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that he had no need to look out for farther Assistance or Direction : On the contrary, it was sent to inform him where he might seek and find a proper Instructor. St. Peter had also a Vision to prepare him to do the Duty of an Apostle to the Gentile Centurion; and, when this devout Man came to him, in obedience to the heavenly Warning, he instructs him in the Faith of Christ Jesus, and baptizes him with Water: Upon which St. Peter says, he finds that Men of all Nations, who do righteously, are accepted with God. He could not possibly mean, That those who did their best upon the Light of Nature, had no need of any other Teacher ; That Reflection could never rise from the Cafe before him: For why did he then instruct Cornelius in the Knowledge of Christ, and baptize him in his Name ? St. Peter therefore certainly meant, That all Gentiles duly prepared were capable of the Blessings of the Gospel through the Mercy of God; in opposition to his former Error, That none but terus had such a Privilege. And the Apostle undoubtedly understood that the best of the Gentiles had need of the Gospel; or else his Commendation of the Goodness of God amounts to this only, That he perceived that God would give to the honest
minded Gentiles, who feared him, and did righteoully, that which they had no Occasion to receive.
From the Words and Circumstances of the Text thus explained we learn what is the true Notion of that Acceptance, which St. Peter says the Gentiles of all Nations are intitled to through the Mercy of God.
But then there arises a Difficulty from the Terms to which St. Peter has limited this Privilege: For he does not say that Men of all Nations are accepted of God; but that in every Nation he that feareth God, and worketh Righteousness, is accepted of him. Now, one great End of the Christian Religion being to instruct us in the Fear of God, and in Works of Righteousness, it may seem strange, that in order to the obtaining of this Benefit of being duly instructed in the Fear of God, and in Works of Righteousness, it should be required, as a previous Condition, that we fhould fear God, and do righteously: Which Condition supposes us already in possession of the main Thing for which the Privilege itself is granted; and consequently, the Privilege becomes in a manner useless by our having the Qualifications necessary to the obtaining it. To clear this Matter, we must consider what the Apostle to the Hebrews teaches us,
Chap: 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 him: The Meaning of which is, That a Man cannot offer himself to God, much less 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 á Rewarder of them who diligently seek him; 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, consequently, no Concern about pleasing or displeasing him? The Gospel does not teach, but suppose this Doctrine : And, wag 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 Necessity of Righteousness in order to deserve his Fayour, 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 Nation be that feareth God, and worketh Righteousness, is accepted of bim, 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 fame 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, wošking Righteousness, that ye may be made
But, should the Case of Cornelius, who was a devout Man, fearing God with all bis 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 bestdisposed Heathens; upon this Supposition, both the Case of Cornelius, and the Declaration of St. Peter, evidently prove, that the best of Men stand in need of the Assistances of the Gospel of Christ to make themselves fecure 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