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be offered, from what spot is it excluded ; and if a man's habit be that of prayer so that in every undertaking, of difficulty and emergency, his mind turns almost natu. rally to God, who can deny the likelihood of his being so directed and strengthened and comforted, that it shall be all the same as it would be with the artizan, whose blunted tool should be suddenly sharpened and given fresh into his hands when he was tempted to throw it by as unfit for use. There is a whetting of the edge by relaxation, and of that we have already spoken, and there is a whetting of the edge by religion, and of that we now speak; and we can be confident that where there is the wisdom that is profitable to direct," a man will find his powers made equal to his duties, and that too through his continually seeking they may be strengthened from above. In many a moment of difficulty, under many a perplex. ing circumstance the true Christian seeks of God counsel and courage, and finds himself enabled to determine wisely and act firmly. He may have time for nothing but a silent ejaculation, but that throws him on the assistance of God; he may be only just able to plead a promise in prayer, but the bringing his mind into contact with the divine promise is virtually the bringing of the iron to the whetstone, and a keener edge is the instant attestation to the power of the process.
And finally to make one more use of our somewhat singular text, learn from it the hopelessness of any efforts, at renewing our nature and saving our souls, made in our own strength and without help from above. The iron is indeed blunt, all its edge was destroyed when our first fathers sinned and brought the curse upon our race. If we separate the truth taught in our text from the peculiar image by which it is shadowed, we have to press on you the simple but fundamental lesson that you are born with powers which have not had energy enough for the work of repentance and of turning unto God and obeying his commandments, but that supplies of grace are ready for all who will seek them through Christ; and these supplies will make the weak strong, and the ignorant wise, and guide the wandering into the pathway of life. You may according to the prophetic language, “spend money for that which is not bread, and labor for that which satisfieth not.” You may think to deliver yourselves, as though reason were sufficient to the teaching your duty, and your native might enough for its performance, but be ye well assured on the authority of God that a Redeemer was provided, because without one, the whole world had been lost. God would not have given his own Son, given him up to ignominy and to death, had not mau been wholly without power to regain the forfeited heritage and avert deserved wrath. There is still the iron, but the iron in a state unfit for those moral operations which are required from us as accountable beings; we have still the powers, the faculties, the properties with which Adam was created, but they have all lost their keenness and their strength, and can never unless reset and renewed, avail for the great work of reconcilation to God, and therefore, put away from among you as a perilous delusion the thought that you are in any sense sufficient of yourselves for any of those duties which are required from you as probationers for eternity.
You are complete in Christ, you are nothing out of Christ, “I can do ali things,” said the great apostle through Christ which strengtheneth me, but the whole of his writings breath equally the confession I can do nothing if I trust in myself. Be this then the maxim of each amongst us and let our practice accord with our profession, so that for every duty we may seek help through the Mediator and expect heaven only as the purchase of his merits. Make your trial of this and you shall find that the iron, worn though it be and tarnished, is wrought into weapons effectual in the spiritual warfare, till at length what has been of keen-edge enough to carve a path though a thousand foes, shall be found bright enough for the presence of God, though in that presence there shall be nothing that reflects not his image.
WORDS WHICH SAVE.
PREACHED AT THE OPENING OF PADDINGTON PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH,
ON SUNDAY, JANUARY 24TII, 1868.
BY THE REV. C. G. SCOTT.
“Who will tell thee words whereby thou and thine house shall be saved."-Acts xi. 14.
THERE cannot be a doubt as to the import of these words. They imply that the salvation of Cornelius depended on his hearing certain words. Without hearing them he cannot be saved; through hearing them he shall be saved. So important are these words, that an angel is sent from heaven to earth to put Cornelius in the way of hearing them. So peculiar are they, that the angel is not allowed to speak them himself; they must be uttered only by human lips. So powerful are they, that, in the very act of listening to them, Cornelius and his company received the gift of the Holy Ghost, were evidently converted to God, and judged fit to receive the sacrament of baptism.
Some one may, perhaps, say—these must have been wonderful words, indeed ; 0, that I had been there to hear them. I wish to be converted to God, but my fickle mind and hard heart shake off every salutary impression before it can yield any fruit; but had I been with Cornelius, and heard these saving words, I should have been effectually convinced and converted to God. You can only say that you ought to have been, just as you ought to have been savingly impressed by the word through which, one day, a fellow-worshipper in a neighbouring pew was awakened. But, if it is the very words through which Cornelius was converted that you wish to hear, you may have your wish, They have been recorded for our instruction in the preceding chapter (Acts x. 34–41); and we may now turn to them and read them.-" Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, óf 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 wbich God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all). That word, I say, ye know, which was published 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 of 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 showed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. To him give all the prophets witness, and through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Such was Peter's memorable discourse.
You say, there is no charm about these words. I have heard and read all this before, without experiencing these mighty results, without finding them to be words of salvation. There is no charm about the words; but there is a power in the truth which they express-through which these words might have proved long ago, and may yet prove, as effectual for your conversion as they once did for that of Cornelius. If you have not yet felt the power of the truth, the fault is not in the words; for they are substantially the same words that conveyed the truth to Cornelius. The fault is in yourselves, who will not listen to the words—at least, dil gently, devoutly, believingly. If you will give earnest heed to them now, I doubt not you may, through grace, find them as powerful and transforming as Cornelius found them. Let us give our minds to the consideration of them with this desire and expectation; and may the Holy Ghost this day make them the channel through which to enter and take up his abode in your hearts. I propose to show that the words addressed to Cornelius are saving words, because they are
I. Encouraging or hope-inspiring words.
III. Sanctifying or love-begetting words ; fitted to save from Despair, from Guilt, and from Sin.
1. They are encouraging, hope-inspiring words, fitted to save from despair. Some may think that they do not need to be saved from despair. A state of despair is the state of the finally lost in hell; but we are in the land of the living, and the place of hope; we are apt to hope rather too confidently, and ought rather to be warned against presumption. This is true, but extremes meet; and the extreme of presumption is often found in close contact with the extreme of despair. Take the case of any reckless sinner, who sins with a high hand, utterly regardless of consequences. This man angrily and resolutely rejects serious counsel or reproof; and if the feeling with which he does so were expressed in words, it would be “Let me alone, art thou come to torment me before the time.” You know whose words these are—they are the words of lost spirits abandoned to despair. Jesus was about to cast out this legion, and they besought him not to torment them before the time, send them at once to the abyss, but that he would suffer them to enter into a herd of swine. They did not ask Jesus to forgive and accept them, they had no hope of pardon. A short respite from suffering was the highest boon they could ask. The state of unconverted men on earth is not so desperate as this. They may obtain not only a short respite, but complete deliverance. But Satan would persuade them that their case is as desperate as his : and that the only way to escape the pain and fear, caused by the thought of the consequences of sin, is to forget them, to overlook eternity and its interests. Hence they think that to remind them of these things is to torment them before the time. The reckless sinner secretly fears that his case is desperate already. Indeed one very bold but honest sinner has confessed that this was once the case with him. When John Bunyan, on a certain occasion, violently repressed his convictions, and returned recklessly to sin, he did it exclaiming that it was as well to be damned for many sins as for few. This man, who afterwards became so eminent a saint, deliberately concluded that his case was desperate, and his damnation certain, and acted on that conviction. Many are really acting on the same principle,, though they dare not confess it; perhaps are not aware of it. We find the same despair expressed in the words of impenitent Israel, in Jeremiah's time (Jer. ii. 25), “There is no hope, no: we have loved strangers, and after them we will go." Still more desperate are the words of the Jews at the crucifixion of Christ-"His blood be on us and our children.” Rather than forego their sin, they not only abide the consequences, but invoke them. The heart is not only desperately wicked, but deceitful above all things; and Satan avails himself of that deceitfulness to drivo men between the two opposite extremes of presumption and despair, when he wishes to seduce into sin, saying, there is no danger; when he wishes to keep in sin, to hinder repentance, saying, there is no hope.
The first thing the Gospel shows is that there is hope, even for the chief of sinpers. The law has been before it convincing of sin. But, through the man's own former presumption, the conviction is apt to darken into despair, unless it be quickly followed up with hope-inspiring words. When Peter, after the day of Pentecost, addressed the men who had crucified the Saviour, he first set their sin before them, accused them of having slain the Holy One and the Just; and by the blessing of God brought conviction home to them. Immediately they were pricked in their hearts, and exclaimed—“Men and brethren what shall we do ?” In these words we do not see even the dawn of hope. Their question is not “What must I do to be saved p” which implies a knowledge that there is a way of salvation, if the inquirer could only find it. But—“What shall we do ?” which might be said by one conscious that notlxing can be done. Peter meets their despair with words of hope, “ Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Here is a universal direction and promise, including "every one” who heard him. Every one of them, then, may be saved-none need despair. So it is with the declaration of St. Paul, “ This is a faithful saying, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief.” If the chief of sinners is included, no one need despair, on account of the number and aggravation of his sins. Sin abounds but grace superabounds.
In the discourse of Peter referred to in the text, his first object is to inspire hope: and he begins, "I perceive God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him.” Hitherto, God had seemed to be a respecter of persons—had singled out a particular nation as the special or only subjects of his grace. Certainly on them he had bestowed many peculiar privileges; though at no time was he the God of the Jews only-salvation had never been denied to any returning sinner of the Gentiles. The stranger, embracing God's covenant, had been treated as a son. But now this truth is more clearly displayed than formerly : the distinction between Jew and Gentile is at an end—“In every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him.” Cornelius feared God, but he was a Gentile; and might suppose that, on that account, he might have peculiar difficulty in finding acceptance with God. Peter assures him that such a fear is groundless. God is no respecter of persons, and what Peter has further to say, in regard to the way of salvation, is as much intended for Cornelius as for any descendant of Abraham. God does not respect a man's parentage, the colour of his skin, the qualities of his mind; but only asks if he is a returning
sinner, or even an inquiring sinner, and addresses to him the general call of the Gospel, which, earnestly and believingly entertained, becomes a personal, powerful, effectual call.
Few inquirers are in the position of Cornelius. His doubts and fears must have been peculiar. But all newly-awakened sinners require to be addressed in hopeinspiring words. They do not deny the general statement that God is merciful ; they rather presume too much on it. But that very presumption, as we have seen, leads to despair; and they secretly doubt whether that mercy, which has reached thousands, will ever actually reach them, and carry them to heaven. They show this rather by their actions than their words. Is there any bold sinner here who goes on recklessly adding sin to sin ? You do so because you secretly fear your case is desperate. It is not the pleasantness of sin that is the attraction; for you know that the pain is greater than the pleasure. But you have gone such lengths in sin already; you have continued in sin so long; you have resisted so many warnings; you have broken so many resolutions, and even vows, that there is nothing for it but to go on as you have begun, and abide your fate when it comes. Your soul responds to the sentiment, “ There is no hope; no. We have loved strangers, and after them we will go." But there is hope even for you. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, even the chief. “God is no respecter of persons.” The description of persons whom he seeks is sinners. Not those in whose case there is some peculiarity, whose sin is less aggravated than that of others, but all sinners, whatever they may have been in times past, if they will turn from their sins now-if they will seek God now. What do you say to this? “There is hope, yes ; even for me. I have loved strangers, but they have deceived and disappointed me-after them I will no longer go. Christ still calls me—to him I will go." If such is your sentiment, for your direction we show further :
II. These are justifying, peace-speaking words. Cornelius is presented to us in this narrative as a devout worshipper and sincere inquirer after the way of salvation. He had not newly begun his inquiries. It had always been the great question of earnest minds, among the Gentiles, “How shall a man be just before God.” But this is one of those questions which man has sagacity enough to propose, but which he has not, of himself, wisdom or knowledge enough to answer. Cornelius had first tried to find peace through heathen sacrifices and services, and had, of course, been disappointed. Then he had gone to live in a land where the true God was worshipped by means of divinely appointed sacrifices and services. At an earlier period, Cornelius might have, through these sacrifices, found acceptance and received the blessing; through them his faith might have been exercised and perfected-in them he might have found the Saviour. But these sacrifices were destined to continue only till Christ should offer his one great sacrifice; after which they lost their meaning and efficacy; hence Cornelius could not find acceptance through them. Though his prayers and alms ascended for a memorial before God, his person was not accepted, his soul was not saved. His prayers and alms went up as a memorial that he needed more light; and as his ignorance was not a guilty ignorance, the light was not withheld; since he had made a good use of the light which he had already, more light was given.
Peter's discourse consists chiefly of a narative of the leading incidents in the life of Jesus. Peter shows at the outset, that Christ is God, and therefore able to accomplish all that he should undertake. When the way bad been prepared for him by John the Baptist, he entered on his ministry, anointed by the Holy Ghost, and armed with divine power-went about continually doing good, destroying the works of the Devil." Peter adds, “Whom they slew and hanged on a tree.” We are not to suppose that we have here a complete report of Peter's discourse to Cornelius : we have only a brief, bnt sufficient, summary of it; and we cannot doubt that at this part of the discourse, when Peter spoke of the death of Christ, he would show the reason why he was slain and hanged on a tree—that he was making a necessary, but sufficient, atonement for sin—that the tree was really an altar on which he presented himself as a sin-offering to expiate the guilt of many, to deliver them from eternal death, the penalty of sin. In Peter's own words, " He bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” And that satisfaction which the Son offered the Father accepted, as he proved by raising him from the dead. Thus, provision is made for the sinner's justification and acceptance in the sight of God. Here is the conclusion: “That through his name, whosoever believeth in him should have remission of sins."
This was just the information that Cornelius needed; here he had an answer to the question, How shall a man be just before God? The facts concerning Jesus were not altogether new to Cornelius. These things had not been done in a corner -they were fresh in the memory of those among whom he lived. But hitherto he had not given much heed to them. It was natural that his views on the subject should be much influenced by those to whom he was indebted for his knowledge of the true God. They had rejected ChrstCornelius had disregarded him. Now, however, he hears from the lips of God's witness a complete account of the Person and glory of Christ, of his life and labours,