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and Egypt, ver. 9, 10. who had travelled to Jerusalem to keep the feast of Pentecost. When these men heard this, that is, when they heard the sermon of St. Peter, they were pricked in their heart, und said, Men and brethren, what shall we do? In order to understand the happy effect, we must endeavor to understand the cause. In order to comprehend what passed in the auditory, we must understand the sermon of the preacher. There are five remarkable things in the serinon, and there are five correspondent dispositions in the hearers.
I. I see in the sermon a noble freedom of speech: and in the souls of the hearers those deep impressions, which a subject generally makes, when the preaclier hin.self is deeply affected with its excellence, and emboldened by the justice of his cause.
II. There is in the sermon a miracle, which gives dignity and weight to the subject : and there is in the souls of the auditors that deference, wbich cannot be withheld from a man, to whose ministry God puts his seal.
III. I see in the sermon of the preacher an invincible power of reasoning; and in the souls of the audience that conviction, which carries along with it the consent of the will.
IV. There are in the sermon stinging reproofs ; and in the souls of the hearers painful remorse,
V. I observe in the sermon threatenings of approaching judgments; and in the souls of the hearers a horror that seizeth all their powers for fear of the judgments of a consuming God, Heb. xii. 29. These are five sources of reflections, my brethren; five comments on the words of the text.
1. We have remarked in the sermon of St. Peter that noble freedom of speech, which so well be
comes a christian preacher, and is so well adapted to strike his hearers. How much soever we now admire this beautiful part of pulpit eloquence, it is very difficult to imitate it. Sometimes a weakness of faith, which attends your best established preachers; sometimes worldly prudence ; sometimes a timidity, that proceedeth from a modest cousciousness of the insufficiency of their talents; sometimes a fear, too well grounded, alas ! of the retorting of those censures, which people, always ready to murmur against them, who reprove their vices, are eager to make; sometimes a fear of those persecutions, which the world always raiseth against all, whom heaven qualifies to destroy the empire of sin ; all these considerations damp the courage of the preacher, and deprive him of freedom of speech. İf in the silent study, when the mind is filled with an apprehension of the tremendous majesty of God, we resolve to attack vice, how eminent soever the seat of its dominion may be, I own, my brethren, we are apt to be intimidated in a public assembly, when, in surveying the members, of whom it is composed, we see some hearers, whom a multitude of reasons ought to render very respectable to us.
But none of these considerations had any weight with our apostle. And, indeed, why should any of them affect him ? Should the weakness of his faith? he had conversed with Jesus Christ himself; he had accompanied him on the holy mount, he had heard a voice from the excellent glory, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, 2 Pet. ii. 17. Moreover, he had seen him after his resurrection loaden with the spoils of death and hell, ascending to heaven in a cloud, received into the bosom of God, amidst the acclamations of angels, shouting for joy, and crying, Lift up your heads, O ye gates ! ye everlasting doors ! the
king of glory shall come in, Psal. xxiv. 7.. Could he distrust his talents? The prince of the kingdom, the author, and finisher of faith, Heb. xii. 2. had told him, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I neill build my church, Matt. xvi. 18. Should he dread reproaches and recriminations? The purity of his intentions, and the sanctity of his life confound them. Should he pretend to keep fair with the world ? But what finesse is to be used, when eternal misery is to be denounced, and eternal happiness proposed ? Should he shrink back from the sufferings, that superstition and cruelty were preparing for Christians ? His timidity would have cost him too dear; it would have cost him sighs too deep, tears too many. Persecuting tyrants could invent no punishments so severe as those which his own conscience had inflicted on him for his former fall : at all adventures, if he must be a martyr, he chooseth rather to die for religion than for apostacy.
Philosophers talk of certain invisible bands, that unite mankind to one another. A man, animated with any passion, bath in the features of his face, and in the tone of his voice, a something, that partly communicates his sentiments to his hearers. Error proposed in a lively manner by a man, who is affected with it himself, may seduce unguarded people. Fictions, which we know, are fictions, exbibited in this manner, move and affect us for a moment. But what a dominion over the heart doth that speaker obtain, who delivers truths, and who is affected himself with the truths which he delivereth? To this part of the eloquence of St. Peter, we must attribute the emotions of his hearers; they were pricked in their heart. They said to the apostles, Men and brethren ühut shall we do? Such are the impressions, which a man, deeply affected with the excellence of his subject, and emboldened by the justice of his cause, makes on his hearers.
II. A second thing, which gave weight and dignity to the sermon of St. Peter, was the miracle, that preceded his preaching, I mean the gift of tongues, which had been communicated to all the apostles. This prodigy had three characteristic marks of a genuine miracle. What is a true, genuine, authentic miracle? In my opinion, one of the principal causes of the fruitlessness of all our enquiries on this article is the pretending to examine it philosophically. This rock we should cautiously endeavor to avoid. Mankind know so little of the
powers of nature, that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to determine strictly and philosophically, whether an action, which seems to us a real miracle, be really such ; or whether it be not our ignorance that causeth it to appear so to us.
We are so unacquainted with the faculties of unembodied spirits, and of others, which are united to some portion of matter by laws different from those, that unite our bodies and souls, that we cannot determine whether an event, which seems to us an immediate work of the omnipotence of God, be not operated by an inferior power, though subordinate to his will.
But the more reason a philosopher hath for mortification, when he pretends thoroughly to elucidate abstruse questions, in order to gratify curiosity, the more helps hath a christian to satisfy himself, when he investigates them with the laudible design of knowing all that is necessary to be known, in order to salvation. Let us abridge the matter. The prodigy, that accompanied the sermon of St. Peter, had three characteristic marks of a real miracle.
1. It was above human power. Every pretendVOL. II.
ed miracle, that hath not this first character, ought to be suspected by us.
The want of this hath prevented our astonishment at several prodigies, that have been played off against the reformation, and will always prevent their making any impression on our minds. No, should a hundred statues of the blessed virgin move before us; should the images of all the saints walk; should a thousand phantoms appear; should voices in the air be heard against Calvin and Luther; we should infer only one conclusion from all these artifices, that is, that they, who use them, distrusting the justice of their cause, supply the want of truth with trick, that, as they despair of obtaining rational converts, they may, at least, proselyte simple souls.
But the prodigy in question was evidently superior to human power. Of all sciences in the world, that of language is the least capable of an instant acquisition. Certain natural talents, a certain superiority of genius, sometimes produce in some men the same effects, which long and painful industry can scarcely ever produce in others. We have sometimes seen people, whom nature seems to have designedly formed in an instant, become courageous captains, 'profound geometers, admirable orators : But tongues are acquired by study and time. The acquisition of languages is like the knowledge of history. It is not a superior genius, it is not a great capacity, that can discover to any man what passed in the world ten or twelve ages ago. The monuments of antiquity must be consulted, huge folios must be read, and an immense number of volumes must be understood, arranged, and digested. In like manner, the knowledge of languages is a knowledge of experience, and no man can ever derive it from his own innate fund of ability. Yet the apostles, and apostolical men,