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there is in the souls of the auditors that deference, which cannot be withheld from a man to whose ministry God puts his seal.
III. I see in the sermon of the preacher an invincible power of reasoning; and in the souls of the audience that conviction which carries along with it the consent of the will.
IV. There are in the sermon stinging re
This pure joy God gave on the day of Pentecost to St. Peter. When he entered the ministerial course, he entered on a course of tribulations. When he was invested with the apostleship he was invested with martyrdom. He who said to him, Feed my sheep, feed my lambs,' said also to him, 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walk-proofs; and in the souls of the hearers painedst whither thou wouldst: but when thou ful remorse and regrets. shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldst not,' John xvi. 15, 16. 18. In order to animate him against a world of contradicting opposers, and to sweeten the bitternesses which were to accompany his preaching, Jesus Christ gave him the most delicious pleasure that a Christian preacher can taste. He caused, at the sound of his voice, those fortresses to fall which were erected to oppose the establishment of the gospel. The first experiment of St. Peter is a miracle; his first sermon astonishes, alarms, transforms, and obtains, three thousand conquests to Jesus Christ.
V. I observe in the sermon threatenings of approaching judgments; and in the souls of the hearers a horror, that seizes all their powers for fear of the judgments of a consuming God, Heb. xii. 29. These are five sources of reflections, my brethren; five comments on the words of the text.
I. We have remarked in the sermon of St. Peter, that noble freedom of speech which so well becomes a Christian preacher, and is so well adapted to strike his hearers. How much soever we now admire this beautiful part of pulpit eloquence, it is very difficult to imitate it. Sometimes a weakness of faith, which attends your best established preachers; sometimes worldly prudence; sometimes a timidity, that proceeds from a modest consciousness of the insufficiency of their talents; sometimes a fear, too well
This marvellous event the primitive church saw, and this while we celebrate, we wish to see again to-day. Too long, alas! we have had no other encouragement in the exercise of our ministry than that which God former-grounded, alas! of the retorting of those ly gave to the prophet Ezekiel: shall we ne- censures which people, always ready to ver enjoy that which he gave to St. Peter? murmur against them, who reprove their too long, alas! we have received that com- vices, are eager to make; sometimes a fear mand from God, "Thou shalt speak unto them, of those persecutions, which the world aland tell them, Thus saith the Lord, whether ways raises against all whom heaven qualifies they will hear, or whether they will forbear, to destroy the empire of sin: all these confor they are a rebellious house.' Almighty siderations damp the courage of the preachGod! pour out that benediction on this ser- er and deprive him of freedom of speech. mon, which will excite compunction in the If in the silent study, when the mind is filled hearts, and put these words in the mouths of with an apprehension of the tremendous converts, Men and brethren what shall we majesty of God, we resolve to attack vice, do?' Add new members to thy church,' how eminent soever the seat of its dominion Acts ii. 47; not only to the visible, but also may be, I own, my brethren, we are apt to to the invisible church, which is thy pecu- be intimidated in a public assembly, when in liar treasure,' Exod. xix. 5, the object of thy surveying the members of whom it is compotenderest love. Amen. sed, we see some hearers, whom a multitude of reasons ought to render very respectable to us.
When they heard this they were pricked in their heart.' They of whom the sacred historian speaks were a part of those Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea and Cappadocia, in Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Egypt, ver. 9, 10, who had travelled to Jerusalem to keep the feast of Pentecost. When these men heard this, that is, when they heard the sermon of St. Peter, they were pricked in their heart, and said, Men and brethren, what shall we do?' In order to understand the happy effect, we must endeavour to understand the cause. In order to comprehend what passed in the auditory, we must understand the sermon of the preacher. There are five remarkable things in the sermon, and there are five correspondent dispositions in the hearers.
I. I see in the sermon a noble freedom of speech; and in the souls of the hearers those deep impressions, which a subject generally makes, when the preacher himself is deeply affected with its excellence, and emboldened by the justice of his cause.
II. There is in the sermon a miracle which gives dignity and weight to the subject: and
But none of these considerations had any weight with our apostle. And, indeed, why should any of them affect him? Should the weakness of his faith? He had conversed with Jesus Christ himself; he had accompanied him on the holy mount, he had 'heard a voice from the excellent glory,' saying, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,' 2 Pet. i. 17. Moreover, he had seen him after his resurrection loaden with the spoils of death and hell, ascending to heaven in a cloud, received into the bosom of God amidst the acclamations of angels, shouting for joy, and crying, 'Lift up your heads, Oye gates! ye everlasting doors! the King of g.ory shall come in, Ps. xxiv. 7. Could he distrust his talents? The prince of the kingdom, the author and finisher of faith,' Heb. xii. 2, had told him, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,' Matt. xvi. 18. Should he dread reproaches and recriminations? The purity of his intentions, and the sanctity of his life, confound them. Should he pretend to keep fair with the world? But what finease is to
be used, when eternal misery is to be denounced, and eternal happiness proposed? Should he shrink back from the sufferings that superstition and cruelty were preparing for Christians? His timidity would have cost him too dear; it would have cost him sighs too deep, tears too many. Persecuting tyrants could invent no punishments so severe as those which his own conscience had inflicted on him for his former fall: at all adventures, if he must be a martyr, he chooses rather to die for religion than for apostacy.
I. It was above human power. Every pretended miracle, that has not this first character, ought to be suspected by us. The want of this has prevented our astonishment at several prodigies that have been played off against the reformation, and will always prevent their making any impression on our minds. No; should a hundred statues of the blessed virgin move before us; should the images of all the saints walk; should a thousand phantoms appear;* should voices in the air be heard against Calvin and Luther; we should infer only one conclusion from all these artifices; that is, that they who use them, distrusting the justice of their cause, supply the want of truth with tricks; that, as they despair of obtaining rational converts, they may, at least, proselyte simple souls.
Philosophers talk of certain invisible bands that unite mankind to one another. A man animated with any passion, has in the features of his face, and in the tone of his voice, a something, that partly communicates his sentiments to his hearers. Error proposed in a lively manner by a man, who is affected with it himself, may seduce unguarded people. Fictions, which we know are fictions, exhibited in this manner, move and affect us for a moment. But what a dominion over the heart does that speaker obtain who delivers truths, and who is affected himself with the truths which he delivers? To this part of the eloquence of St. Peter, we must attribute the emotions of his hearers; they were pricked in their heart.' They said to the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?' Such are the impressions which a man deply affected with the excellence of his subject, and emboldened by the justice of his cause, makes on his hearers.
But the prodigy in question was evidently superior to human power. Of all sciences in the world, that of languages is the least capable of an instantaneous acquisition. Certain natural talents, a certain superiority of genius, sometimes produce in some men the same effects which long and painful industry can scarcely ever produce in others, We have sometimes seen people, whom nature seems to have designedly formed, in an instant become courageous captains, profound geometricians, admirable orators: but tongues are acquired by study and time. The acquisition of languages is like the knowledge of history. It is not a superior genius, it not a great capacity, that can discover to any man what passed in the world ten or twelve ages ago. The monuments of antiquity must be consulted, huge folios must be read, and an immense number of volumes must be understood, arranged, and digested. In like manner, the knowledge of languages is a knowledge of experience, and no man can ever derive it from his own innate fund of ability. Yet the apostles, and apostolical men, men who were known to be men of no education, all on a sudden knew the arbitrary signs, by which different nations had agreed to express their thoughts. Terms, which had no natural connexion with their ideas, were all on a sudden arranged in their minds. Those things, which other men can only acquire by disgustful labour, those particularly, which belong to the most difficult branches of knowledge, they understood, without mak
II. A second thing which gave weight and dignity to the sermon of St. Peter was the miracle that preceded his preaching, mean the gifts of tongues, which had been communicated to all the apostles. This prodigy had three characteristic marks of a genuine miracle. What is a true, genuine, authentic miracle? In my opinion, one of the principal causes of the fruitlessness of all our inquiries on this article is the pretending to examine it philosophically. This rock we should cautiously endeavour to avoid. Mankind know so little of the powers of nature, that it is very difficult, if not impossible to determine strictly and philosophically, whether an action, which seems to us a real miracle, be really such; or whether it be not our ignorance that causes it to appear so
to us. We are so unacquainted with the fa-ing the least attempt to learn them. They culties of unembodied spirits, and of others even offered to communicate those gifts to which are united to some portion of matter them, who believed their doctrine, and thereby laws different from those that unite our by prevented the suspicions that might have bodies and souls, that we cannot determine been formed of them, of having affected ignowhether an event, which seems to us an im- rance all their lives, in order to astonish all mediate work of the omnipotence of God, be the world at last with a display of literature, not operated by an inferior power, though sub- and by that to cover the black design of imordinate to his will. posing on the church.
2. But perhaps these miracles may not be the more respectable on account of their superiority to human power. Perhaps, if they be not human, they may be devilish? No, my brethren, a little attention to their second character will convince you that they are divine. Their end was to incline men, not to renounce natural and revealed religion, but to respect and to follow both: not to ren
But the more reason a philosopher has for mortification, when he pretends thoroughly to elucidate abstruse questions, in order to gratify curiosity, the more helps has a Christian to satisfy himself, when he investigates them with the laudable design of knowing all that is necessary to be known, in order to salvation. Let us abridge the matter. The prodigy, that accompanied the sermon of St. Peter, had three characteristic marks of a real miracle.
* See a great number of examples of this kind in Lavater's Trait des Spectres.
they affirmed the direct contrary. St. Paul expressly says, Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not,' 1 Cor. xiv. 22. This is a very remarkable passage. Some of the primitive Christians made an indiscreet parade of their miraculous gifts in religious assemblies. St. Paul reproves their vanity; but at the same time tells the Corinthians, that in some cases they might produce those gifts in their as semblies, they might exercise them when unbelievers were present; that is, when persons were in their assemblies who were not convinced of the truth of the gospel.
Read the history of the apostles. Where did Philip the evangelist heal a great number of demoniacs? Was this miracle performed in the cell of a monastery? In the presence of partial and interested persons? No: it was in Samaria; in the presence of that celebrated magician, who, not being able to deny, or to discredit, the miracles of the apostle, offered to purchase the power of working them, Acts. viii. 7. 9. 18, &c. Where did the Holy Spirit descend on Cornelius, the centurion, and on all those who were with him? chap.
In a dark chamber of a convent? Not in the presence of suspected persons? Behold! it was in Cesarea, a city full of Jews, a city, in which the Roman governors held their courts, and where a considerable garrison of Roman soldiers was always stationed. In what place was the imagination of the populace so stricken with the miracles that were wrought by St. Paul in the course of two years, that they carried unto the sick handkerchiefs and aprons,' at the touching of which,' diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them?' Acts xix. 12. Was it in a nunnery? Was it not in the presence of suspected persons? Behold! it was at Ephesus, another metropolis, where a great number of Jews resided, and where they had a famous synagogue. And not to wander any farther from my principal subject, where did the apostles exercise those gifts which they had received from the Holy Ghost? In a conclave? No. In the presence of suspected persons? Yea: in the presence of Medes, Parthians, and Elamites, before dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Pontus, in Asia, in Phrygia, and in Egypt, in Pamphylia, in Libya, and in Rome. They exercised their gifts in Jerusalem itself, in the very city where Jesus pre-Christ had been crucified. The prodigy, that accompanied the preaching of St. Peter, had all the characters then of a true, real, genuine miracle.
The miracle being granted, I affirm, that the compunction of heart, of which my text speaks, was an effect of that attention which could not be refused to such an extraordinary event, and of that deference, which could not be withheld from a man, to whose ministry God had set his zeal. Such prodigies might well give dignity and weight to the language of those who wrought them, and prepare the minds of spectators to attend to the evidence of their argumentation. Modern preachers sometimes borrow the innocent artifices of eloquence, to engage you to hear those truths which you ought to hear for their own sakes. They endeavour sometimes to obtain,
der an attentive examination unnecessary, but to allure men to it.'
It is impossible that God should divide an intelligent soul between evidence and evidence; between the evidence of falsehood in an absurd proposition, and the evidence of truth that results from a miracle wrought in favour of that proposition. I have evident proofs in favour of this proposition, The whole is greater than a part: were God to work a miracle in favour of the opposite proposition, The whole is less than a part, he would divide my mind between evidence and evidence, between the evidence of my proposition, and the evidence that resulted from the miracle wrought in favour of the opposite proposition he would require me to believe one truth, that could not be established without the renouncing of another truth.
In like manner, were God to work a miracle to authorize a doctrine opposite to any one of those which are demonstrated by natural or revealed religion, God would be contrary to himself; he would establish that by natural and revealed religion which he would destroy by a miracle, and he would establish by a miracle what he would destroy by natural and revealed religion.
The end of the prodigy of the preaching of St. Peter, the end of all the miracles of the apostles, was to render men attentive to natural and revealed religion. When they addressed themselves to Pagans, you know, they exhorted them to avail themselves of the light of nature in order to understand their need of revelation: and in this chapter the apostle exhorts the Jews to compare the miracle that was just now wrought with their own prophecies, that from both there might arise proof of the divine mission of that Messiah whom he preached to them.
3. The prodigy that accompanied the preaching of St. Peter had the third character of a true miracle. It cas wrought in the presence of those who had the greatest interest in knowing the truth of it. Without this, how could this miracle have inclined them to embrace the religion in favour of which it was wrought? On this article there has been, and there will be, an eternal dispute between us and the members of that communion, with which it is far more desirable for us to have a unity of faith than an open war. It is a maxim, which the church of Rome has constituted an article of faith, that the sence of a heretic suspends a miracle. How unjust is this maxim!
We dispute with you the essential characters of the true church. You pretend that one indelible character is the power of working miracles; and, you add, this power resides with you in all its glory. We require you to produce evidence. We promise to be open to conviction. We engage to allow the argument, which you derive from the power of working miracles, all the weight that religion will suffer us to give it. But you keep out of sight. You choose for your theatres cloisters and monasteries, and your own partisans and disciples are your only spectators.
The apostles observed a different conduct. Very far from adopting your maxim, that the presence of a heretic suspends a miracle,
by a choice of words, a tour of thought, an harmonious cadence, that attention which you would often withhold from their subjects were they content with proposing them in a manner simple and unadorned." But how great were the advantages of the first heralds of the gospel over modern preachers! The resurrection of a dead body; what a fine exordium the sudden death of an Ananias and a Sapphira; what an alarming conclusion! The expressive eloquence of a familiar supernatural knowledge of the least known, and the best sounding, tongues; how irresistibly striking Accordingly, three thousand of the hearers of St. Peter, yielded to the power of his speech. They instantly, and entirely, surrendered themselves to men, who addressed them in a manner so extraordinary, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
III. We remark, in the discourse of the apostle, an invincible power of reasoning, and, in the souls of his hearers, that conviction which carries along with it the consent of the will. Of all methods of reasoning with an adversary, none is more close and conclusive than that which is taken from his own principles. It has this advantage above others, the opponent is obliged, according to strict rules of reasoning, to admit the argument, although it be sophistical and false. For by what rule can he reject my proposition, if it have an equal degree of probability with another proposition, which he receives as evident and demonstrative? But when the principles of an adversary are well grounded; and when we are able to prove that his principles produce our conclusions, our reasoning becomes demonstrative to a rational opponent, and he cannot deny it.
knowledge the divine legation of Moses, ought to have engaged them to believe in Jesus Christ. St. Peter made use of this method. All the apostles used it. Put together all those valuable fragments of their sermons which the Holy Spirit has preserv. ed, and you will easily see, that these holy men took the Jews on their own principles, and endeavoured to convince them, as we just now said, that whatever engaged them to adhere to Judaism ought to have engaged them to embrace Christianity, that what induced them to be Jews ought to have induced them to become Christians.
What argument can you allege for your religion, said they to the Jews, which does not establish that which we preach? Do you allege the privileges of your legislator? Your argument is demonstrative: Moses had access to God on the holy mountain; he did converse with him as a man speaks to his friend. But this argument concludes for us. The Christian legislator had more glorious privileges still. God raised him up, having loosed the pains of death,' Acts ii. 24, &c. he suffered not his Holy One to see corruption, he has caused him to sit on his throne, he hath made him both Lord and Christ.'
Christianity, it is remarkable, is defensible both ways. The first may be successfully employed against Pagans; the second more successfully against the Jews. It is easy to convince a heathen, that he can have no right to exclaim against the mysteries of the gospel; because, if he have any reason to exclaim against the mysteries of Christianity, he has infinitely more to exclaim against those of Paganism. Doth it become you,' said Justin Martyr to the heathens, in his second apology for Christianity, Doth it become you to disallow our mysteries; that the Word was the only-begotten Son of God, that he was crucified, that he rose from the dead, that he ascended to heaven? We affirm nothing but what has been taught and believ-justly venerable in your esteem. See, the ed by you. For the authors, ye know, whom | Holy Ghost is poured out upon all flesh; ye admire, say that Jupiter had many chil- our sons and our daughters prophesy, our dren; that Mercury is the word, the interpre- young men see visions, and our old men dream ter, the teacher of all; that Esculapius, after dreams, our servants and our hand-maidens' he had been stricken with thunder, ascended are honoured with miraculous gifts, ver. 17. to heaven, and so on."* What, then, are the prejudices that still en
The second way was employed more suc-gage you to continue in the profession of Jucessfully by the apostles against the Jews. daism? Are they derived from the prophe They demonstrated, that all the reasons, cies? Your principles are demonstrative: but, which obliged them to be Jews, ought to have in the person of our Jesus, we show you toinduced them to become Christians: that day all the grand characters, which your own every argument, which obliged them to ac- prophets said, would be found in the Messiah. In the person of our Jesus is accomplished that famous prophecy in the sixteenth Psalm, which some of you apply to David, and, to
Justin Martyr. Apol. 2 pro Christian. p. 66. 67,
edit. Paris 1636.
Do you allege the purity of the morality of your religion? Your argument is demonstrative. The manifest design of your religion is to reclaim men to God, to prevent idolatry, and to inspire them with piety, benevolence, and zeal. But this argument concludes for us. What do we preach to you but these very articles? To what would we engage you, except to 'repent' of your sins, to receive the promise' which was made unto you and to your children,' and 'to save yourselves from this untoward generation?' ver. 39. Do we require any thing of you beside that spirit of benevolence, which unites the hearts of mankind, and which makes us have all things common, sell our possessions, part them to all men as every man hath need, and continue daily in the temple with one accord?' ver. 44.
Do you allege the miracles that were wrought to prove the truth of your religion? Your argument is demonstrative. But this argument establishes the truth of our religion. Behold the miraculous gifts, which have been already communicated to those who have believed, and which are ready to be communicated to those who shall yet believe. Behold each of us working miracles, which have never been wrought by any, except by a few of the divine men who are so
support a misrepresentation, propagate a ridi-, culous tradition, that he never died, although his tomb is among you: Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption,' ver. 10. In the person of Jesus is accomplished the celebrated prediction of the Psalmist, 'Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool,' Ps. cx. 1. Such were the arguments of St. Peter.
history, or, shall I say the fable? of a Theban king acting over again. Educated far from the place of his nativity, he knew not his parents. His magnanimity seemed to indicate, if not the grandeur of his birth, at least the lustre of his future life. The quelling of the most outrageous disturbers of society, and the destroying of monsters were his favourite employments. Nothing seemed impossible to his courage. In one of his expeditions, without knowing him, he killed his father. Some time after, he encountered a monster, that terrified the whole kingdom, and for his reward obtained his own mother in marriage. At length he found out the fatal mystery of his origin, and the tragical murder of his own father. Shocked at his wretchedness; it is not right, exclaimed he, that the perpetrator of such crimes should enjoy his sight, and he tore out his own eyes.
This image is too faint to express the agonies of the Jews. The ignorance of Edipus was invincible: that of the Jews was voluntary. St. Peter dissipated this ignorance. Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.' This charge excited ideas of a thousand distressing truths. The apostle reminded them of the holy rules of righteousness which Jesus Christ had preached and exemplified, and the holiness of him whom they had crucified, filled them with a sense of their own depravity.
He reminded them of the benefits which Jesus Christ had bountifully bestowed on their nation, of the preference which he had given them above all other people in the world, and of the exercise of his ministry among the lost sheep of the house of Israel,' Matt. xv. 24, and his profusion of these blessings discovered their black ingratitude.
He reminded them of the grandeur of Jesus Christ. He showed them, that the Jesus, who had appeared so very contempti ble to them, upheld all things by the word of his power; that the angels of God worshipped him; that God had given him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,' Heb. i. 3. 6.
Close reasoning ought to be the soul of all discourses. I compare it in regard to eloquence with benevolence in regard to religion. Without benevolence we may maintain a show of religion, but we cannot possess the substance of it. 'Speak with the tongues of angels, have the gifts of prophecy, understand all mysteries, have all faith, so that ye could remove mountains, bestow all your goods to feed the poor, and give your bodies to be burned,' if you have not benevolence, you are nothing,' 1 Cor. xiii. 1, &c. if you be destitute of benevolence, all your virtue is nothing but a noise, it is only as sounding brass, or as a tinkling cymbal." In like manner in regard to eloquence; speak with authority, display treasures of erudition, let the liveliest and most sublime imagination wing it away, turn all your periods till they make music in the most delicate ear, what will all your discourses be, if void of argumentation? a noise, 'sounding brass, a tinkling cymbal.' You may surprise; but you cannot convince: you may dazzle; but you cannot instruct you may, indeed, please; but you can neither change, sanctify, nor transform.
He reminded them of their unworthy treatment of Jesus Christ; of their eager outcries for his death; of their repeated shoutings,
IV. There are, in the sermon of St. Peter, stinging reproofs; and, in the souls of the hearers, a pungent remorse. The apostle reproves the Jews in these words, Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, and wonders, and signs, him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain,' ver. 22. This single reproof excited the most schocking ideas that can alarm the mind. Aud who can express the agitations which were produced in the souls of the audience? What pencil can describe the state of their consciences? They had committed this crime 'through ignorance,' Acts iii. 17. They had congratulated one another on having destroy-Away with him, away with him, crucify him, ed the chief enemy of their religion, and on crucify him,' Luke xxiii. 18. 21; of their barhaving freed the church from a monster who barous insults, He saved others, let him save had risen up to devour it. They had lifted himself,' ver. 35; of the crown of thorns, the up their bloody hands towards heaven, and, scarlet robe, the ridiculous sceptre, and all to the rewarder of virtue, had prayed for a other cruel circumstances of his sufferings and recompense for parricide. They had inso- death; and the whole taught them the guilt of lently displayed the spoils of Jesus, as trophies their parricide. The whole was an ocean of after a victory are displayed. The same prin- terror, and each reflection a wave, that overciple which excited them to commit the whelmed, distorted, and distressed their souls. crime, prevented their discovery of its enormity, after they had committed it. The same veils, which they had thrown over the glorious virtue of Jesus Christ, during his humiliation, they still continued to throw over it, in his exaltation. St. Peter tore these fatal veils asunder. He showed these madmen their own conduct in its true point of light; and discovered their parricide in all its horror: 'Ye have taken, and crucified, Jesus, who was approved of God.' I think I see the
V. In fine, we may remark in the sermon of St. Peter, denunciations of divine vengeance. The most effectual mean for the conversion of sinners, that which St. Paul so successfully employed, is terror, 2 Cor. v. 11. St. Peter was too well acquainted with the obduracy of his auditors not to avail himself of this motive. People, who had imbrued their hands in the blood of a personage so august, wanted this mean. In order to attack them with any probability of success, it was necessary