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of Friends ? 4. This holy centurion and his family were taught, what Friends had been slow to learn. After the sermon, said Peter, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” Truly it was not the light within that predominated in the speaker or hearers : otherwise the question had been, “Why not forbid water? having the substance, what need of the sign ? Having the Holy Ghost, what need of water?" What need ? “ Thus JT BECOMETH US TO FULFIL ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS. ." What need is there of doing the will of God! I just add, 5. That the introductory words, “then Peter opened his mouth and said,” are not to be regarded as a mere pleonasm. They refer to his critical and novel situation. He had been meditating on the import of the vision. His sensations were, no doubt, indescribably strong. But he kept it all a secret till the proper opportunity. Then he boldly, as well as promptly, divulged it; he “opened his mouth” and spoke the unwonted and glorious truth.
“ After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God, who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” Rev. 7 : 9, 10. From this text, and others of which this is a specimen, Friends infer that there are pious and holy people among all nations; that they become such by attention to the inward light and not by outward means; and consequently that their whole system is proved. But surely their inferences are too rapid to be sound. Not a word is said about the manner of their becoming pious ; and why then have we not an equal right to infer that the rule, faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God, was as really true in their case as in other cases? There is at best no proof in such texts in favor of Friends. Beside, it occurs in a connection of prophecy. Events, then future to the writer, were predicted. These events were the conversion of hundreds to the faith of Christ, who were “ sealed in their foreheads as the servants of God.” Whatever may be meant by the process of sealing, if we are to judge of this by other instances of which we are informed, we should say the gospel was preached to them; they believed it; they professed the religion of Christ, were baptized, and accepted, “as heirs together of the grace of life.” It is moreover a scene which occurs properly on the earth, though it respects the heavenly state; as by the rapid associations of prophecy, the two are often exchanged and often mingled also in the description. If however it is destitute of all proof of that which it was brought to prove, we must search for other texts which bear upon the question, How do sinners become pious ? Whatever we may allow for POSSIBILITIES in the divine administration, THERE IS NO KNOWN OR REVEALED METHOD OF SALVATION OTHER THAN THAT
WHICH IS BY FAITH IN THE GOSPEL OF JESUS Christ! The gospel had been preached throughout the whole world, before the book of Revelation was written. Missionary efforts were made in after ages, especially in the next century. The book itself sublimely and often predicts the spread of the gospel as the means of salvation: and I know of no necessity or reason for the inference, from that text or any other in the Bible, that men are saved without the gospel.
The propagation of the gospel in the first ages, constitutes one of the most wonderful prodigies in human history; whether we consider the obstacles that were overcome, the victories that were accomplished, the means used, the space occupied and filled with its radiance, or its lasting and magnificent results as related to the future and the present. world. Viewed with accuracy and comprehensiveness, it remains itself a demonstration of THE DIVINITY OF THE GOSPEL AND THE SUCCORS OF GOD IN ITS PROMULGATION, which infidelity can never answer or candor disallow. The passage in Colossians, 1 : 23, (compare 6,) which Barclay translates and interprets, as if it meant to teach his thesis of “universal and saving light” suffocating “ in every creature that is under heaven," as if it meant “ that little small thing” and so forth, means demonstrably no more than the vast and astonishing diffusion of the gospel, by preaching, even in the first thirty years after the crucifixion of its glorious Author. It were better thus rendered : “ Not removed from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, which
hath been preached (κηρυχθεντος εν παση τη κτισει τη υπο τον ουρανoν) in all creation that is under heaven; and of which I Paul am made a minister.” Another specimen this of what it seems the vocation of inward light to do! How anti-spiritual, how gross, how prevaricating, is such a light! I could easily write another treatise of corrections, rescuing the true meaning of a multitude of passages from the profane and audacious glossings of a pseudo-inspiration. We pass to consider,
V. THE MISSIONARY PRACTICE OF THE APOSTLES, in carrying the gospel to distant nations and preaching it to all the world, as if the gospel 80 preached, and not any interior light, was to be the instrument of " salvation to every one that believeth.”
Actions speak louder than words, as saith the proverb of the ancients; and in reference to the meaning of the apostles, if we can ascertain their official conduct, the result should be conclusive. How then did they understand the kingdom of heaven in this respect? The same criterion might aid our investigation of other points. Were they Quakers ? Did they think, and act, and look, and preach, like Friends ? How did they act; what was their common usage in reference to the heathen world? I answer, they viewed it as full of condemned sinners, who could be saved by the gospel through faith, and in that way alone; and they accordingly acted toward them, inculcating both by their preaching and practice the solemn duty of christendom, and especially of the church, to diffuse the light of the gospel, mainly by preaching, throughout the whole family of nations.
If this be true, is the light of Friends true? If it be, why are they not actuated toward the nations as the apostles were! why do they oppose missions? why lend so feeble and so ambiguous an aid at best to the noble evangelical charities of the day? why not favor Bible societies and all kindred institutions, with their personal and pecuniary influence? I know there are a few-very few-lamentably few—exceptions! But look at the society at large. The frost of stagnation hath settled on their energies and the winter of stoicism hath frozen all its depths! If the apostles had acted as they do (and that not in one respect alone) christianity had NEVER been propagated among the nations !
From the commencement of the Acts of the Apostles to the end of the inspired canon, comprising twenty-three distinct original volumes, we have a continual history of THE MISSIONARY PRACTICE of the apostles. Not only in person did they
. travel and preach, but they encouraged and prepared others, evangelists and preachers, to go forth, fulfilling that ancient prophecy; “ The Lord gave the word; great was the company of them that published it.” So many and so “mighty through God” were these heralds of the cross, that the propagation of christianity in the first ages remains to this day a wonder of divine achievement. It is unparalleled in the pages of universal history. The whole Roman empire felt the vital shock of the gospel, circulating, like the tide of life in the human frame, from the centre to the extremities. When Paul wrote his glorious epistle to the Ro