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Chap. xi. 6, Without Faith it is impossible to please God: For he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek bim: The Meaning of which is, That a Man cannot offer himself to God, much lefs enter into the Covenant of his Mercy, without a firm Persuasion of his Being, and a due Notion of his Attributes. He must know that he is otherwise he can never move or advance towards him : He must know also that he is a Rewarder of them who diligently seek bim or else he cannot be encouraged to move towards him: Which two Articles of Belief infer a juft Fear of God as the supreme Governor of the World, and a Desire to please him as the Dispenser of Rewards and Punishments according to the Good or Evil which Men do. This is the Faith, without which, the Apostle to the Hebrews says, 'tis impossible to please God: This is the Faith, with which, St. Peter says, the Men of every Nation are accepted with him. And in truth these Qualifications are so necessary to a Man's being accepted with God, and admitted into the Covenant of his Grace through Jesus Christ, that without them the Gospel cannot be so much as tendered to him: For upon what Foot would you press Men'to become

Christians

Christians in order to obtain the Mercy of God, who have no Sense of the Fear of God, and, confequently, no Concern about pleasing or displeasing him ? The Gospel does not teach, but fuppose this Doctrine : And, was even an Apostle to preach to a Nation perfectly ignorant of God, he must lay by the Gospel, and first convince the People from Reason and Nature of the Being of God, and the Necefsity of Righteousness in order to deserve his Favour, before he could invite them to embrace the Gospel as the perfect Rule of Righteousness prescribed and ordained by God himself. And therefore, when St. Peter says, that in every

Na. tion he that feareth God, and worketh Rightequsness, is accepted of him, he is not to be. understood as limiting the Mercies of God to certain Persons of the best Character, but rather as declaring the natural Order of Things. It is frequently taught, that our Lord came to save Sinners ; and therefore he began his Preaching with an Exhortation to Repentance in the same Words that John the Baptist had done before him, Repent ye, for the Kingdom. of Heaven is at hand : Which is as much as if he had said, Turn to God, and fear him, working Righteousness, that ye may be made

Members

Members of the Kingdom of his Son, which now approaches.

But, should the Case of Çornelius, who was a devout Man, fearing God with all þis House, giving much Alms, and praying alway, from which Case St. Peter makes the Reflection contained in the Text, incline us to believe that he means a greater Degree of Goodness by fearing God, and working Righteousness, than was commonly to be found; and, consequently, that what St. Peter says can be applied only to the most virtuous and beste, disposed Heathens ; upon this Supposition, both the Case of Corņelius, and the Declaration of St. Peter, evidently prove, that the best of Men stand in need of the Affistances of the Gospel of Christ to make themselves secure of obtaining the End of their Hopes, Glory and Immortality, from God, who is the Rewarder of them who diligently seek him. I would defire those who are of a different Opinion, and think that they have no Reason to trouble their Heads about the Christian Religion, provided they lead good moral Lives, to consider the Character of Cornelius : He was devout, and feared God with all his House: He was very charitable, and gave much Alms to the People, and

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prayed to God continually. This, I suppose, they will allow to be a Description of such a inoral Man as they mean : And I would ask then, For what Purpose did God send a Vision to Cornelius, and another to St. Peter, that Cornelius might be made a Christian? Was all this Care thrown away upon a mere unnecessary Point, that might as well have been let alone? Was Cornelius thus called to the Profession of the Gospel, and was it of no Consequence whether he had been called, or no? If God made choice of Cornelius, one of the best of the Gentiles, to thew that some of them were capable of his Grace, he did at the same time demonstrate that all had need of it: For, if the best, with all the Light they enjoyed, wanted this Assistance, what could the worst do without it? It

may be asked perhaps, What would have become of Cornelius, had he died, as he had some time lived, a devout Gentile, in the Fear of God, full of Alms and of Prayers, without having been called to the Knowledge of Christ Jesus? Which Question, if pursued through all its Views, would

open a large Field of Discourse, but such as would afford rather Speculation than Profit; since ; the Case, however determined, could no way

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affect

affect us, who have been called to the Knowledge of Christ Jesus. Let it then be taken for granted, that Cornelius, had he died in the Circumstances before described, would have found Rest to his Soul from the Mercy and Goodness of God: And let this other Question be considered, which is much more to our Purpose, What would have been the Case of Cornelius, if he had rejected the Call, refused to hearken to St. Peter, and had insisted on his own Merit and Virtue, in opposition to the Grace that was offered him through the Gospel ? Would such a Refusal have been a pardonable Error ? Could he have maintained the Character of one fearing God with all his House, after such an open Contempt of the Divine Call ? Could he ever have prayed more to God to guide and direct his Way, after he had absolutely denied to be guided and directed by him? Would even his Alms have been an acceptable Offering to the Almighty, after he had renounced that Obedience which is better than Sacrifice, and which is the only Thing that can sanctify our imperfect Works? If Reason and Natural Religion teach us that it is our Duty to please and to obey God, what Part even of Natural Religion could this Centurion have exercised,

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