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great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it
came even to me:
6. Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
7. And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.
8. But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.
9. But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
10. And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.
11. And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Cæsarea unto me.
12. And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house:
13. And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter ;
14. Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
15. And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
16. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
17. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ ;2 what was I, that I could withstand God?
18. When they heard these things, they held their peace,
2 Unto us, upon our believing: when we embraced the faith: πιστευσασιν. - --- Scholefield.
and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
It was no reproach to the Jew, that he had looked upon other nations as "aliens from God," and therefore from himself: God had designed that the Jews should be thus kept separate from the abominations of idolatry. It was rather proof of a softened, subdued mind, a mind taught of the Spirit, that the disciples yielded so readily to the words of Peter: held their peace, made no more dispute or murmur, but glorified God for his mercy, though it admitted others to the same privilege as themselves.
But we ought to mark the expression here employed. Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. This expression teaches us to think and speak of repentance in a way in which it is not always thought or spoken of. It teaches us to judge of it as a gift or favour, that a man is allowed to return to God: to leave a course of sinful or worldly vanities, to "serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven.'
We are bound, indeed, justly bound, to regard repentance as a duty on the part of man. Unquestionably it is a duty, for neglecting which those who do neglect it are left under just condemnation. But we must never forget (though in our way speaking and thinking we sometimes appear to forget it) that it is also a gift, a most gracious gift, on the part of God, if his Spirit softens the heart, and brings it to himself. We must never forget the
greatness of the favour, if the corrupt child of Adam is received into God's family, or the penitent sinner enjoys his offended Father's pardon.
Whatever may be the present state of any man, let him see this important matter in its proper light. If he be in a state of favour, "accepted in the beloved," at "peace with God through Jesus Christ ;" there is little fear, lest he should not justly estimate the mercy shown him. shown him. It is part of that mercy, that he is sensible of it: part of the grace bestowed, that he knows and feels the blessing: the blessing, that he has been led to "lay hold on eternal life," and not left among the " many called," but never "chosen."
But there may be those (there are, alas! too many in our land) who, with opportunities which the Gentiles never had, are still living as the Gentiles lived, and not less needing repentance. Repentance unto life may be granted to them also. But no man can repent, unless the Spirit influence him. And that mercy, to be obtained, must be rightly sought and to be rightly sought, it must be sought of God: sought as an incalculable favour; sought as an unmerited favour.
Represent to your minds the poorest beggar that ever sat by the way-side one who had nothing of his own to entitle him to notice, or prepare him for high distinction: one, who had been brought to his low condition, not by misfortune, but by vice: by neglect of opportunities which might have instructed him, or by misuse of advantages which might have raised him.
It is a dark picture. But it is the picture of those who in this christian land are living as wilful transgressors of the law of God. What claim have they to favour? They are ignorant, though God has put the Bible in their hands. They are covetous and worldly, though God has warned them to provide for heaven. They are intemperate, impure, sensual, though God has declared that those who are such, have no inheritance in his kingdom. They know that "the Lord is at hand:" yet they do not "prepare to meet Him."
The degraded, and ignorant, and self-ruined beggar which I have described, could little expect that the sovereign of the country should seek him out, should clothe him, should educate him, should admit him into his own palace, should treat him as one of his own family.
Yet this is what God does, when he grants repentance. When he says, “Return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon you"-he is in real truth saying: -Thou hast defied me, but I forgive thee thou art ignorant, but I will teach thee: thou art corrupt and vile, but I will convert and heal thee: thou art naked, but I will clothe thee: thou art destitute, and hast "destroyed thyself;" but I will receive thee into my palace, and give thee a place at the right hand of my throne for ever.
If we consider repentance unto life, and examine its nature, and its consequences, what it is, and what it leads to--we shall perceive that here is a just representation of it. And, if so, "judge, I pray you, between" God and his people, whether
repentance unto life is not justly called a gift, a grant, a favour.
It is, however, a favour, which he loves to grant, for he is rich in mercy. When the prodigal "was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion on him, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."3 "For the Lord our God is a merciful God, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin." "He willeth not that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance," and to the knowledge of that great truth, that "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth from all sin."
THE GOSPEL RECEIVED AT ANTIOCH BOTH BY JEWS AND GRECIANS, AND A CHURCH FORMED, WHICH IS VISITED BY BARNABAS.-A. D. 41.
ACTS xi. 19-24.
19. Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.
We were told in chapter viii. that "they which were scattered abroad when Saul was "making
3 Luke xv. 20.