« PreviousContinue »
of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace." 6
PETER EXHORTS THE ASSEMBLY TO RE-
ACTS ii. 37-40.
37. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
So great was the effect of the words of Peter, which we lately read, upon the consciences of his hearers. In the phrase of Isaiah, they were "like the hammer which breaks the rock in pieces." In the phrase of St. Paul, they were like a doubleedged sword, "piercing even to the dividing asunder the soul and spirit." Because the Spirit of God accompanied the apostle's words, adding weight to the hammer, and softening the rock; carrying the sword home, and making the soul sensible. They were pricked in their hearts: evidently, because of that particular sin which the apostle had closely pressed upon them, that they had crucified and slain him, whom God had sent to be a Prince and a Saviour.
6 Luke i. 78.
There were some indeed among the number present, who had not been actively concerned in the death of Jesus. But even these, the foreign Jews from every country, would be conscious that whenever they had heard of Jesus in their visits to Jerusalem, they had neglected or derided him. The whole company acknowledge themselves to be in the same condition, and anxiously inquire, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
As a patient, whose physician might unexpectedly assure him that he had swallowed poison, and his life was in imminent danger-as the astonished patient would inquire, What shall I do? what hope or remedy remains? you are a man, and a brother, and can feel for such a state: only prescribe, and I am ready to comply;—such is the anxiety and the eagerness here expressed. Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Such a question, however, might be asked of a physician, and he might have no hope to give. He might be forced to acknowledge that the case was one for which he could offer nothing.
It is not so with the apostle. He has a ready answer, and a certain promise.
38. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized 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.
39. For the promise is unto you, and to your chil
dren, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
40. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.1
Observe the confidence with which Peter answers. He speaks "as one having authority." He describes the issue as sure and certain. Repent, and be baptized and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Ye shall receive both pardon for the past, and grace for the future. Your transgressions shall be forgiven, which at present exclude you from the favour of God: and your nature shall be renewed, which has hitherto been averse from his will. You shall be baptized "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." The Father will receive you: the Son will atone for you: the Holy Ghost will sanctify you. Thus shall you become members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.
Such should be the blessing upon their repentance and their faith; and this blessing should be made over to them in baptism.
We must remark, however, the proper place which repentance and faith hold in this transaction. They are the links of communication between man and God: the medium through which pardon is ob tained, and acceptance granted. But they were
'Be among those saved-owenTE.
not the cause or ground of pardon and acceptance. God forgives the penitent: not because he repents, but because Christ has died upon the cross for the remission of sin. The words are not merelyRepent, and you shall find mercy; " Return unto the Lord, and he shall abundantly pardon;" but the injunction goes further: Repent, and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith procure an interest in his propitiation. We may compare the case with that of some rich benefactor, who should assign a sum of money to discharge the debts of all who should apply in a certain fixed and appointed manner. All who apply in that prescribed manner, receive the benefit. Still it is not the fixed and appointed condition, but the liberality of the benefactor which pays the debts. Their compliance with the terms, does no more than make his bounty available to the particular individuals who fulfil them. Just so, repentance and faith do not "blot out the hand-writing of transgression" which is against us; but procure an interest in that all-sufficient sacrifice, without which is no remission.
The promise follows, Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Not such gifts as the apostles had received, and many afterwards received; the gift of tongues, or of healing, or of prophecy;-these were not granted indiscriminately to all who should repent and be baptized. But there is a gift of the
Holy Ghost which is needful to every one: such a gift as shall render him what all must be who are in Christ Jesus: "a new creature." What should make them so ? Not their danger. They might feel their danger, and still be unrenewed. their sorrow. They might lament and grieve over their condemnation, and yet be unrenewed. Nothing within themselves could produce a change of character: that must be wrought in them from an external source. And to that source they are directed. It should be opened to them from above. Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost: that ye may no longer be "foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another." This original nature, with the habits and dispositions belonging to it, must be done away, "by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost." For such was the divine purpose, to accomplish which a ransom had been paid for the remission of sin-that God might have a people purified unto himself, "redeemed from all iniquity, and zealous of good works," and waiting for his heavenly kingdom.3
The blessing which promised this, was not, we are assured, to that assembly alone, nor to their children: but to them that were afar off, even as