Imatges de pÓgina

tender it in the fullest manner to the most abandoned. But some appear to reject it with disdain, as if, because of their amiable temper and moral character, it were unnecessary for them to seek redemption through the blood of the cross. Alas! they deceive themselves. If they be as exemplary as Cornelius, which perhaps may be doubted, yet he will teach them to place a high value upon the salvation, exhi- . bited in the Gospel ; and his case will condemn their proud contempt of this mercy.

To men of all characters the good tidings are addressed. The Lord Christ is preached unto us for the forgiveness of sins. Is not this the blessing, which is indispensably requisite? Then let us obey the great evangelical precept, without cavilling, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, as having made peace for us. So will the word of God come unto us, as it did to. Cornelius,“ in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” The Holy Ghost is not now communicated in those extraordinary operations, which were then expedient; but he descends, as certainly as he did in the primitive ages, on all who cordially accept the message of grace. He enlightens, sanctifies, and comforts them, and thus gives them an unquestionable evidence, that they have not believed a lie." Let us look up in fervent prayer for this efficacious influence, that he may accomplish in us all the good pleasure of his goodness. Then, like the devout Centurion, we shall thout aloud for joy, wbilst we magnify God for his mercy, and celebrate t'praises of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.





Herod persecuted the Church--killed James imprisoned

Peter-disappointed by that Apostle's miraculous escape ---flattered, as if he were a deity--fuddenly destroyed for his pride.

The faithful followers of Chrift, though called

HE to maintain a severe warfare against an evil world, are not every moment engaged in actual conflict. For gracious purposes they may be at times exempted from all external disturbances, and permitted to enjoy a state of eafe and prosperity.

66 The Lord maketh even their enemies to be at peace with them *." Such a feason occurred after the conversion of St. Paul. Perhaps some of the violent opposers of the Gospel were discouraged, when they faw so bold a champion defert them. « Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria, and were edified, and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied +.” At length, however, a furious persecutor arose, and threatened them with terrible devastation. But, after being suffered to Thew the malignity of his heart, he was suddenly cut down by the hand of God, whom he had provoked.

The contemplation of such characters may excite many painful sensations; but it will suggest profitable reflections. We shall here perceive, that our de

* Prov. xvi. 7.

t A&s ix. 31.

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praved nature is filled with enmity against God and his people, that the fiercelt adversaries of the truth are not to be dreaded or envied, in the height of all their pomp and power, and that their triumphing is short. We shall learn, also, from the instance before us, to fear before that holy Lord God, who is jealous of his honour, and whose anger is tremendous, when he ariseth to take vengeance.

The person, now introduced to our notice, is Herod furnamed Agrippa, grandson of that Herod, who massacred the children at Bchlehem, nephew to him who murdered John the Baptif, and the father of that prince who was almost persuaded to be a Christian.” This man was the king of Judea, which he governed as a Roman province. He is said to have been zealous for the religion of the Jews : but, perhaps, he professed it only with the view of conciliatin their favour; at leaft, he thewed in his general conduct a fondness for popularity. His avowed opposition to the Gospel may in fome degree be ascribed to that principle: and it is obvious from the haughtiness of spirit, which he evidently possessed, that he must himself have been totally averse to the humbling doctrines of our religion.

« Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the Church *.” We lament, that power should ever be exercised for such purposes; and that they, who are appointed “ for the punishment of evil doers,” should exert their authority to harass and destroy them that do well. The flock of Christ was the object of this t;rant's indignation : he regarded not their inoffensive and benevolent disposition, but like a 'ravenous wolf fought to scatter and devour them; and they like defenceless sheep were obliged to fly, or doomed to the slaughter. They were afAicted in different ways, not by reproach and colle

* Acts xii. I, &c.




tempt alone, not merely by the deprivation of their worldly substance, but by imprisonment, tortures, and death. It should seemn, that their religion was their only offence, and the true cause of that ma-, lignity, with which they were treated. Christians may be guilty of imprudence and misconduct : but it is their attachment to their divine Mafter, which principally excites persecution against them. Thus Jesus declared; “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own : but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you *.”

Probably, many persons in a private situation fell under Herod's resentment; but these were not of consequence enough to fatiate his fury. He turned his hand against some of the leading characters in the Church, and, of course, the Apostles were first marked out for destruction. James, the brother of John, was seized and slain with the sword: thus he, who had been so dear to Jesus, foon finished his labours, and, before any of the twelve, received the crown of martyrdom. The loss of fo valuable a life, when Christianity stood in need of every support, was a calamitous dispensation. But, perhaps, the violence and cruelty of the oppreffor promoted, instead of checking, the progress of the Gospel. Did it not appear more glorious, through St. James's readiness to luffer in its defence, and the subsequent perseverance of his associates in the ministry, who continued to despise the menaces of their enraged persecutors ?

The Jews, however, felt themselves gratified by the king's sanguinary conduct, and, probably, flattered him for the fervour of his religious zeal. With a view, therefore, to recommend himself and his administration, he proceeded to further acts of severity against the Christians.

Alas! to what lengths of



* John xv. 19.


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folly and wickedness have men been hurried by a fondness for vain applause! Let us beware of indulging a passion, which is of lo destructive a tendency.

The afliduous and unwearied exertions of St. Peter in propagating the truth rendered him particularly obnoxious. Accordingly, the tyrant marked him out for the next victim, apprehended and imprisoned him. It was intended that his death should be a public exhibition, as a light which would afford peculiar pleasure to the people. But the celebration of the paflover interfered with the execution. These murderers were exact in their ceremonial obfervances, just as the murderers of Jesus, who, while they contrived his crucifixion, paid a fcrupulous attention to the holy feast. It was decreed, therefore, that the Apostle should be brought forth to suffer, at the conclusion of the folemnity. But his hour was not then come. Whatever our enemies may threaten, we poflefs an infallible security under the care and protection of our Almighty Lord, so long as He Thall please to employ us in his service, or retain us in our arpointed poit. Let us leave to him the determination of every event, and be solicitous, not so much to escape the hand of violence, as to answer some useful purpose, “ whether it be by life or by death.'

Herod, determined to make sure of his prisoner, not only kept him in close confinement, but committed him to the custody of four quaternions of foldiers, left any rescue or escape should be attempted. But no strength or contrivance can prevail against the councel of the Lord. If He fall fay, 6 Go forth,” no gates or chains, nor even all the armed force of the most potent monarch, can hold one weak, defenceless faint in bondage. The incessant prayers of the Church, which were offered up for the Apostle, procured the divine interposition for his release, and


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