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Many Jews expressed their belief in Christ during bis ministry, and a still greater number, both Jews and Gentiles, eiribraced his religion when preached by the Apostles, subsequent to his ascension into heaven. There is not a single passage in the New Testament which leads us to suppose, that any supernatural power was exerted over the minds of ordinary hearers; and therefore we are authorized to attribute their faith to the voluntary exercise of their reason. It is certain that men are capable of comprehending some truths, and of judging of evidence in some cases; why then should they not be competent, by the use of their natural faculties, to understand that Jesus was the promised Messiah? .—a truth attested by evidence of the simplest and most powerful nature, by words such as "man never spake (y)" before, by deeds such as were "never seen in Israel (z)," and by the clearest fulfilment of prophecies which were acknowledged
(y) John, c. 7. v. 46. (z.) Matt. c. 9. v. 33.
man cometh unto me, except my Father draw him." "Many understand these words in a wrong sense, as if God required no more in a reasonable man, than in a dead post, and mark not the words which follow, ♦ Every man that heareth, and learneth of my Father, cometh unto me.' God draweth with his word and the Holy Ghost, but man's duty is to hear and learn; that is to say, to receive the grace offered, consent to the promise, and not to impugn the God that calleth."
knowledged to relate to the future Redeemer of the world. The faith of the converts is invariably represented as the effect of what they saw and heard. It was produced in several instances by the performance of a single miracle: thus the nobleman of Galilee and his whole house believed, in consequence of the recovery of his son from the point of death at Capernaum, at the very moment our Saviour said to him at Cana, “Go thy way, thy son liveth (a).” The Samaritans believed, because they “heard him themselves, and knew that this was indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world (b).” And our blessed Lord replied to the well-known message of John the Baptist, not by a direct answer, but by exhibiting and reciting the accomplishment of predictions in himself, which every Jew understood to belong to the Messiah (c); and thus it was pronounced, that those who saw and heard what Jesus did, were of themselves capable of understanding that he “ was the Christ, the Son of God (d).”
“ If any man will do ("Eav tis gan nousiv, if any man be willing to do) his will, says Christ, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of
God, (a) John, C. 4. v. 50 & 53. (b) John, c. 4. V.42. (c) Luke, c. 7. v. 19, &c. (d) Matt. c. 26. v. 63.
God, or whether I speak of myself (e):" A sincere disposition to obey the Divine will was therefore all that was necessary, to enable a person to judge whether the doctrine preached by Christ was the invention of man, or a revelation from God. No acuteness of understanding, no depth of learning, no labour of research, were requisite, but a plain and honest mind, free from prejudice, and open to conviction. Nay, even where this good disposition was wanting, the force of the evidence was such, that it could not always be resisted; for "among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men, more than the praise of God (J):" these men, however reluctantly, believed that Jesus was the Messiah, although their faith did not produce a suitable conduct.
For the manner in which the Apostles propagated the Gospel, and the doctrines which they taught, we must have recourse to the Acts and to the Epistles.
The promised descent of the Holy Ghost, on
(e) John, c. 7. v. 17.
(f) John, c. 12. v. 42 & 43. In verses 47 and 48, Christ addressed his hearers as having perfect freedom of choice, and power of understanding, either to believe «r reject hit words.
the day of Pentecost (g), qualified the Apostles to enter upon their great office of " teaching all nations, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (h)." Of the various powers with which they were then endowed, the gift of tongues was the most important and striking. How was it possible for the Apostles even to attempt the conversion of those, to whom they had not the means of conveying any instruction? And to hear twelve illiterate men, speaking, in languages which it was certain they had never learnt, the wonderful works of God, could not but produce amazement in the mixed multitude, out of every nation under heaven, who were then collected at Jerusalem, to celebrate the feast in obedience to the Law of Moses. While these devout Jews were in a state of the greatest doubt and suspense, and utterly unable to account for this sudden change in the Apostles, St. Peter quoted to them the words of the Prophet Joel, in which the extraordinary fact they now witnessed was expressly foretold; and consequently they could not but consider it as the immediate interposition of God. And then, availing himself of the impression already made upon their minds, he explained to them at considerable length, that the miracles, and wonders,
and (g) Acts, c. 2. (h) Matt. c. 28. v. 19.
and signs, performed by Jesus of Nazareth, were clear proofs of his divine mission; and that his sufferings, death, and resurrection, were all predicted by their own Prophets, and took place by "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.'' "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter, and unto the rest of the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 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: for the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received the word were baptized." These new proselytes amounted to "3,000 souls," whom St. Luke here represents as by degrees converted, before they received the Holy Ghost. The astonishment of these men was at first excited, and their attention fixed, by observing that the Apostles were instantaneously enabled to speak a great variety of languages; and their belief was more fully established by listening to the discourse •f Peter, in which he called to their recollection the mighty works of Jesus, and appealed, in a