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commissioned to make disciples; and to be baptized, as the appointed mode of admission into the church of the Redeemer.
It is in reference to this end of his preaching, that both the blessings propounded, and the repentance called for, are introduced into his discourse: the one, constituting in fact the real inducement in every case to adopt the religion of the Gospel; the other, being in the case of those whom the Apostle addressed, an indispensable preliminary to that adoption. The very foundation of a call to a new mode of faith or worship, must plainly be laid in an exposition of the benefits attending its profession. And a clear statement of these, upon the supposition that no obstacle presented itself to our acceptance of the offer, would of itself suffice, not only to draw attention to the invitation, but, if adequate, to ensure our assent to it. And the exhortation to Baptism, combining with an invitation to accept the mercies of the Gos pel, the offer of a visible pledge of our admission to them; an assurance from a competent authority, that our entrance into the
Christian society should be attended with such results, would be all that would naturally, in the first instance, be required to give efficacy to that invitation. In other words, the authenticity of his commission being established, the whole business of the Evangelist would have been despatched in the exhortation to St. Paul, Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins : or in that part of St. Peter's address to the assembled multitude on the day of Pentecost, in which he calls upon them, to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and that they might receive the gift of the Holy Ghost : the mention of the latter being probably in this particular instance superadded to that of the former benefit, in consequence of the particular situation of the parties, in reference to the great miracle which had immediately preceded his appeal to them.
Such would have been the state of things, in the supposable case of no other obstacle presenting itself to the preaching, or the acceptance, of the Gospel, than that which would arise from the necessity of satisfying
those, to whom it was proposed, of the reality and importance of the benefits resulting from their admission to the church of Christ. And had the invitation to Christianity called for no more from those to whom it was addressed, than the acceptance of the benefits annexed to the profession of the truth; there would, under the circumstances of authority with which it was promulgated, have been little difficulty in persuading men to embrace its offers; they would have been anxious for admission into a society, in which such advantages were to be found, and have hastened to the Baptism, by which they were to be secured.
But in the acceptance of Christianity was in fact included the abandonment of all former systems, on which a reliance had hitherto been placed. And, powerful as were the inducements held out, to lead men to a serious consideration of the authority and evidence of that Gospel, which offered such transcendent blessings to the converts; they could only ultimately and effectually operate upon those, to whom they were proposed, by producing a great change in all
their previous sentiments with respect to religion. In the very call to Christianity, the imperfection, nay the nullity, of every other scheme of reconciliation to God is implied. And till a conviction of this takes place, the saving truths of the Gospel are proposed, not only to unwilling, but to obdurate ears. It was its apparent inconsistency with the fancied perfection of the Mosaic institutions, which was, we know from the apostolical writings, the chief obstacle to a full reception of the doctrine of Jesus Christ among the Jews; the great impediment to its progress among many, who would otherwise have pressed into the kingdom of God. And a similar attachment, in the philosopher to his sect, in the unlettered heathen to his native superstition, exerted a no less powerful influence in opposition to Christianity among the Gentiles. . Hence it was, that the preaching of repentance became, both to Jew and Gentile, a necessary part of the apostolical exhortations. Hence it was, that every inducement held out to Baptism, as the immediate introduction to the benefits of the Christian
covenant, operated in fact, as a call to that repentance, without which no man would come to Baptism. And hence it is, that in the exhortation of Peter in my text, as well as some other passages of like import, the blessings really promised to an adoption of the faith, have the appearance of being made the results of the repentance, which prepares
the way for it. But though every argument for the acceptance of the Gospel, is, pro tanto, an argument for the repentance which must precede it; and in this qualified sense the benefits in question may, in a popular way of speaking, be said to be promised to repentance itself; yet to contend for more than this, is plainly to confound the end with the steps necessary to its attainment.
The close connection of the two things sufficiently accounts for the almost indifferent mention, or omission, of either, in the discourse of the Apostles, as the circumstances of the case may seem to have required. For though the promises are indeed properly made, not to the repentance, which prepares the mind for the reception