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I rejoiced to see him mocked at by others. Can there be hope for me?
Peter. There is for every one of you. “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."
Oh! what a blessed "every one of you,” is here! How willing was Peter (and the Lord Jesus, by his ministry) to catch these murderers with the word of the gospel, that they might be made monuments of the grace of God! How unwilling, I say, was he, that any of these should escape the hand of mercy! Yea, what an amazing wonder it is to think, that above all the world, and above every body in it, these should have the first offer of mercy! “Beginning at Jerusalem.” But was there not something of moment in this clause of the commission ? Did not Peter, think you, see a great deal in it, that he should thus begin with these men, and thus offer, so particularly, this grace to each particular man of them?
But, as I told you, this is not all. These Jerusalem sinners must have this offer again and again; every one of them must be offered it over and over. Christ would not take their first rejection for a denial, nor their second repulse for a denial; but he will have grace offered once, and twice, and thrice, to these Jerusalem sinners. Is this not amazing grace! Christ will not be put off. These are the sinners that are sinners indeed. They are sinners of the biggest sort; consequently, such as Christ can, if they convert and be saved, best serve his ends and designs upon. Of which more anon.
But what a pitch of grace is this! Christ is minded to amaze the world, and to show, that he acteth. not like the children of men. This is that which he said of old. “I will not execute the fierceness of my wrath; I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man.” This
GRACE URGED AGAIN AND AGAIN.
is not the manner of men. Men are shorter-winded. Men are soon moved to take vengeance, and to right themselves in a way of wrath and indignation. But God is full of grace, full of patience, ready to forgive, and one that delights in mercy. All this is seen in our text. The greatest sinners must first be offered mercy; they must, I say, have the cream of the gospel offered unto them.
But we will a little proceed. In the third chapter, we find, that they who escaped converting by the first sermon, are called upon again, to accept of grace and forgiveness, for their murder committed upon the Son of God. “You have killed him; yea, "you have denied, the holy One and the just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of Life.” Mark, he falls again upon the very men that actually were, as you have it in the chapters following, his very betrayers and murderers, (Acts iii. 14, 15); as being loath that they should escape the mercy of forgiveness; and exhorts them again to repent, that their sins might "be blotted out.” Verses 19, 20.
Again, in the fourth chapter, he charges them afresh with this murder, (verse 10); but withal tells them, salvation is in no other. Then, like a heavenly decoy, he puts himself also among them, to draw them the better under the net of the gospel; saying, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby We must be saved.” Ver. 12.
In the fifth chapter you find them railing at him, because he continued preaching among them salvation in the name of Jesus. But he tells them, that that very Jesus whom they had slain and hanged on a tree, him God had raised up, and exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. Ver. 29–31. Still insinuating, that though they had killed him, and to this day rejected him, yet his business was to bestow upon them repentance and forgiveness of sins.
It is true, after they began to kill again, and when
nothing but killing would serve their turn, then they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Yet even some of them so hankered after the conversion of the Jews, that they preached the gospel only to them. Also the apostles still made their abode with Jerusalem sinners.
Neither did Paul and Barnabas, who were the ministers of God to the Gentiles, but offer the gospel, in the first · place, to those of them that for their wickedness were scattered like vagabonds among the nations. Yea, and when they rendered rebellion and blasphemy for their service and love, they replied, 'It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you.'
Nor was this their preaching unsuccessful among these people. But the Lord Jesus so wrought with the word thus spoken, that thousands of them came flocking to him for mercy. Three thousand of them closed with him at the first; and afterwards two thousand more; for now they were in number about five thousand; whereas, before sermons were preached to these murderers, the number of the disciples was not above “a hundred and twenty.”
Also among these people that thus flocked to him for mercy, there was a great company of the priests.” Now the priests were they that were the greatest of these biggest sinners; they were the ringleaders, they were the inventors and ringleaders in the mischief. It was they that set the people against the Lord Jesus and that were the cause why the uproar increased, until Pilate had given sentence upon him. “The chief priests and elders,” says the text, “persuaded (the people) the multitude,” that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. And yet, behold the priests, yea, “a great company of the priests,” became obedient to the faith!
Oh, the greatness of the grace of Christ, that he should be thus in love with the souls of Jerusalem sinners! that he should be thus delighted with the salvation of the Jerusa
were preached to the hundred and twenty:.
ATTRACTIVE POWER OF THIS DOCTRINE.
lem sinners! that he should not only will that his gospel should be offered them, but that it should be offered unto them first, and before other sinners were admitted to a hearing of it! “Beginning at Jerusalem."
Were this doctrine well believed, where would there be a place for a doubt, or a fear of the damnation of the soul, if the sinner be penitent; how bad a life soever he has lived, how many soever in number are his sins?
But this grace is hid from the eyes of men. The devil hides it from them. For he knows it is alluring; he knows it has an attracting virtue in it: for this it is that above all arguments can draw the soul to God.
I cannot help it, but must let drop another word. The first church, the Jerusalem church, from whence the gospel was to be sent into all the world, was a church made up of Jerusalem sinners! These great sinners were here the most shining monuments of the exceeding grace of God.
REASONS WHY IT IS SO.
Thus you see I have proved the doctrine; and that not only by showing you that this was the practice of the Lord Jesus Christ in his lifetime, but his last will when he went up to God; saying, Begin to preach at Jerusalem.
Yes, it is yet further manifested, in that when his ministers first began to preach there, he joined his power to the word, to the converting of thousands of his betrayers and murderers, and also many of the ringleading priests to the faith.
I shall now proceed, and shall show you the reasons of the thing; and then make some application of the whole.
The doctrine, you know, is this: JESUS CHRIST WOULD HAVE MERCY OFFERED, IN THE FIRST PLACE, TO THE GREATEST SINNERS, TO THE JERUSALEM SINNERS. “Preach repentance, and remission of sins, in my name, among all nations; beginning at Jerusalem.”
The REASONS FOR THIS COURSE are:
First, Because the greatest sinners have most need thereof. He that has most need, reason says, should be helped first. I mean, when a helping hand is offered; and now it is : for the gospel of the grace of God is sent to help the world. Acts xvi. 9. But the greatest sinner has most need. Therefore, in reason, when mercy is sent down from heaven to men, the worst of men should have the first offer of it. “Beginning at Jerusalem.” This is the reason which the Lord Christ himself renders, why in his lifetime he left the best, and turned him to the worst; why he sat so loose from the righteous, and stuck so close to the wicked. “The