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be dispensed? If it is not—if any thing more than the evidence of Christian character be requisite to create both the right and the obligation to reciprocal communion, it is clear that an immediate revelation from God certifying such a character, would not form a valid claim to communion. The Apostle elect of the Gentiles should have gone unbaptized !
A fourth fact occurs in the case of Cornelius, the first Gentile admitted into the Christian church. All the circumstances of his reception are too minutely related in the tenth chapter of the Acts, and are too familiar to every serious reader, to allow of repetition in this place. Our concern is with the concluding scene.
While Peter was opening up the plan of salvation, “the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized which HAVE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST AS WELL AS WE? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." v. 44-48.
This descent of the Holy Ghost was visible proof of God's acceptance; and the sole principle on which the Apostle pronounced them to be fit subjects for sacramental recognition; and actually did admit them to all the privileges of the Christian church The news of such an event was not slow in travelling. “ The Apostles and brethren that were in Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God."* The account of Peter's share in this revolution was too essential to be overlooked. His Jewish brethren were stumbled, and alarmed. No sooner does he appear at Jerusalem, than a complaint is tabled against him. “They that were of the circumcision 'contended with him.” v. 2. Well, what is the offence? He had held corrupt communion! How? “Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them." v. 3. The fact was indisputable; but the inference, viz. that he had acted irregularly, if not irreligiously, was unfounded. His brethren 'reasoned from their prejudices, and came to their conclusion before they had examined the merits of the cause. Nor is it unworthy of remark, that, in their complaint, they laid a great stress upon a circumstance which habit had erected into ecclesiastical law, but which it
* Acts, ch. xi.
were vain to seek in any commandment of God the unlawfulness of religious or even social intercourse with a Gentile! And so heinous in their eyes was this transgression of the “tradition of the elders,” that it served as a point of concentration for their whole grievance. Thou wentest in to men Uncircumcised and didst eat with them! N. B. It is no new thing for good and upright men, through the force of prepossession, the want of information, and precipitancy of judgment arising from both, to blame that which God approves; to set themselves against that which God has authorized; and to be strenuous for that which God disregards. This was the errour of Peter's brethren. However, with the consciousness not only of pure intention, but of laudable conduct, he calmly listens to their accusation, and vindicates his proceedings in a manner equally admirable for its meekness and its dignity. “He rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them;" giving a succinct history of the steps by which he was led, under a divine communication, to the house of Cornelius; of his preaching the gospel there; and of the descent of the Holy Ghost upon his Gentile hearers. v. 415. His reasoning upon the facts is thus nervously summed up.
" Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed
baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch, then, as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” v. 16, 17.
The prominent points in this reasoning are,
1st. God has given to these Gentiles that holy Spirit of whom the water in John's baptism was an emblem and pledge.
2d. God has thus borne witness to them as his children, and heirs of his promise.
3d. God has put them upon a perfect level with ourselves, by this testimony to their faith in Christ Jesus: so that whatever privileges we have, they have also; and are intitled to receive with us and from us.
4th. Under this evidence of their gracious relation to the Lord Jesus Christ, to refuse them the seal of that relation were to RESIST God! And, therefore, he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord: which is precisely equivalent to his administering the ordinance with his own hands.
The opposition ceased the brethren were satisfied. They had been warm in their displeasure'; but they yielded to the light of truththey yielded magnanimously-when it was once proved that these Gentiles were owned of God;
were placed among his people, and blessed with his Spirit; the doubt was removed; the debate was over: and instead of cavilling, or hunting up small distinctions by the aid of which they might seem to acknowledge the Christian character of the new converts, and yet censure the Apostle Peter for holding communion with them, they joined together in humble thankfulness to God for this additional display of his grace. held their peace”-they had no more fault to find, nor objections to make; “ and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” v. 18. Why should it not be so still ? Why should not such proof of Christian character in others, no matter whom, as we deem sufficient among ourselves, be at this hour, as it was then, the rule of Christian fellowship on the broadest scale? And a refusal of that communion to any whom we own that God has owned by the same tokens which he has given to us, be now, as it would have been then, a withSTANDING OF God?
A fifth fact occurs in the history of the reference from Antioch, and of the proceedings thereon by the Synod of Jerusalem. Acts, xv.
“Certain men,” ministers of the word, “ which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of