We have here an awful position or doctrine, and an inference drawn from it. The position is that the end of all things is at hand. The miserable destruction of the Jewish church and nation foretold by our Saviour is now very near; consequently, the time of their persecution and your sufferings is but very short. Your own life and that of your enemies will soon come to their utmost period. Nay, the world itself will not continue very long. The conflagration will put an end to it; and all things must be swallowed up in an endless eternity. The inference from this comprises a series of exhortations.
1. To sobriety and watchfulness: “Be you therefore sober, 1 Pet. 4:7. Let the frame and temper of your minds be grave, stayed, and solid; and observe strict temperance and sobriety in the use of all worldly enjoyments. Do not suffer yourselves to be caught with your former sins and temptations, 1 Pet. 4:3. An watch unto prayer. Take care that you be continually in a calm sober disposition, fit for prayer; and that you be frequent in prayers, lest this end come upon you unawares,” Luke 21:34; Matt. 26:40, 41. Learn, (1.) The consideration of our approaching end is a powerful argument to make us sober in all worldly matters, and earnest in religious affairs. (2.) Those who would pray to purpose must watch unto prayer. They must watch over their own spirits, watch all fit opportunities, and do their duty in the best manner they can. (3.) The right ordering of the body is of great use to promote the good of the soul. When the appetites and inclinations of the body are restrained and governed by God’s word and true reason, and the interests of the body are submitted to the interests and necessities of the soul, then it is not the soul’s enemy, but its friend and helper.
2. To charity: And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves, 1 Pet. 4:8. Here is a noble rule in Christianity. Christians ought to love one another, which implies an affection to their persons, a desire of their welfare, and a hearty endeavour to promote it. This mutual affection must not be cold, but fervent, that is, sincere, strong, and lasting. This sort of earnest affection is recommended above all things, which shows the importance of it, Col. 3:14. It is greater than faith or hope, 1 Cor. 13:13. One excellent effect of it is that it will cover a multitude of sins. Learn, (1.) There ought to be in all Christians a more fervent charity towards one another than towards other men: Have charity among yourselves. He does not say for pagans, for idolaters, or for apostates, but among yourselves. Let brotherly love continue, Heb. 13:1. There is a special relation between all sincere Christians, and a particular amiableness and good in them, which require special affection. (2.) It is not enough for Christians not to bear malice, nor to have common respect for one another, they must intensely and fervently love each other. (3.) It is the property of true charity to cover a multitude of sins. It inclines people to forgive and forget offences against themselves, to cover and conceal the sins of others, rather than aggravate them and spread them abroad. It teaches us to love those who are but weak, and who have been guilty of many evil things before their conversion; and it prepares for mercy at the hand of God, who hath promised to forgive those that forgive others, Matt. 6:14.
3. To hospitality, 1 Pet. 4:9. The hospitality here required is a free and kind entertainment of strangers and travellers. The proper objects of Christian hospitality are one another. The nearness of their relation, and the necessity of their condition in those times of persecution and distress, obliged Christians to be hospitable one to another. Sometimes Christians were spoiled of all they had, and were driven away to distant countries for safety. In this case they must starve if their fellow-christians would not receive them. Therefore it was a wise and necessary rule which the apostle here laid down. It is elsewhere commanded, Heb. 13:1, 2; Rom. 12:13. The manner of performing this duty is this: it must be done in an easy, kind, handsome manner, without grudging or grumbling at the expense or trouble. Learn, (1.) Christians ought not only to be charitable, but hospitable, one to another. (2.) Whatever a Christian does by way of charity or of hospitality, he ought to do it cheerfully, and without grudging. Freely you have received, freely give.
4. To the improvement of talents, 1 Pet. 4:11.
(1.) The rule is that whatever gift, ordinary or extraordinary, whatever power, ability, or capacity of doing good is given to us, we should minister, or do service, with the same one to another, accounting ourselves not masters, but only stewards of the manifold grace, or the various gifts, of God. Learn, [1.] Whatever ability we have of doing good we must own it to be the gift of God and ascribe it to his grace. [2.] Whatever gifts we have received, we ought to look upon them as received for the use one of another. We must not assume them to ourselves, nor hide them in a napkin, but do service with them one to another in the best manner we are able. [3.] In receiving and using the manifold gifts of God we must look upon ourselves as stewards only, and act accordingly. The talents we are entrusted with are our Lord’s goods, and must be employed as he directs. And it is required in a steward that he be found faithful.
(2.) The apostle exemplifies his direction about gifts in two particulars—speaking and ministering, concerning which he gives these rules:—[1.] If any man, whether a minister in public or a Christian in private conference, speak or teach, he must do it as the oracles of God, which direct us as to the matter of our speech. What Christians in private, or ministers in public, teach and speak must be the pure word and oracles of God. As to the manner of speaking, it must be with the seriousness, reverence, and solemnity, that become those holy and divine oracles. [2.] If any man minister, either as a deacon, distributing the alms of the church and taking care of the poor, or as a private person, by charitable gifts and contributions, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth. He who has received plenty and ability from God ought to minister plentifully, and according to his ability. These rules ought to be followed and practised for this end, that God in all things, in all your gifts, ministrations, and services, may be glorified, that others may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16), through Jesus Christ, who has procured and given these gifts to men (Eph. 4:8), and through whom alone we and our services are accepted of God (Heb. 13:15), to whom, Jesus Christ, be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Learn, First, It is the duty of Christians in private, as well as ministers in public, to speak to one another of the things of God, Mal. 3:16; Eph. 4:29; Ps. 145:10-12. Secondly, It highly concerns all preachers of the gospel to keep close to the word of God, and to treat that word as becomes the oracles of God. Thirdly, Christians must not only do the duty of their place, but they must do it with vigour, and according to the best of their abilities. The nature of a Christian’s work, which is high work and hard work, the goodness and kindness of the Master, and the excellency of the reward, all require that our endeavours should be serious and vigorous, and that whatever we are called to do for the honour of God and the good of others we should do it with all our might. Fourthly, In all the duties and services of life we should aim at the glory of God as our chief end; all other views must be subservient to this, which would sanctify our common actions and affairs, 1 Cor. 10:31. Fifthly, God is not glorified by any thing we do if we do not offer it to him through the mediation and merits of Jesus Christ. God in all things must be glorified through Jesus Christ, who is the only way to the Father. Sixthly, The apostle’s adoration of Jesus Christ, and ascribing unlimited and everlasting praise and dominion to him, prove that Jesus Christ is the most high God, over all blessed for evermore. Amen.