Page images

light in them." In order to form more distinct, and clear ideas upon the subject, let us abstract the light, and the voice from the case of Saul, which constituted those things which he saw, and heard; and, I ask, what is left to affect his mind, or convince his understanding? In the the two latter cases, abstract the miracles of healing the sick, and raising the dead; and what is there left to produce the belief in the Lord, and to turn the people to him? If we would learn the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, in these, and all the other cases of conversion recorded; and understand the correct doctrine of spiritual operarations; we must take them just as we find them, upon record; neither adding to, nor diminishing any thing in the history. Speculations. here, beyond what is written, cannot fail involving prac tical absurdities. It was in this way that christianity was perverted, even in the Apostolic day. Theories were formed, and systems organized; which made it absolutely necessary to cover the most evident matters of fact; explained, and applied to practical purposes in the plainest, and most intelligible words, with profound obscurity, dark mystecism, and palpable contradictions. Hence it was, that the plan of celestial wisdom was subverted, in order to make way for Human Divinity; and, by these means, the principles, the plan, and the doctrines of revealed theology were brought into a certain subjection to the principles of philosophy, and science, falsely so called: the inevitable consequence of which was, first to destroy the consistency of divine truth, then to weaken its obligations, and, finally, to banish it almost from the world. (See pages 99, and 100 of this book for a more particular account of it.)

As I design to leave no occasion for the charge of partiality; or of having suppressed any of those cases of christian conversion, which are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, for the purpose of establishing the true doctrine of spiritual operations, and their practical effect in producing of faith, I will next attend to the case of Cornelius.-Cornelius was a Centurion of the Italian band in Cesarea.-He was a devout man; and one that feared God, with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. An angel appeared unto him in a vision, and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

said unto him, Cornelius, thy prayers, and thine alms have coine up for a meniorial before God. He then directed him to send for Peter, who would tell him what he should do; which he accordingly did. The messengers informed Peter that Cornelius, a just man, &c. was warned of God, by an holy angel, to send for him into his house, and to hear words of him. When Peter arrived, Cornelius, although a devout man, &c. fell down to worship him, not having had, as yet, proper instruction; but Peter forbade him, saying, I am also a man. After apologizing for coming to a Gentile's house, contrary to the custom of the Jews, by repeating what had been shewed to him, Peter asked Cornelius for what purpose he had sent for him? Cornelius rehearses to Peter what the angel told him, with his command to send for him, who, (said he) when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. Now, therefore, said Cornelius, are we all here present (himself, household, and friends) before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God. Reader, attend: "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth, I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word of God sent unto the children of Israel," (it had not been sent unto the Gentiles until now by the hands of Peter, which was several years after the Jewish day of Pentecost) "preaching peace by Jesus Christ; (he is Lord of all;) that word I say ye know; which was preached throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed with the devil; for God was with him—and we are witnesses of all things which he did, both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew, and hanged on a tree: him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before of God, even unto us, who did eat, and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us (recollect their commission) to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the judge of quick, and dead, To him gave all the pro

phets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall have remission of sins." The proof of which, to Cornelius, and friends, was, that "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell upon all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision (the Jews) which believed, were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gifts of the Holy Ghost." How did they know that the gifts of the Holy Ghost were poured out? Answer, "for they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God." And Peter, seeing that they had received the Holy Ghost, baptized them. The gifts of the Holy Ghost were not poured out upon Cornelius, and friends, until after they believed in Jesus Christ, as Peter told them, (having given them a minute history of him,) that whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. That the Holy Ghost fell upon them after they believed, is manifest from three considerations. The first is, that the promise of Christ was, "these signs shall follow them that believe they shall speak in new tongues," &c. which was precisely the case on the day of Pentecost; for it was only by the one hundred, and twenty disciples upon whom the Spirit was first poured; and Peter told the Jews, who were amazed at what they saw, and heard, that if they would repent, &c. they should receive the like gifts. The second consideration is, that Cornelius, and friends, were assembled together to hear Peter, on account of what the angel told Cornelius respecting him, by which they were entirely prepared, and pre-disposed to hear, and believe Peter in what he should tell them. Peter derived credibility, as a divine teacher, and witness, from what the angel said unto Cornelius. The last consideration, by which it is proven that they believed before the gifts of the Holy Ghost fell upon them, is derived from the defence that Peter made before the Apostles, who accused him for having gone to the Gentiles. He answers the accusation by rehearsing most particularly the mutual revelations made to himself, and Cornelius, and of his having complied with Cornelius's request, to instruct him in the words whereby himself, and all his house should be saved; and, says Peter, as I began to speak, the

Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. For as much then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us WHO BELIEVED ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, what was I, that I could withstand God? When they (the Apostles) heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. John baptized his disciples after they believed; and, in like manner, the baptism of the Holy Ghost was promised to Christ's disciples, in the following words: "John indeed baptized with water: but ye (the Apostles, and disciples, Acts 1. 15.and 19. 4. Matth. 3. 11. Mark 1. 8. Luke 3. 16. John 1. 26.) shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost." In no instance was the Holy Ghost bestowed, except upon believers; and those who were made so by what they saw, and heard. The reason for my being thus particular upon this subject, is, to shew the essential difference between the outpourings of the Spirit, as predicted by the Prophets, promised by Christ, and fulfilled in the Apostolic day; and the supposed out-pourings in our time. Erroneous ideas upon this single point, in the minds of the teachers, and defenders of christianity, have produced more confusion, distraction, and run-mad enthusiasm, than all the others put together; as they have more vitally wounded its interests, defeated its progress, and clothed it, and its disciples with the character of unreasonableness, superstition, and bigotry; and not without cause. The immediate operations are now relied upon for the conversion of men, and not the word of God-in the days of the Apostles, conversion was effected by spiritual instruction, and evidence, addressed to the mind in intelligible terms, consisting in signs, and wonders, and words explaining them, before the Spirit was received; which signs, and wonders were wrought by the Holy Ghost, as were the words revealed by the Holy Ghost, which explained them, in ascertaining the character of Jesus Christ, &c. After belief was effected by these means, the Spirit was given; but, since the Apostolic day, the Spirit has been thought to produce faith, or regeneration, before

the successful use of the means of instruction, and faith. Hence the difference between the preaching of the Apos tles, and those who have succeeded them: hence, too, the origin of antinomianism, and all the approaches to it. It is thus that the means (which are in this day of record) which produced faith in the Apostolic day, and without which faith never was produced since Christ's ascension; are considered as without meaning, and of none effect, before the immedi ate operations of the Spirit; which is manifestly a perversion of the true order of things. The operations of the Spirit, and the purposes for which his gifts were received, in the Apostolic day, are entirely misapprehended; and, to supply their place, according to those misapprehensions, passion, feeling, and imagination, are substituted, and when excited by, or employed upon religious subjects, are attributed to his immediate inspiration, &c. with all their attendant, and consequent absurdities; which will hereafter be shewn. We are to live by the faith of the Son of God, which is the evidence or assurance of things not seen; established in the mind by its proper proof, and not by sight or sense, except as they are subservient.

We must not forget, that, in the case of Cornelius, Peter distinctly, told him, that he had heard, and that he knew, the word which was preached throughout all Judea, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed with the devil, &c. &c. By these things, together with the knowledge Cornelius derived from the Jews, (for the messengers to Peter told him that he was a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews,) he acquired that knowledge, and conviction of divine things, which were necessary for his devoutness, although it was not sufficient to worship God through the Saviour; for he fell down at Peter's feet, and worshipped him, when he was coming into his house. Peter's instruction was necessary, in order to such worship, or the teaching of the Holy Ghost through Peter; by which Cornelius, and friends were taught of God, and converted to christianity; after which they were sealed by the Spirit of promise, and spake in other tongues as the Spirit gave

« PreviousContinue »