« ZurückWeiter »
shalt be saved." Thirdly, the connection between faith in Jesus Christ and salvation, with the evidence of it.
I. In the first place I should shew, what is meant by "believing on the Lord Jesus Christ." One thing plainly implied is, believing him to be a divine teacher sent from God: and that he is the Christ, or the Messiah, the great person spoken of by the prophets, and whom God had promised to send. This we may learn by comparing some texts in the gospels.
In the sixteenth of St. Matthew is an account, how our Lord asked the disciples concerning the opinions which men had of him, and then their own. And when Peter answered, for himself, and the rest: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;" he commended him, and declared him blessed.
Again, John vi. 68, 69. hast the words of eternal life. of the living God."
"Peter answered, and said: Lord, to whom should we go? Thou And we believe, and are sure, that thou art that Christ, the Son,
John xi. 37. Martha says: "Yea, Lord, I believe, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world." And at ver. 41, 42, of the same chapter, our Lord having, at the grave of Lazarus, addressed a particular thanksgiving to the Father, adds: "And I know, that thou hearest me always: but because of the people that stand by, I said it: that they might believe, that thou didst send me."
John xvi. 30, the disciples say: "By this we believe, that thou camest forth from God." And in the following chapter, our Lord, in his prayer and thanksgiving to the Father, says: "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." And of the disciples he says: ver. 8, " They have surely known, that I came out from thee: and have believed, that thou didst send me."
John vi. 28, 29. "Then said they unto him: what shall we do, that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered, and said unto them: This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent."
And it is often taken notice in the gospels, that many believed on Jesus, but the Pharisees believed not: that is, they did not receive him as a prophet, or the great prophet that was to come into the world.
2. Another thing, included in faith in Christ, is believing his words, receiving the doctrine taught by him, or believing the Christian religion.
This is so closely connected with the foregoing particular, that they seem to be both one and the same: and certainly are inseparable. He who believes, that Jesus is sent of God, and the Christ, must believe that his words are true. However, I presume, it is not amiss to observe this distinctly.
Our Lord, who, as before shewn, often speaks of believing in him, "whom God had sent,' does also frequently speak of believing, or receiving his words. For he had a doctrine. He was a prophet, or a teacher sent from God. And receiving his doctrine is believing in him. What it was, we perceive from the history of his life, written by the evangelists. In general, it was, Repent. Or, Repent, and believe the gospel. And to such as received, and obeyed that doctrine, he promised everlasting life.
John vii. 16, 17. "Jesus answered them, and said: My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." John xiv. 24. "The word, which you hear, is not mine but the Father's which sent me." Many of the Jews could not receive his words, because of their prevailing prejudices, and carnal affections. Of the disciples he says: "I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me: and they have received them, and have believed that thou didst send me," John xvii. 8. Again he says: "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life," chap. vi. 63. And because he had the "words of eternal life," ver.. 68, the disciples believed in him, and determined to abide with him. And knowing the truth and importance of the doctrine taught by him, he declares: "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my words, [now,] of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels," Mark viii. 30.
Believing in Christ is often expressed by coming to him. John v. 40. "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life." And Matt. xi. 28, 29. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden- -take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and ye shall find rest for your
souls." The meaning of which can be no other, than that men should become his disciples submit themselves to his instructions, and embrace the doctrine taught by him with divine authority.
They who believed in Jesus, as sent from God, and received his doctrine as a rule of life, became his disciples: a word that includes all his followers in general, and is equivalent to believers though the twelve, whom he also named apostles, are sometimes called his disciples, by way of eminence and distinction. But in the general, all who owned him for their master in things of religion, are his disciples. As the disciples of Moses, or Plato, or Aristotle, are such as take them for their masters, and receive their scheme of religion, or philosophy, as true: so it is here, as we perceive from the style of the Gospels, in many places. "And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom he named apostles," Luke vi. 13. Joseph of Arimathea, is called a "disciple of Jesus:" Matt. xxvii. 57; John xix. 38; that is, he was one who believed in him as a great prophet, even the Messiah, and received his doctrine as true, and from heaven. In the debate between the Jewish rulers, and the man born blind, whom our Lord had miraculously healed, after many inquiries and answers, they said to him again: "What did he unto thee? how opened he thy eyes? He answered them: I have told you, and ye did not hear. Wherefore would ye hear it again? Will ye also be his disciples? Then they reviled him, and said: Thou art his disciple. But we are Moses's disciples," John ix. 26-28. And long before this: "The disciples of John, and of the Pharisees, fast: but thy disciples fast not," Mark ii. 18.
That word is often used in the Acts as equivalent to believer. "In those days when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them," ch. vi. 1, 2. "And the word of the Lord increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly,” ver. 7. "Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha," ch. ix. 36. Ananias, at Damascus, by whom Paul was baptized, is said to be "a disciple," ch. ix. 10. Mnason is called "an old disciple," ch. xxi. 16. I allege but one place more. "And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples," or believers, "were first called Christians at Antioch," ch. xi. 26.
This then is faith in Jesus Christ. To believe in him is to receive him as a divine teacher, and his doctrine as true: or to embrace the religion of Christ, and become his disciples and followers.
But then two things are here supposed: First. that men be instructed in the things concerning the Lord Jesus, or be taught his doctrine. And secondly, that they attend to it, and understand it. As St Paul says: "How shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" Rom. x. 14. So here. They said: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ: and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house." And doubtless he attended diligently. It is true of him, which is said of Lydia. "She heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended to the things that were spoken of Paul," Acts xvi. 14.
For this reason, that men might know the will of God, our Lord went over the "cities" and "villages" of the land of Israel, Matt. ix. 35; Mark vi. 6. 56; Luke xiii. 22; preaching the doctrine of the kingdom, laying hold of every opportunity, and affecting occurrence, to excite attention: calling to men, to hearken and understand, speaking in a familiar manner, sometimes using well contrived parables and similitudes, teaching the word to all sorts of men, as they were able to bear it, in their synagogues, at the temple, at the houses of Pharisees, when they made entertainments, and much company was present.
For this end he sent forth the twelve, and the seventy, to go over the land of Israel, and prepare men for him: and afterwards he enlarged the commission of the twelve, "to go and teach all nations."
II. In the next place we are to consider the benefit proposed to them who believe in Jesus: "And thou shalt be saved: " or, you shall know, what you ought to do in order to be saved: and if you observe it, you will obtain salvation.
This is evidently the design of the words, as they stand here in connection. And it is confirmed by other texts. Cornelius, at Cesarea, was directed by an angel, "who should tell him
words, whereby he and all his house should be saved," Acts xi. 14. Our Lord tells the Jews: These things I say, that ye might be saved," John v. 34. Zachariah prophesying over John the Baptist says: "Thou shalt go before the face of the Lord, to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation, by the remission of their sins," Luke i. 77. And the evangelist Mark assures us, that after his resurrection our Lord said to the Apostles: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved. And he that believeth not shall be damned," Mark xvi. 15, 16.
III. We should now observe the truth and certainty of this: that he who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, shall have knowledge of the way of salvation: or know what he ought to do in order to be saved. And if he attend to the instructions contained in the doctrine of Christ, he shall be saved.
1. This is evident from the doctrine itself: for it teaches men how they may approve themselves to God, the creator and governor of the world: on whom we depend for all our happiness both here and hereafter.
Men are here taught to repent, and then to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, or to walk becoming the character of Christ's disciples. Upon these conditions they are assured of forgiveness of past sins, and the favour of God.
Men are instructed to love God with all the heart, and their neighbours as themselves: and to do to others as they would that others should do to them. They are required to be holy in all manner of conversation: to abstain not from some sins only, but from all: to perform all the duties of their station and condition. And they are instructed to be careful about the frame of their minds, and to govern their thoughts and affections.
Are not these, and other things contained in the gospel of Christ, excellent rules? Is not this true religion? Does it not appear very likely and reasonable, at first sight, and after mature consideration, that this should be the right way of men's approving themselves to God? and that such should be prepared for a future happiness? They who have this perfection of sincerity, though not the perfection of innocence, cannot be finally rejected of God; but will certainly be accepted and rewarded by him.
2. We know, that this is the way of salvation from many express assurances of Christ and his apostles.
John iii. 16. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him, might not perish, but have everlasting life." Ver. 24. "He that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation," ch. viii. 12. "Then spake Jesus unto them again: I am the light of the world. He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness: but shall have the light of life." And says John the apostle and evangelist, near the conclusion of his gospel: "These things "These things are written, that ye might believe, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name," John xx. 21.
Therefore the will of God, taught by Christ and his apostles, is called the "word of life," Philip. ii. 16. And "the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation," Eph. i. 13. Soon after the ascension of Jesus, the apostles were imprisoned by the Jewish rulers: but were delivered by an angel, who said, "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life," Acts v. 20. And they who rejected this doctrine are said to "judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life," ch. xiii. 46.
3. We are farther assured of the truth of what our Lord and his apostles taught from the confirmation given to their doctrine by the miracles wrought by them: works of divine power, and manifest tokens of the divine presence with them, and concurrence with them in their design.
No men could do such things "if God was not with them," John iii. 2. Our Lord was a prophet, "mighty in word and deed, before God and all the people," Luke xxiv. 19. Or, as St. Peter says, at the house of Cornelius, a gentile, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power: who went about, healing all that were oppressed of the devil. For God was with him," Acts x. 38. He had "the Spirit without measure," John iii. 34. And from him also the apostles received grace to accomplish the ministry assigned to them. They were enlightened themselves, and they taught the truth to others with perspicuity. "The Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word with signs following," Mark xvi. 20.
Beside their miraculous works of divine power, we might observe their divine temper: the
spotless innocence of Jesus, and the shining virtue of his apostles: their meekness, patience, inde fatigable and disinterested zeal. Whence we may be assured, they thought as they said: and were firmly persuaded, that the word they taught was from heaven, and that whosoever received it and obeyed it would be saved.
4. They who receive this doctrine are in the way of salvation: for it contains motives and considerations of great moment, to induce men to follow and obey its precepts.
Here life and immortality are set in a clear and engaging light. We are mightily animated and encouraged by the perfect example, the willing death, and the triumphant resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. And in the glory set before us, by him and his gospel, there is what may overbalance all the influence of present and sensible things, and assist us in overcoming this world, and all its temptations.
5. To which I may add one consideration more, as an evidence of this truth: this doctrine contains some instructions which must be of singular use to us in our present circumstances.
Here are not only the necessary, reasonable precepts of true holiness: but also some excellent directions, yery expedient for us in our state of frailty: whilst we are imperfect, and are surrounded with snares. "Watch and prav, that ye enter not into temptation, and be not overcome of evil. Let your loins be girded, and your lights burning: and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord. Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Be diligent, that may be found of him in peace."
These considerations amount to a full proof of this truth: and shew, that they who attend to this doctrine canot fail of salvation. The rule is right and infallible, if observed. And it is of such a nature, that they who know it, and think of it, must be forcibly engaged to act according to it. As St. Paul says: "The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth," Rom. i. 16.
THE GOSPEL THE TRUE WAY OF SALVATION.
And they said: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ: and thou shalt be saved,
IN discoursing on these words, I have already shewn what is to be understood, both here and elsewhere, by believing in Jesus Christ: or the nature of faith in him. Next, the benefit here proposed and promised, which is salvation. And thirdly, the connection between faith in Jesus Christ, and salvation, with the evidence of it.
IV. I now intend to mention some inferences by way of application.
1. We perceive from the history before us, that affecting awakening occurrences in life are sometimes of great use to men.
The keeper of the prison at Philippi by the shaking of the prison, and the loosening of the bands of all under his charge, was brought into great distress of mind: supposing that the prisoners had escaped, and fearing the displeasure of his superiors. But that distress was useful. He was brought to serious thoughts of religion, and a concern for eternal salvation, and how to obtain it.
The Lord was pleased to render the conversion of Saul very affecting, who was to be an instrument in converting many others, and who was likely to meet with many difficulties in the discharge of the office for which he was designed. As he was journeying to Damascus, Acts ix. in the company of others, with a design to apprehend all whom he should find there, that called upon the name of Jesus: "suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven, insomuch that he fell to the earth: and then heard a voice saying unto him: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said: Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said: I am Jesus whom thou
secutest. And he trembling and astonished, said: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Much after the same manner with the gaoler at Philippi: "Sirs, what shall I do to be saved? And the Lord said unto him: Arise, go into the city; and it shall be told thee what thou must do—” And "Saul arose from the earth-And they led him by the hand, and brought him to Damascus. And he was three days without sight: and neither did eat nor drink."
Possibly some appearances less awful, some means less awakening than these, might have been sufficient to work upon Saul, and convince him of his sin. Somewhat less than all this might have sufficed to induce him to become of a persecutor a preacher of the Gospel: nevertheless we may reasonably think, that every part of that remarkable transaction was wisely ordered. It was suited to make deep impressions on Saul, and would be of lasting use to secure his future steadiness, faithfulness, and zeal.
In a like manner, still, remarkable occurrences in life, whether signal deliverances or afflictive events, though not miraculous, may be overruled by Divine Providence for reclaiming men from a sinful course of life, or for alarming good men fallen into negligence and security.
2. We may collect from this history, that the Christian religion does not condemn or forbid the exercise of any employments and offices that are necessary and useful in this world.
This person, after his conversion to Christianity, seems still to have continued in the office of keeper of the prison at Philippi. He believed and had been baptized. And after this, "when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let these men go. And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul: The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace." The order of the magistrates was sent to him; and he delivered it to Paul and Silas. He was therefore still in his former office. Nor does it appear that St. Paul had enjoined him to quit it.
Whilst therefore no sinful compliances are insisted upon as qualifications, any useful and necessary office may be discharged by a Christian.
3. We cannot but observe here a just character of the Christian religion. It is the doctrine of salvation: it teaches men what they ought to do to be saved.
We have formerly shewed the connection between faith in Jesus Christ and salvation; nevertheless it is fit to make this remark here. Jesus is eminently the Saviour. He "saves his people from their sins," Matt. i. 21. He "delivers from the wrath to come," 1 Thess. i. 10; and will bestow eternal life upon them that obey him. Says the angel to the shepherds near Bethlehem: "I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people: for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord," Luke ii. 10, 11; and his gospel is called "the saving grace of God," Tit. ii. 11.
Such then is the word taught by Christ. It is the doctrine of salvation. It is not a scheme. of natural philosophy, teaching the several orders and powers of invisible beings; or the hidden nature and various properties of material things. It is not a system of civil policy and governIt is not the art of fine speaking and rhetorical discourse. But it teaches men of every rank and condition the duties of their condition, and the several branches of piety: what they ought to do to be saved: how they ought to walk that they may please God. It affords directions and assistances for persevering in virtue: for resisting and overcoming temptations, so as that they may maintain their integrity to the end, and have peace in death, and inherit everlasting life.
4. The Christian doctrine is fitted to awaken, convince, and reform men of every temper, and every station in life.
We have a proof of it in the conversion of this person, who had been employed in an office which is apt to render men rough and untractable; which is, perhaps, more especially fit for such tempers; and is also likely to cherish self-confidence, fierceness, and austerity of behaviour.
Such an one is the convert in the text. We see what he once was; how he was affected, and how he was changed and reformed. Paul and Silas, having been accused before the rulers of Philippi, were beaten by their order; after which the same rulers cast them into prison, "charging the gaoler to keep them safely. Who having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in stocks." He readily executed a severe sentence; and possibly, added to the rigour of it. "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God, and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every man's