needful for you, and therefore profitable and advantageous: wherefore be content to bear them. And that you may indeed bear them with such Christian contentedness, and patience as becomes you; commit the keeping of your souls to your God as unto a faithful Creator. “Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to him [in well doing,] as unto a faithful Creator.”
In this conclusion, therefore, we have three things very fit for sufferers to concern themselves with. FIRST, A direction to a duty of absolute necessity. SECOND, A description of the persons, who are unto this, so necessary a duty, directed. THIRD, An insinuation of the good effect that will certainly follow to those that after a due manner shall take this blessed advice.
The duty so absolutely necessary is, that sufferers “commit the keeping of their souls to God.” The sufferers here intended, are those “that suffer according to the will of God.” The good insinuated, that will be the effect of our true doing of this, is, we shall find God “a faithful Creator.”
[FIRST — THE DUTY TO WHICH SUFFERERS ARE DIRECTED.]
We will first begin with the duty, that sufferers are here directed to, namely, the committing of their souls to God. “Let them – commit the keeping of their souls to him, in well doing.”
And I find two things in it that first call for explaining before I proceed. 1. What we must here understand by “the soul.” 2. What by “committing” the soul to God.
1. For the first: “The soul,” here, is to be taken for that most excellent part of man, that dwelleth in the body; that immortal, spiritual substance, that is, and will be capable of life, and motion, of sense and reason; yea, that will abide a rational being, when the body is returned to the dust as it was. This is that great thing, that our Lord Jesus intends, when he bids his disciples in a day of trial, fear him that can destroy both body and soul in hell (Luke 12:5). That great thing, I say, that he there cautions them to take care of. According to Peter here, “Let them commit the keeping of their soul to him in well doing.”
2. Now to “commit” this soul to God, is to carry it to him, to lift it to him, upon my bended knees, and to pray him for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, to take it into his holy care, and to let it be under his keeping. Also, that he will please to deliver it from all those snares that are laid for it, betwixt this and the next world, and that he will see that it be forthcoming, safe and sound, at the great and terrible judgment, notwithstanding so many have engaged themselves against it. Thus David committed his soul to God, when he said “Arise, O Lord, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul, O Lord, from the wicked, which is thy sword” (Psa 17:13). And again, “Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: O Lord, make hast to help me. Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul to destroy it” (Psa 40:13,14).
Thus, I have shewed you what the soul is, and what it is to commit the soul to God. This then is the duty that the apostle here exhorteth the sufferers to, namely, to carry their soul to God, and leave it with him while they engage for his name in the world. Now from the apostle’s exhortation to this great duty, I will draw these following conclusions.
Conclusion First, That when persecution is raised against a people, there is a design laid for the ruin of those people’s souls. This, I say, doth naturally follow from the exhortation. Why else, need they to commit the keeping of their souls to God. For by this word, “Unto God to keep them,” is suggested; there is that would destroy them, and that therefore persecution is raised against them. I am not so uncharitable, as to think, that persecuting men design this. But I verily believe that the devil doth design this, when he stirs them up to so sorry a work. In times of trial, says Peter, “your adversary the devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Alas! men in their acts of this nature, have designs that are lower, and of a more inferior rank. Some of them look no higher than revenge upon the carcass; than the spoiling of their neighbour of his estate, liberty, or life; than the greatening of themselves in this world, by the ruins of those that they have power to spoil. Their “possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty: and they that sell them say, Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich” (Zech 11:5).
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