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Acts x. 38.-Who went about doing good
It is a sad providence that directs my attention to those words --words so descriptive of the character to which I mean to accommodate them, that the name of HowARD scarce need be mentioned to inform you whom I intend.
To raise a monument to his memory is not my object. It does not require it, nor am I equal to the service. The obligations however I owe to his friendship and your edification, will not allow me to be silent. His benevolent regards to this Christian society; his regular attendance with us for many years past, as opportunity permitted; the satisfaction he expressed in the word here preached; and the particular share I had in his affectionate esteem, are all considerations which will I hope secure me from the imputation of vanity, in thus taking notice of so public a character.
The words of our text were spoken by the apostle Peter to Cornelius, of our Lord Jesus Christ. God anointed him with the Holy Ghost, and with power, so that he went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil : for God was with him. The two particulars I mean to illustrate and improve are,
I. His business, which was doing good ; and
II. The diligence with which he pursued it—he went about doing good.
I. His business. It was doing good.
He was a Benefactor to mankind. A title assumed by one of the Egyptian kings, how justly I will not enquire. But whatever good offices a Ptolemy Euergetes might perform, his character is not to be mentioned at the same time with that of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is indeed JESUS THE BENEFACTOR. Not to speak here of the grand object of his appearance in our world, the offering his life a sacrifice for sin: how benevolently was he employed during his pilgrimage on earth! He went about doing good-good, both to the souls and the bodies of men.
To the latter indeed our text principally refers. And though it instances only one species of good he did, that of healing them who were possessed of the devil; yet the phrase itself comprehends all possible ways of being beneficial to mankind. And the instance here mentioned plainly intimates, as some have observed, that he who took such pains to rescue the bodies of men from the power and possession of the devil, would not suffer their souls to remain under his dominion. He did good then both to their souls and their bodies.
FIRST, To their souls.
This he did by his public preaching, and his private instructions. He set himself to oppose the passions of depraved nature, and the prejudices arising from the ignorance and superstition of the times. He laid the axe to the root of the tree, and resolutely combated the absurd and dangerous principles of the scribes and Pharisees, who sat in Moses's seat, and lorded it over the consciences of men. He shewed the fallacy of their reasonings, and the evil tendency of their doctrincs. And knowing the secrets of their hearts, he warned men to beware of their hypocrisy, affirming that they were blind leaders of the blind a. And while he thus attacked the prevailing errors of the times, which had confirmed men in ignorance and sin, he failed not to give them just apprehensions of God, his law, the soul, the way of life and salvation, religion, and a future state.
The character of the blessed God he placed in its true light, by ascribing to him the perfections of wisdom, justice, holiness, goodness, and truth; and by drawing out the lively expressions thereof in his own pure and perfect example.
The divine law he rescued from those false glosses and absurd interpretations, which had been imposed upon it by wicked and designing men; giving its true and genuine sense, and explaining its spirituality, extent, and authority.
The soul he affirmed to be immortal : and whilst he asserted its dignity, importance, and amenableness at the divine tribunal, gave a striking picture of the sad state to which it is reduced by sin ; laying open the ignorance, pride, passion, and
a Matt. xv. 14.
iniquity, of the human heart, and insisting on the necessity of a moral change, or of the new birth a.
All haughty pretences to merit he treated with sovereign contempt, teaching men that he alone was the Mediator between God and them b, that none could come to God with acceptance but by him c, and that they only who believed on him, the Saviour of the world, should have life through him d.
The nature of personal religion he explained, and the obligations of Christians to it he enforced by the noblest motives. The blessings of a peaceful conscience, and the pleasures resulting from a hope of the divine favour, he set in the most engaging light. And while he recommended the virtues of humility, faith, and benevolence, with their genuine fruits, he pointed to the blessed Spirit as the author of these heavenly gifts, and directed his followers to look for them
the effect of his influence.
To crown all, he gave the most pleasing and animated descriptions of the felicity and glory of heaven, and the strongest assurances of its certainty and everlasting duration.-Such was the doctrine our Saviour taught, ever accompanied with the clearest reasoning, the most forcible arguments, and the warmeet persuasions.
It is also observable of his instructions, that they were so conducted as to the season, manner, and other circumstances of them, as best to attain the end he had always in view of doing good. He taught both publicly and privately, at home and abroad, in the temple and the synagogues, in the city and the desert. He took occasion from the common occurrences of life to engage the attention of men to the great truths of religion, and to fix a deep impression of their importance upon their hearts. He addressed himself to the different characters, passions, and conditions of his hearers. The ignorant he taught with gentleness and forbearance, pitying their prejudices, and condescending to their weaknesses, The distressed he comforted, like a compassionate physician, healing the broken-hearted, and pouring oil and wine into the wounds of the bleeding conscience. The proud aud self-con
b1 Tim. ii. 5. c John xiv, 6. d John iii, 36,
a John iii, 3.