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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 obtained, and acceptance granted. But they were 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 merely—Repent, 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 allsufficient 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. Not 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."2 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 many as the Lord our God should call. And this reminds us of the practical improvement to be drawn from the passage we have been considering.
That state of heart which was required of the assembly at Jerusalem, must be the habitual state of every Christian. Towards God, a state of penitent acknowledgment, that he has not been what he ought to have been, and even what he might have been. A state of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of that sin which he feels, confesses, and laments. And a state of prayerful expectation that " the Holy Ghost may be shed on him" more and more abundantly, that he may in greater and increasing measure be "partaker of the divine nature," and made fitter for " the inheritance of the saints in light."
To bring man to this mind, and to give eternal 2 Titus iii. 3—5. 3 yee Titus ii. 14.
life to all who are thus minded, was the object for which Christ died: and as far as this object is fulfilled, he has not "died in vain."
THREE THOUSAND ARE BAPTIZED, AND A SOCIETY OF CHRISTIANS IS FORMED.
Acts ii. 41—47.
41. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Thus mighty was the effect produced by the Spirit of God. We lately read the exhortation of Peter, calling upon his countrymen to save themselves from that untoward generation, which had crucified "the Lord of glory." What was required of them, was great indeed. It was required, that they who had joined with the rest of their countrymen, in rejecting Christ, should now acknowledge that he was the promised Messiah: nay more; that in him alone they could obtain "remission of sin." Others might not have been partakers of this same guilt: but their general spirit had been, no doubt, that of men self-satisfied; approving themselves as righteous; "resting in their knowledge of God" and of his law, and believing that "they had need of nothing."4 Now their views must be wholly changed. They must confess themselves sinners in the sight of God, who had no hope but in his mercy: they must accept the terms of pardon offered by him, and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the remission of sin.
Such, and no less, was the repentance, the change required. And yet so strong was the emotion produced upon their hearts, that three thousand persons received the word gladly, were baptized, and became the first fruits of the death of Christ, the first members of that company which no man can number.
The Lord had made a very express promise, that although they had been few who followed him whilst on earth, and became his avowed disciples, it should not be always so. (John xvi. 8.) "When He, the Comforter, is come, he will reprove5 the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Of sin, because they believe not on me: of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye see me no more: of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged."
We see, now, the explanation and the fulfilment of that promise. That so many, even three thousand souls, should so suddenly and so gladly receive the word, and be baptized as believers in Christ, can be ascribed to nothing but the Spirit of God, reproving Peter's hearers, softening their hearts, and disposing them to be convinced of sin, of
4 Rom. xi. 17. 5 'eXey^ei: convict.