Cautions against Sensuality. A. D. 66.
11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain
from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation
honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers,
they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the
day of visitation.
V. He warns them to beware of fleshly lusts, v. 11. Even the best of
men, the chosen generation, the people of God, need an exhortation to abstain
from the worst sins, which the apostle here proceeds most earnestly and
affectionately to warn them against. Knowing the difficulty, and yet the
importance of the duty, he uses his utmost interest in them: Dearly beloved,
I beseech you. The duty is to abstain from, and to suppress, the first
inclination or rise of fleshly lusts. Many of them proceed from the corruption
of nature, and in their exercise depend upon the body, gratifying some
sensual appetite or inordinate inclination of the flesh. These Christians
ought to avoid, considering, 1. The respect they have with God and good
men: They are dearly beloved. 2. Their condition in the world: They are
strangers and pilgrims, and should not impede their passage by giving into
the wickedness and lusts of the country through which they pass. 3. The
mischief and danger these sins do: "They war against the soul; and therefore
your souls ought to war against them." Learn, (1.) The grand mischief that
sin does to man is this, it wars against the soul; it destroys the moral
liberty of the soul; it weakens and debilitates the soul by impairing its
faculties; it robs the soul of its comfort and peace; it debases and destroys
the dignity of the soul, hinders its present prosperity, and plunges it
into everlasting misery. (2.) Of all sorts of sin, none are more injurious
to the soul than fleshly lusts. Carnal appetites, lewdness, and sensuality,
are most odious to God, and destructive to man's soul. It is a sore judgment
to be given up to them.
VI. He exhorts them further to adorn their profession by an honest conversation.
Their conversation in every turn, every instance, and every action of their
lives, ought to be honest; that is, good, lovely, decent, amiable, and
without blame: and that because they lived among the Gentiles, people of
another religion, and who were inveterate enemies to them, who did already
slander them and constantly spoke evil of them as of evil-doers. "A clean,
just, good conversation may not only stop their mouths, but may possibly
be a means to bring them to glorify God, and turn to you, when they shall
see you excel all others in good works. They now call you evil-doers; vindicate
yourselves by good works, this is the way to convince them. There is a
day of visitation coming, wherein God may call them by his word and his
grace to repentance; and then they will glorify God, and applaud you, for
your excellent conversation, Luke i. 68. When the gospel shall come among
them, and take effect, a good conversation will encourage them in their
conversion, but an evil one will obstruct it." Note, 1. A Christian profession
should be attended with an honest conversation, Phil. iv. 8. 2. It is the
common lot of the best Christians to be evil spoken of by wicked men. 3.
Those that are under God's gracious visitation immediately change their
opinion of good people, glorifying God and commending those whom before
they railed at as evil-doers.
Submission to Magistrates; Various Exhortations; A. D. 66.
13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake:
whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them
that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise
of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing
ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 As free, and not
using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of
God. 17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
The general rule of a Christian conversation is this, it must be honest,
which it cannot be if there be not a conscientious discharge of all relative
duties. The apostle here particularly treats of these distinctly.
I. The case of subjects. Christians were not only reputed innovators
in religion, but disturbers of the state; it was highly necessary, therefore,
that the apostle should settle the rules and measures of obedience to the
civil magistrate, which he does here, where,
1. The duty required is submission, which comprises loyalty and reverence
to their persons, obedience to their just laws and commands, and subjection
to legal penalties.
2. The persons or objects to whom this submission is due are described,
(1.) More generally: Every ordinance of man. Magistracy is certainly of
divine right; but the particular form of government, the power of the magistrate,
and the persons who are to execute this power, are of human institution,
and are governed by the laws and constitutions of each particular country;
and this is a general rule, binding in all nations, let the established
form of be what it will. (2.) Particularly: To the king, as supreme, first
in dignity and most eminent in degree; the king is a legal person, not
a tyrant: or unto governors, deputies, proconsuls, rulers of provinces,
who are sent by him, that is, commissioned by him to govern.
3. The reasons to enforce this duty are,
(1.) For the Lord's sake, who had ordained magistracy for the good of
mankind, who has required obedience and submission (Rom. xiii.), and whose
honour is concerned in the dutiful behavior of subjects to their sovereigns.
(2.) From the end and use of the magistrate's office, which are, to
punish evil-doers, and to praise and encourage all those that do well.
They were appointed for the good of societies; and, where this end is not
pursued, the fault is not in their institution but their practice. [1.]
True religion is the best support of civil government; it requires submission
for the Lord's sake, and for conscience' sake. [2.] All the punishments,
and all the magistrates in the world, cannot hinder but there will be evil-doers
in it. [3.] The best way the magistrate can take to discharge his own duty,
and to amend the world, is to punish well and reward well.
(3.) Another reason why Christians should submit to the evil magistrate
is because it is the will of God, and consequently their duty; and because
it is the way to put to silence the malicious slanders of ignorant and
foolish men, v. 15. Learn, [1.] The will of God is, to a good man, the
strongest reason for any duty. [2.] Obedience to magistrates is a considerable
branch of a Christian's duty: So is the will of God. [3.] A Christian must
endeavour, in all relations, to behave himself so as to put to silence
the unreasonable reproaches of the most ignorant and foolish men. [4.]
Those who speak against religion and religious people are ignorant and
(4.) He reminds them of the spiritual nature of Christian liberty. The
Jews, from Deut. xvii. 15, concluded that they were bound to obey no sovereign
but one taken from their own brethren; and the converted Jews thought they
were free from subjection by their relation to Christ. To prevent their
mistakes, the apostle tells the Christians that they were free, but from
what? Not from duty or obedience to God's law, which requires subjection
to the civil magistrate. They were free spiritually from the bondage of
sin and Satan, and the ceremonial law; but they must not make their Christian
liberty a cloak or covering for any wickedness, or for the neglect of any
duty towards God or towards their superiors, but must still remember they
were the servants of God. Learn, [1.] All the servants of Christ are free
men (John viii. 36); they are free from Satans' dominion, the law's condemnation,
the wrath of God, the uneasiness of duty, and the terrors of death. [2.]
The servants of Jesus Christ ought to be very careful not to abuse their
Christian liberty; they must not make it a cover or cloak for any wickedness
against God or disobedience to superiors.
4. The apostle concludes his discourse concerning the duty of subjects
with four admirable precepts:-- (1.) Honour all men. A due respect is to
be given to all men; the poor are not to be despised (Prov. xvii. 5); the
wicked must be honoured, not for their wickedness, but for any other qualities,
such as wit, prudence, courage, eminency of employment, or the hoary head.
Abraham, Jacob, Samuel, the prophets, and the apostles, never scrupled
to give due honour to bad men. (2.) Love the brotherhood. All Christians
are a fraternity, united to Christ the head, alike disposed and qualified,
nearly related in the same interest, having communion one with another,
and going to the same home; they should therefore love one another with
an especial affection. (3.) Fear God with the highest reverence, duty,
and submission; if this be wanting, none of the other three duties can
be performed as they ought. (4.) Honour the king with that highest honour
that is peculiarly due to him above other men.