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which was preached at Antioch in Pisidia. After asserting the fulfilment of that glorious promise which had been anciently given respecting the birth of our omnipotent Saviour, he cries out, “Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.” For the inhabitants and rulers of Jerusalem, “because they knew him not,” nor understood the sense of those prophecies which are read every sabbath day, have given them their sad completion, by condemning the Lord of life and glory: “Though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they laid him in a sepulchre." But God after three days raised him triumphantly from the grave: “and he was seen many days” of his wondering disciples, whom he continued to visit and instruct even after his resurrection, that they might become his witnesses to the people. And now, we declare unto you, that God hath fulfilled the promise which was made unto the fathers, in that he hath raised up Jesus from the dead. “Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken of in the prophets: Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which you shall in nowise believe though a man declare it unto you.” When the cross of Christ and its happy effects are thus faithfully declared, the word of God is never wholly preached in vain. Some, it is true, 'will always reject, and count themselves unworthy of everlasting life: but others will rejoice in the truth, glorifying the word of the Lord : and all those who by a true poverty of spirit are disposed for eternal life, shall effectually believe.
Some time afterwards, St. Paul delivered a sermon in the prison at Philippi, the capital of Macedonia. St. Luke, his historian, has not favoured us with this discourse, but he has transmitted to us the subject matter of it. Despairing sinner, said the apostle to the affrighted jailer, who lay trembling at his feet, “ believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house."
After hearing thus much, the astonished man collected his family together, and the apostle continued his discourse, declaring unto them all “ the word of the Lord.” Such are the small remains we are able to collect of this excellent sermon. But though we are unacquainted with its several parts, we know that it was attended with the happiest effects: for before the return of day, this converted jailer, snatched from the very brink of destruction, was seen, with all his believing family, rejoicing in God.
When the same apostle was afterward appointed to speak before the senate at Athens, he could not with propriety set before those unhumbled philosophers, “the mystery of the gospel.” But after bearing a public testimony against their superstition and idolatry, he pressed upon them the necessity of an unfeigned repentance : announcing Christ as an omniscient Judge, that he might afterward proclaim him as the compassionate Saviour of
To the same purpose was that other sermon of his which was delivered before the tribunal of Felix; when the Roman governor was seen to tremble under the power of an apostle's preaching. The little effect produced by these two last mentioned discourses may be brought as a proof that the most momentous truths are hidden" from the wise and prudent,” while they are “revealed unto babes."
It was by proclaiming the same mighty Saviour, that St. Stephen obtained for himself the first crown of mar. tyrdom among the Christians.
Behold an abridgment of his celebrated apology : “Men, brethren, and fathers," you accuse me of having spoken blasphemously against Moses. But, on the contrary, I publicly acknowledge him as the deliverer of our fathers, and gladly embrace this opportunity of reasoning with you from the character of that favoured prophet. He once supposed that by 'certain of his actions, “ his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them.” But so far were they from understanding any such matter, that one of them thrust him away, crying out in an insulting manner, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? This Moses," however, “whom they' thus refused, was chosen of God to be their future prince and deliverer. " This is that Moses who said unto the children of Israel, a Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of
your brethren, like unto me;" a Prophet whom you will at first reject as you rejected me; but who will deliver you out of spiritual Egypt as I once delivered you from the land of bondage, when you gave credence to my word. This promised Saviour has already made his appearance among us, whom ye have rejected to your own condemnation. As our fathers rejected Moses in the wilderness, thrusting him from them, and in their hearts turning back again into Egypt, so you have rejected your great Deliverer. “Ye uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted ? And they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the just One of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers : ye who have received the law by the disposition of angels and have not kept it."
That the powerful preaching of the gospel is sometimes made “the savour of death unto death,” is sufficiently clear from the following account. After Stephen had finished this discourse, the hearts of his hearers were transported with rage, insomuch that “they gnashed upon him with their teeth.” Meanwhile the holy martyr continued to proclaim Christ, and, far from being intimidated by their threatenings, looking steadfastly up to heaven in a kind of ecstacy, produced by the strength of his faith, the vigour of his hope, and the ardour of his love, he cried out, “ I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” And while the multitude ran upon him with stones, after committing his own soul to the care of his exalted Saviour, he cried with a loud voice, “ Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Behold an apology which was looked upon by the preachers of that day, as replete with ignorance and fanaticism, though delivered by an evangelist, who was filled with faith, with power, and with the Holy Ghost ! · The same doctrine was preached by the evangelists who were dispersed abroad by the persecution excited against Stephen, and was followed by the benediction of the Lord. For we find that some of them, entering into the city of Antioch, spake unto the Grecians there, preaching the Lord Jesus, and the hand of the Lord was with them,” so that a great number believed and turned unto the Lord.”
We shall go on to select a few proofs that all the apostles were of one heart in this matter, preaching Jesus Christ as the Saviour of all those who believe in him.
Though St. James professedly wrote his epistle against the error of those who had destroyed the law of charity by an imaginary faith in Christ, yet so far is he from despising the substantial faith of believers, that, as "the servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he exhorts false brethren to seek after and manifest it by its proper fruits. He even employs a species of irony to point out the necessity of this powerful grace: Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.' He intimates that our faith must be tried by divers temptations, in order to our becoming “perfect , and entire” before God: whence we learn that according to his judgment the perfection of Christians absolutely depends upon the perfection of their faith. On this account, he exhorts us to ask wisdom in faith. And lastly, he declares that the prayer of faith shall be powerful
enough to procure health for the sick, and remission for the sinful.
There needs no more than an attentive perusal of this epistle to convince us, that St. James announces a faith which saves the Christian, by producing in him hope, charity, and every good work.
The same doctrine was inculcated by St. Peter, both in his sermons and epistles. Three thousand souls were converted, while he cried out, upon the day of pentecost, “ Ye men of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles, and wonders, and signs ; him, being delivered by the determinate counsel of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain : whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he who is the resurrection and the life, should be holden of it. This Jesus, therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear. Therefore, let all the house of Israel assuredly know that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when the convicted multitude inquired in their distress, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter answered and said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you" (that is to say, first
cordially believe, and then by baptism make a public confession of that faith] "in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
His second discourse was to the same effect, “ The God of our fathers hath glorified his Son Jesus, whom ye delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was de rmined to him
desired a murderer to be granted' unto you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead ; whereof we are witnesses. And faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know ; yea, the faith which is by him, hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. And now, brethren, repent ye and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”
His apology before the council was founded upon the same divine truths : “ Be it known unto you all and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other : for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Thus St. Peter, “ filled with the Holy Ghost, spake the word of God with boldness, and with great power gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus." Even after being commanded to speak no more in the name of Jesus, he departed from the council, rejoicing that he was counted worthy to suffer shame for his Master's sake : "and daily in the temple, and in every house, he ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
The fourth sermon of this apostle perfectly corresponds with the foregoing. This discourse was delivered in the house of Cornelius the centurion, to whom an angel had before revealed that Peter should declare unto him things whereby both himself and his house should be saved. of all the sermons which have ever been preached, this was perhaps the most effectual; since it is observed, that “the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word." Take an abridgment of this powerful discourse. God hath pro