« PreviousContinue »
apostles were appointed to convert the world to the christian faith, and to convey to all mankind the glad tidings of redemption. When therefore they received their commission to execute this great work, one would expect to find some clear account of that faith, which they were to implant in the minds of mankind, and which was to be the foundation of the religion which they were to propagate. Accordingly the words of our Saviour's commission to them are these; "Go ye into all the world, "and preach the gospel to every creature."He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be "saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."* Were we possessed only of this plain account of faith, I suppose no honest and well-meaning Christian could be at a loss to understand the nature of that faith which he professes. It would then no longer be reckoned a thing which can neither be explained nor comprehended, nor would there be any room for those confused and mystic descriptions of it, which are calculated rather to perplex than to inform.
The apostles are here directed to preach the gospel, and to him that believeth the gospel, and submits to the laws of this new institution, salvation is promised. Here all is clear and perfectly intelligible. The single act of the mind concerned in faith, as it is here described by our Saviour himself, is that of believing; and the object of faith is that Gospel, and those glad *Mark xvi. 15, 16.
tidings of salvation which were delivered to the world by the first inspired preachers of christianity, and are now recorded in their writings.
So plain and simple is the account of faith given us by the great Author and Finisher of it: and we cannot suppose that, at a time when he delivered his last instructions to those who were to preach his gospel, he would give them a defective account of that act by which converts were to be qualified for admission into his religion. This then is to be considered as the fundamental rule of faith, to which all subsequent accounts of it are to be referred. And if we meet with difficulties in any part of the scripture where this subject is treated of, to this test must we bring them, and by this great original must they be cleared up; both because, in all reason, that which is obscure should be explained by that which is manifestly clear; and because the sacred writers must be supposed always to have preserved a consistency with that great commission, by virtue of which they acted.
Accordingly we shall find this rule of faith strictly adhered to, and strongly confirmed in their practice. Every new convert will be a fresh proof that our conception of faith is just, and that we have represented the instructions of our Lord in the same sense in which the apostles understood them.
The first fruits of their mission, those three thousand souls who, as an earnest of a plentiful harvest, came in at the first wonderful ef
fusion of the Holy Ghost, are described as *"they that gladly received the word;" and soon after, as "they that fbelieved."
The next history of an eminent conversion which we meet with, is that which followed upon Peter's healing the lame man, who was laid at the gate of the temple. The miracle having drawn a vast concourse of people together, Peter took the opportunity of exhorting them to embrace the christian faith. In the midst of his discourse he was seized by the magistrates, alarmed at his success; "howbeit, many of "them which heard the word believed, and the "number of the men was about five thou"sand."
Soon after, the whole body of the faithful, who had met together to thank God for the success with which he had blessed their ministry, are thus described: "And the multitude of "them that believed, were of one heart, and of "( one soul."
The progress of the work of conversion is thus described: " And believers were the more ad"ded to the Lord, multitudes both men and women."
When Philip first "preached Christ in Samaria," and delivered the unhappy people from the powerful delusions of the enchanter Simon, we are told, that "they believed Philip, preach"ing the things concerning the kingdom of
*Acts ii. 41. § Acts iv. 32.
† Acts ii. 44.
Acts iv. 4.
¶ Acts viii. 12.
"God, and the name of Jesus Christ," and that "they were baptized."
*"If thou believest with all thine heart," said the same apostle to the treasurer of Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians, "thou mayest "be baptized. And he answered and said, I "believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."
When the miracle of Peter's raising Tabi, tha to life was "known throughout all Joppa, many believed in the Lord."
"Through his name," says Peter in his discourse to the devout Cornelius and his Gentile friends, "whosoever believeth in him shall "receive remission of sins."
When some of the disciples, "which were "scattered abroad upon the persecution that "arose about Stephen, came unto Antioch, "and spoke unto the Grecians, preaching the "Lord Jesus, the hand of the Lord was with "them; and a great number believed, and turn"ed unto the Lord." Thus providentially did God turn this persecution to the service of his cause, and made it a means of spreading that religion which it aimed to destroy.
When Sergius Paulus, the governor of Cyprus, a prudent man, saw clearly "the hand of the Lord" in the punishment which fell upon the sorcerer Elymas at the word of Paul, he believed, being astonished at the doctrine of "the Lord."
*Acts viii. 37. Acts x. 43.
† Acts ix. 42. § Acts xi. 21. Acts xiii. 12.
*"Be it known unto you therefore, men and "brethren," said St. Paul in his "word of ex"hortation" in the synagogue at Antioch, "that through this man is preached unto you "the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that "believe are justified from all things, from "which ye could not be justified by the law of "Moses."
And when afterwards, in the same city, the apostles being opposed and rejected by the Jews, "waxed bold," and openly declared their mission to the Gentiles, and published the gracious purpose of heaven to extend "salvation "unto the ends of the earth; the Gentiles were glad, and glorified the word of the "Lord: and as many as were ordained to eter. "nal life believed. And the word of the Lord "was published throughout all the region." This event is called by the apostles, when at their return to Antioch they gave an account of the success of their mission, "the opening "of the door of faith unto the Gentiles."
When the keeper of the prison at Philippi, alarmed at midnight by the shaking of the foun dations of his prison, "called for a light, sprang
in, came trembling, and falling down before "his prisoners, Paul and Silas," proposed to them that important question, "What must I "do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus "Christ," they replied, "and thou shalt be sa"ved, and thy house."
*Acts xiii. 38, 39.
† Acts xiii. 48, 49.