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prayed to God continually. This, I suppose, they will allow to be a Description of such a moral 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 fome 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 - VOL. I.
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 infisted 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 fanctify 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, after he had folemnly rejected the Counsel of God, and followed his own Will in opposition to that of his Maker declared in the heavenly Vifion? As bad as this supposed Case of Cornelius would have been, it is the very Cafe of those who, having been betimes instructed in the Knowledge of the Gospel, and called to the Faith and Obedience of Christ Jesus, do despise . and reject that Faith under the Colour of preserving the Purity of Natural Religion, and living according to the Dictates of Reason and Morality. It makes no Difference in the Case, that their Call has been through the ordinary Administrations of the Church, and that Cornelius's was by a Vision directed to himself : The Voice of God is the fame, whether he speaks by his Apostles, or by his Angels : Whoever acts by the Appointment of God, speaks with his Authority : And, the regular Powers of the Church being ordained by him, when the Church speaks to her Children conformably to the Commission received, 'tis the Voice of God calling Men to Repentance unto Life through Christ Jesus. And, whatever the Condition of those may be who have never heard of the Lord who bought them, ours is certainly very bad, if, having heard of
him, we reject and despise him. 'Tis one Thing not to believe in Christ, because we know him not ; 'tis another to know him, and to disbelieve him. Though such Ignorance may be an Excuse, yet such Knowledge must be Condemnation.
On these two Commandments hang all the
Law and the Prophets.
#499&#HE two Commandments here. Er r eferred to are set down in the
Verses immediately preceding
the Words of the Text. At
****Verse 37 we read, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy Heart, and with all thy Soul, and with all thy Mind. This is the first and great Commandment, Verse 38. At Verse 39 follows, And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy Neighbour as thyself. Then come the Words of the Text, ón these two Commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets: The Meaning of which Saying is plainly this, that the whole Reason of
Z 3 Religion