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strain of persuasive reasoning, to those very Scriptures which they acknowledged to be divinely inspired. This miracle, and these arguments, by their united force, gradually removed all prejudice and hesitation, and at length convinced them, that the same Jesus, whom their countrymen had crucified, was both “ Lord and Christ,” that is, the promised and expected Messiah. The faith therefore of these men was not suddenly communicated by the supernatural operation of the Holy Ghost, but was the natural and progressive effect, of what they saw and heard, upon their understandings.
The inhabitants of Samaria, by giving heed to the preaching of Philip, and by seeing the miracles he performed, believed the things which he spake concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, and were baptized, both men and women (i). The conversion therefore of these persons also was owing to the exercise of their own natural powers.
It pleased Almighty God to mark the conversion of the first Gentiles, Cornelius and those who were assembled with him (j), by very extraordinary circumstances; but before the Holy Ghost was poured out upon them, Peter declared the comprehensive and impartial nature of God's mercy, and explained the evidences by which the divine character of Jesus was attested; and there can be no doubt but this statement carried conviction to the minds of men, who were “ devout, and feared God, and prayed to God always (k)." Had it been consistent with the plan of Divine Providence to communicate such conviction by supernatural influence, the preaching of Peter in the house of Cornelius would have been superfluous and unnecessary.
mercy, (0) Acts, c. 8. v. 12. () Acts, c. 1o.
The Beræans were commended “ in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so (1);” and it is immediately added, “ therefore many of them believed :” hence it appears, that the faith of the Beræans was the result of the candour with which they listened to the preaching of the Apostle, and of the diligence with which they enquired into the evidences of the Gospel.
In the following passage, St. Paul represents the faith of the Ephesians in Christ to have been the consequence of their having heard the Gospel preached, and the communication of the Holy Ghost to have been subsequent to their faith, “ In whom (namely in Christ) ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation ; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise (m):" The order to be here noticed is this,-first, the hearing of the word ; secondly, belief produced by that hearing; thirdly, the communication of the Spirit in consequence of that belief.
of (k) Acts, c. 10 v, 2. (1) Acts, c. 17. v. II.
From these examples, which comprehend Jewish, Samaritan, and Gentile converts, we conclude in general, that those, to whom the Apostles preached, expressed their faith in Christ, before the Holy Ghost was poured out upon them (n); and that the Spirit was never commu. nicated to those who refused to believe. But though men, born and educated as Jews or Heathens, by a careful and impartial attention to the evidences of Christianity, and particularly by witnessing the performance of miracles in which there could be no deception or collusion, might become, without any supernatural aid, believers in the divine mission of Christ, yet it is material to observe, that this belief was not always followed by steady perseverance, or even accompanied by just sentiments and right principles, while the belief itself reinained. Our Saviour, in his Parable of the Sower, already referred to, speaks of those, “ who for a while believe, and in time of temptation
nicated (m) Eph. c. 1. v. 13. The word “ trusted” is not in the original; but that our translators were authorized to insert it, or some word of the same meaning, is evident from the expression in the following part of the passage, “ in whom also after that ye believed.” The Aposile here marks the difference between Jewish and Gentile converts, “ we—who first trusted in Christ, nuas mponaAixóras év tw Xpısõ, means, that we Jews had, from our prophecies, hope in Christ before his advent ; but he tells the Ephesian Gentiles, that they had no hope or trust in Christ till he was actually come, till they heard “ the word of truth” preached by the Apostles. · (n) This was not strictly the case with respect to Cornelius and his company, “ While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word : " but though they had not actually expressed their faith, it is highly probable that they did
believe before they received the Holy Ghost. St. Peter, in giving an account to the Apostles and Brethren at Jerusalem, of this conversion of Cornelius and his company, says, “ The Holy Ghost fell on them as on us at the beginning,” Acts, c. 11. v. 15. as on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. Lightfoot thinks that the visible descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, who may be considered as the first Jewish converts, and upon those who were really the first Gentile converts, being the same, plainly shewed, that under the Christian dispensation, there was to be no distinction between Jews and Gentiles : his words are, Effuso Spiritu Sancto tam in præputium habentes, quam in circumcisionem, palam factum est, Deum nullo posthac discrimine unum ab altero distingui velle. V. 2. p. 838.
fall away (0).” And even “ Simon Magus believed" at the moment he offered to purchase from the Apostles the power of communicating the Holy Ghost, for which he was severely reproved by St. Péter (p). The truth is, that after the converts were persuaded that Jesus was the Messiah, many errors
were to be renounced, many sins were to be abandoned, many lusts were to be mortified, many impurities were to be corrected, many duties were to be performed, many virtues were to be cultivated, before they could have any claim to the character of faithful disciples of Christ. Nay, the change in the minds, and hearts, and conduct, of those who received the Gospel as " the power of God unto salvation (9)," was so great, that in the strong figurative language of Scripture, true believers, who, having been brought up in the vices and follies of heathenism, had embraced Christianity at a mature age, were said to “ walk in newness of life (r) ;” to become “ new creatures (8);"
put off the old man with his deeds, and to put on the new man after the image of him that created him (t);” to put off, concerning
(0) Luke, c. 8. v. 13. (P) Acts, c. 8. v. 13, &c. (9) Rom. c. I. v. 16. (1) Rom. c. 6. v. 4. (s) 2 Cor. c. 5. v. 17. Gal. c. 6. v. 15. (1) Col. c. 3. v. 9 & 10.