« AnteriorContinuar »
Necessity of becoming Pisciples of Christ, but that it is sufficient if we live according to the Principles and Light of Nature; forasmuch as every one who feareth God, and ivorketh Righteousness, is accepted with him: And thus supported, as they think, by one passage of Scripture, they have been em-r boldened to despise and reject all the rest as of no use to them, and to put their Salvation upon their own Strength, in opposition to, the Method revealed and declared by the Son of Gqd. This Error js common, as well as dangerous: And, since the great Regard which some pay to moral Virtue is purely Opposition to the Gospel, it is worth while to examine this Passage of St. Peter, and to place his Meaning in a true Light, that the Doctrine of the Gospel may not be overthrown by its own Authority,
The Jews had a Notion that the Blessings of the promised Meffias were to be peculiar to themselves, and not to he extended to any other Nation or People whatever, whom they looked on as Aliens from God, and not under his Care and Protection, as they were. Hence in the Prophets they plead their Privilege, and tell God, that he is not God of the Heathen, but of the People of Israels which Conceit of theirs St. Paul refers to
and confutes in his Epistle to the Romans: Is be the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? yes, of the Gentiles also. The Disciples of our Lord, and especially St. Peter, were as deep in this Opinion as others; and, during our Saviour's Abode on Earth, they were confirmed in it by what they observed in him; He declared, he was not sent but to the lofl Sheep of the House of Israel: And, when he sent out his Disciples to preach, he expresly charged them not to go into the Way of the Gentiles, nor to enter into any City of the Samaritans; but to go rather to the lofl Sheep of the House of Israel: And after his Resurrection, when he enlarged their Commission, and bade them Go, teach all Nations; they understood him not, but were inquisitive about his restoring the Kingdom to Israel. After the Ascension the Apostles continued at Jerusalem preaching to their own Nation, till, upon the Persecution of St. Stephen, many fled into other Parts, and, though they went as far as Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch, yet they preached the Word to none but Jews only, Acts xi. 19. And when St. Peter, admonished by an heavenly Vision, had admitted some Gentiles into the Church of Christ through Baptism, he was called \o an account for it by the Apostles and
Brethren who were in "Judea, Chap-, xi. i i Ndr were they satisfied, till he told them what Vision he had seen, What also Cornelius had seen, and in what a miraculous Manner * the Holy Ghost was poured sprth on the Gentiles, before he ventured to baptize them: And then, under the Astonishment of this Conviction> they held their peace, blaming his Behaviour no longer j but glorified God, saying, Then -hath God also unto the Gentiles granted Repentance unto Life, Acts xi. 18. St. Peter himself was equally surprized, when he sound, by comparing Ow-W/tf/s Vision with his own, that God had determined to admit the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, into the Church of Christ; and he expresses himself in the same Manner, though not just in the same Words with the Apostles and Brethren. They say, Then hath God also unto the Gentiles granted Repentance unto Life. St. Fetes fays, Of a truth I perceive that God is no Respecler of Persons.' But in every Nation he thatfeareth him, and worketh Righteousness, t.s accepted with him. These two Reflections, as they are made upon the same Casse, one by St. Peter, when he was with Cornelius, the ether by the Apostles and Brethren, when St. Peter related the Story of Cornelius, so ore they in substance the same: And St>
J?eter, when he says that in every Nation he that feareth God—is accepted with him, and the Apostles and Brethren, when they say that God hath granted to the Gentiles Repentance unto Life, mean one and the same Thing: And therefore, in the Text, to be accepted with God means no more than to have from God the Offer of Repentance unto Life; and both certainly mean our having Admission into the Covenant, with God through Christ Jesus. So that the whole of what St. Peter says in the Text amounts to this: " I now at length perceive that God '« has not confined his Mercies to a particular "Nation onlyj but that all are capable of "inheriting the Promises in Christ Jesus, "who are duly prepared by Righteousness, "and the Fear of God."
This will farther appear to be the true Interpretation, if we examine the Casse of Cornelius, and what the Acceptance was that he found. Cornelius was a Gentile, and one of the best of them; a devout Man, and one who feared God with all his House, which gave much jlhns to the People, and prayed to God alway: And yet his Goodness did not make it unnecessary for him to become a Christian. The heavenly Vision was not sent to satisfy him that his Righteousness was sufficient, and - -.».r.* . that