to the ground when he obeyed the voice of the Angel.

This case throws so much light on a theological question of great importance, that I shall take a little time to insist farther upon it, with your leave. It shews us, how the endeavours of man are consistent with the help and grace of God; and so confutes, as well the error of those who exclude the free will of man, as of others who reject the grace of God, because they think it would make human reason unnecessary. But this is not the case: for, doubtless, Peter might have refused to obey the summons of the Angel, if his reason had been weak enough: but he attempted to rise, and found himself released. We have other cases in the scripture of the same kind. When Peter healed a cripple at the gate of the temple, he bid him stand up upon his feet; but how should he do so, when he had no ability? his feet and ancle bones were doubled under him, and become useless: yet he believed, endeavoured, and stood upright. A man with a withered hand presented himself to Christ: he bid him stretch it out: but how could that be? might he not have said, "Lord, thou art an hard man, to com"mand me thus to stretch out an arm, of which, as "thou seest, I have lost the use." However, he had the heart to try; and in the trial his arm became whole as the other. The moral therefore is this; that you are not to be so foolish as to oppose the work of your own deliverance: only be willing to be saved; put yourself into action; try to get up; and the power of God will be present to help you through. With this the doctrine of the scriptures agrees, as well in its precepts as its miracles; work out your own salvation-For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Work for yourselves;

but then remember, that your labour is not in vain, because it is God that worketh with you. I thought it proper to take this opportunity of illustrating the concurrence of divine grace with human endeavours; a very weighty and (as some have made it) a difficult subject. How far the act of man proceeds, and where the power of God comes in, we cannot exactly determine; nor is there any occasion; the fact is as I have set it before you; and one fact gives more light than all the metaphysical disquisitions in the world.


But to return to the case of St. Peter; after whose example, the soul being set at liberty, has recovered the use of its faculties, which Satan had bound with the bond of iniquity. God having begun the good work, the convert must proceed to do something for himself, under the direction of his guide, who will not yet forsake him. If we go on with the account of St. Peter's deliverance, we read in the next place, that "the Angel said unto him, gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals: and so he did: and he saith unto him, "cast thy garment about thee and follow me." The same advice is given to us, when we are brought from darkness into light. We are commanded to have our loins girt about with truth; to be right and ready in our faith; taking care that no folds and impediments of error hang loose about the feet to retard our progress, and become an occasion of falling. Whatever may hinder our steps is to be gathered out of the way, and the girdle of truth is to be put on. This done, we are to bind on our sandals; that is, we are to be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; without which preparation, the Christian can no more pursue his way in peace and safety through the trials of the world, than a poor traveller

can walk with naked feet over rough stones and burning sands without being hurt. The man of the world is galled by every trifling accident; against which the peaceable spirit of the Gospel would be a sure defence. It is called the Gospel of Peace, not only as it contains the glad tidings of peace between heaven and earth; but likewise as it is a rule of peace to us in our conversation with the world; and oh, how beautiful are the feet that have put it on and wear it! The loins being girded about, and the feet shod, we are commanded to cast our garment about us; to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and become spiritual men, clothed with his righteousness, whereby our sins are covered, and we are accepted in the beloved. This is that best robe, which the father of mercy commanded his servants to bring forth, and put upon his returning prodigal. It is given to us in our baptism; it is preserved to us by a faithful participation of the Lord's supper; and it must be our care to keep it without spot.

When Peter had complied with the instructions of the Angel, he was bid to follow him; and when we are thus far prepared, it remains that we follow our deliverer, who is also our guide, in life and in death, and will conduct us from this place of our confinement to the city of the heavenly Jerusalem. In all our steps, we are to look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who though he is gone before us, is still with us, to keep us in the way, and defend us from all the dangers of it.

Such is the deliverance, and so great is the mercy of God to every truly awakened sinner. He is brought from prison and from judgment; and who is able to declare the wonders of this his regeneration? The shadow and image of this great deliverance (for that

of St. Peter was no more) confounded and dazzled the mind of the Apostle, so that he was insensible of the reality of that which had happened to him-He went out and followed him, and wist not that it was true which was done by the Angel, but thought he saw a vision. And if we look upon the wonders of our redemption, and upon the character of our Redeemer who is the glorious instrument of it, it seems incredible; the sense of mortal man is overpowered with the thought. When the Lord thus turneth again the captivity of Sion, then are we like unto them that dream. Some think the matter too wonderful to be true, and never recover of their doubts all the days of their life; but the believer, however transported for a time, will be assured of the reality of his deliverance, when other circumstances fall in to confirm it and shew him the truth of it. Is it not probable, that the same transport of mind which befel St. Peter, shall for a while oppress our senses, when the light of the last day shall shine upon us, and the Angel of the Lord shall take us by the hand to lead us forth from the confinement of the grave, to join the congregation of the faithful?

We come now to the concluding circumstances of this instructive miracle. "When they were past the "first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city, which opened to "them of its own accord; and they went out and passed on through one street, and forthwith the




Angel departed from him." This part of the example is also to be fulfilled in us; the converted sinner must pass by the keepers of the prison. There is a first and a second ward, the world and the flesh, each of whom will think it their interest to interrupt him in his progress; but if he keeps close to his

guide, who has overcome the world, and suffered in the flesh, he will be able to perfect his escape, till he comes at last to the iron gate of death and the grave, that leadeth to the city of the new Jerusalem, which is the mother of us all, and passes through it to a joyful resurrection. When our heavenly guide presents himself, it opens of its own accord, and leaves the way clear for him to bring out his prisoners of hope. When he had overcome the sharpness of death, he opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers; and the gates of hell have no longer any power to confine them. Here then is the consolation we are to draw from this scripture; that a sure and certain hope is given to us, that though we are to walk through the valley and the shadow of death, we need fear no evil: the Angel of the Lord is with us as a guide, and his power is present to perfect the deliverance he hath now began in us. The whole work of the Gospel is here represented to us under a figure, as an opening of the prison to them that are bound; and our commission, like that of our Lord himself, is to preach liberty to the captives, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord; that æra of grace, pardon, and deliverance, which began with the nativity of Christ, and will last till the consummation.

My brethren, it is of God's infinite mercy, that when I stand here, I have such glad tidings to deliver to you. What will be said for you, if you do not hear them, and make your advantage of them? If the light should shine upon you, and your darkness should not comprehend it? If you should wear your chains, and be contented with them, when you may enjoy the glorious liberty of the sons of God? If the iron gate should be shut upon you, and barred for ever against you, when the Angel of the Lord has offered to let you

« ElőzőTovább »