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a heathen and an idolater. He was quartered among the Jews; who were the only nation at that time that knew there is only one God, who is eternal and holy. Cornelius learned from them this doctrine, which is the ground of all true religion; and he prayed to God, as every body should do who believes there is a God. If you do not pray to God, you are worse than the heathens; for they do not know there is a God to pray to. Besides this, we are told that Cornelius feared God with all his house. Do you try to lead your families and friends to know and serve God? If not, you see that, instead of being true Christians, you come far short of what Cornelius did, before he ever heard the Gospel of Christ.
They who do not pray to God are without excuse, because God assures us, in his word, that he hears and answers prayer. The history of Cornelius gives a proof of it. The apostle Peter was preaching the Gospel at a place, about forty miles distant from the town were Cornelius lived. The Lord informed Cornelius of this, and told him to send for Peter to come and instruct him. Peter accordingly came, and preached Jesus Christ to all who had met on the occasion; showing them how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power: who went about doing good. He told them also much more about Jesus Christ; and, indeed, if he had not preached about Christ, he need not have come there. "Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life;" by whom alone a sinner can find mercy with God. Wherever the apostles went they preached Christ. This is one mark by which we may know who they are that preach most like the apostles. If you hear little or nothing about Christ, you are likely to get little or no good.
The apostle Peter informed Cornelius and his family, that the doctrine he had to deliver was the same which they must have heard of, as it had been published throughout all the neighbouring country of Judea: and had, indeed, been first preached in Galilee, the country where they then were. You, perhaps, may think it strange"that Cornelius had not inquired about it sooner; but the reason probably was, that Christianity was then every where spoken against; the apostles and disciples of Christ were suspected, even by their own countrymen, the Jews, to be either mad or wicked men, because they worshipped God in a way different from that which was established by law; and because they continued preaching Christ to their neighbours, when it was opposed and forbidden by the great people and rulers. If you read the book of the Acts, you will see this was the case; and you will not be surprised at it, if you consider that Jesus Christ himself was crucified (which is like beinghanged in our country;) tor both the rulers and the mob accused him of the vilest crimes. But the prejudices of Cornelius were now removed, and it was an excellent disposition which he discovered, when he said to the apostle " Now therefore, we are all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God."—May the Lord give us now the same disposition!
One thing which Peter told Cornelius concerning Jesus Christ, was, that " he went about doing good." If Cornelius had heard any thing of Christ before, it might be that he went about doing harm. Christ had been charged by the Jews with treason and blasphemy. He had been tried, condemned, and executed as a malefactor. Cornelius was likely, from the common report, to have a very bad opinion of Christ. He determined, however, to hear all that Peter had to say in behalf of Christ; and then to judge for himself. Let us all be careful how we take matters upon hearsay, especially about religion and religious people.
Peter convinced Cornelius that Jesus Christ went about doing good. So far as you know the history of Christ, you are doubtless convinced that he did not go about to hurt people, but to do them good. Even those ignorant and foolish persons who deny that Christ was sent from Heaven, own that he did good in some respects. But what we should desire to know is, Whether he can and will do us good? If we do not obtain good from Christ in this life, and in that to come, we might as well never have heard of him.
As to the power of Christ to do us good, we have reason to trust in it, from the wonderful power he had to do good to all, as long as he was upon earth. His works were such as no man ever did before nor since. He satisfied the hunger of many thousands of people with a very few small loaves and fishes. By merely touching or even speaking to weak and sick persons, he cured them of the most desperate diseases. He raised up several people from death to life; one man who had been buried some days, was restored to his afflicted relations. In that age of the world, when God was so little known, the Devil was worshipped by many; and he was permitted to torment the bodies of mankind in a shocking manner; but no wicked spirit could keep possession of any person who was brought to Christ for relief: one word from him was enough to restore any one to perfect health and reason. The power of Christ was also shown in preserving his disciples in a dreadful storm at sea. He said to the wind and the waves "Be still;" and they became perfectly calm in a moment! But it is not possible now to tell you a hundredth part of the proofs that Jesus gave of his power to do good to those around him. The four gospels are full of such accounts, yet, at the close of the last, St. John says, " There were also many other things which Jesus did; the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not
contain the Books that should be written." People in general are fond of reading and hearing wonderful things. Now, there is no true history, nor scarcely any story, that contains things so wonderful, as those which Jesus did for the good of mankind. Yet they are all certainly true, for they were written by four different persons, who saw what they relate: who were honest and good men: who did good like their Master, and suffered themselves to be put to death rather than deny what they knew to be true, or keep silence about it. You would do well, as often as you can, to take up your Bibles, and read the history of Jesus Christ; and . also consider, whenever you read it, what was his reason for doing good in such surprising ways. Why was the history of his actions written over and over again, and handed down to us so many hundred years after? The whole must surely be meant for our good. It would be tantalizing you to tell you of his doing so much good to others, if you could get no good from him. You suffer pains and wants; your relations and neighbours are afflicted; if Christ was now upon earth, he might do them the same good he formerly did others. But if you read the Scriptures with care, you may see that Jesus took more pains to teach people than to heal them, He performed all those miracles to gain their attention, and their belief of what he taught. His doctrine could do them much greater good than the healing of their diseases. If you could be certain that God forgave all your sins, and would give you eternal life, would you not think it a greater benefit than merely to be cured of a bodily complaint? The doctrine of Christ was, that "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." And, accordingly, he healed one man of the palsy, on purpose to show he could forgive his sins. When the poor creature was brought to our Lord, his first words to him were, "Son, thy sins are forgiven thee." Some.
who were present murmured at his pretending to forgive sins ; but he soon silenced them. "That ye mayknow that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins," said he, turning to the poor man, "I say unto thee, Arise, take up thy bed and go to thine house." And immediately he arose, took up his bed, and went forth before them all. See the second chapter of St. Mark.
Now, brethren, what think ye of the power of Christ to do good? Nothing could be more true or just than the principle upon which the Jews reasoned among themselves:—" Who can forgive sins but God only?" But you see our Lord Jesus Christ did forgive sins, and proved his power to do so by working a miracle. It is plain, therefore, that Jesus Christ is God. All of you have probably been told so from your infancy; but now you see it cannot be otherwise. On this account, the scriptures call him Immanuel, which signifies "God with us:" they also call him the Son of God, having the same nature with his Father," and they declare " that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father; for He and the Father are one:" they also call him "the Word of God," and then say " the Word was God."
Now, as our Lord Jesus Christ is "God over all blessed for evermore," his power to do good must be boundless, and always the same. You have seen that he worketh a miracle, to prove that, whilst on earth, he had power to forgive sins: and surely, now he is exalted to Heaven, he must have the same power. If, whilst he was on earth, in the form of a servant he had this power, you cannot reasonably doubt that, now he reigns in heaven, King of the World, " he is able even to save to the uttermost all who come to God by him."
And do you not all need his pardoning mercy 1 Have you not transgressed his holy law? Remember it his written, " Cursed is every one that continueth