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they did not receive him as a prophet, or the great prophet that was to come into the world.
2. Another thing, included in faith in Christ, is believing his words, receiving the doctrine taught by him, or believing the christian religion.
This is so closely connected with the foregoing particular, that they seem to be both one and the same; and certainly are inseparable. He who believes, that Jesus is sent of God, and the Christ, must believe that his words are true. However, I presume, it is not amiss to observe this distinctly.
Our Lord, who, as before shown, often speaks of believing in him “ whom God had sent,” does also frequently speak of believing, or receiving his words. For he had a doctrine. He was a prophet, or a teacher sent from God. And receiving his doctrine is believing in him. What it was, we perceive from the history of his life, written by the evangelists. In general, it was, Repent. Or, Repent, and believe the gospel. And to such as received, and obeyed that doctrine, he promised everlasting life.
John vii. 16, 17, “ Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” John xiv. 24, " The word, which you hear, is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.” Many of the Jews could not receive his words, because of their prevailing prejudices, and carnal affections. Of the disciples he says: “ I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have believed that thou didst send me," John xvii. 8. Again he says: “ The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life,” chap. vi. 63. And because he had the “ words of eternal life," ver. 68, the disciples believed in him, and determined to abide with him. And knowing the truth and importance of the doctrine taught by him, he declares: “ Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my words, [now,] of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels,” Mark viii. 30.
Believing in Christ is often expressed by coming to him. John v. 40, “ Ye will not come unto me,
ye might have life,” And Matt. xi. 28, 29, “ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden-take my yoke upon you, and learn of
shall find rest for your souls." The meaning of which can be no other, than that men should become his
disciples, submit themselves to his instructions, and embrace the doctrine taught by him with divine authority.
They who believed in Jesus, as sent from God, and received his doctrine as a rule of life, became his disciples ; a word that includes all his followers in general, and is equivalent to believers; though the twelve, whom he also named apostles, are sometimes called his disciples, by way of eminence and distinction. But in the general, all who owned him for their master in things of religion, are his disciples. As the disciples of Moses, or Plato, or Aristotle, are such as take them for their masters, and receive their . scheme of religion, or philosophy, as true; so it is here, as we perceive from the style of the Gospels, in many places. “ And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples ; and of them be chose twelve, whom he named apostles," Luke vi. 13. Joseph of Arimathea is called disciple of Jesus :" Matt. xxvii. 57; John xix. 38; that is, he was one who believed in him as a great prophet, even the Messiah, and received his doctrine as true, and from heaven. In the debate between the Jewish rulers, and the man born blind, whom our Lord had miraculously healed, after many inquiries and answers, they said to him again : “ What did he unto thee? how opened he thy eyes? He answered them; I have told you, and ye did not hear. Wherefore
; would hear it again ? Will
ye also be his disciples? Then they reviled him, and said ; Thou art his disciple, but we are Moses's disciples,” John ix. 26–28. And long before this: “ The disciples of John, and of the Pharisees, fast; but thy disciples fast not,” Mark ii. 18.
That word is often used in the Acts as equivalent to believer. “ In those days when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them,” ch. vi. 1, 2. “ And the word of the Lord increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly," ver. 7. “ Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha," ch. ix. 36. Ananias, at Damascus, by whom Paul was baptized, is said to be“ a disciple," ch. ix. 10. Mnason is called " an old disciple,” ch. xxi. 16. I allege but one place more.
“ And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples," or believers, “ were first called christians at Antioch." ch.
,” xi. 26.
This then is faith in Jesus Christ. To believe in him is to receive him as a divine teacher, and his doctrine as true; or to embrace the religion of Christ, and become his disciples and followers.
But then two things are here supposed ; First, that men be instructed in the things concerning the Lord Jesus, or be taught his doctrine. And secondly, that they attend to it, and understand it. As St. Paul says: “ How shall they believe in him, of whom they had not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher ?” Rom. x. 14. So here. They said : “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house." And doubtless he attended diligently. It is true of him, which is said of Lydia. “ She heard us; whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended to the things that were spoken of Paul," Acts xvi. 14.
For this reason, that men might know the will of God, our Lord went over the “ cities
villages” of the land of Israel, Matt. ix. 35; Mark vi. 6, 56; Luke xiii. 22; preaching the doctrine of the kingdom, laying hold of every opportunity, and affecting occurrence, to excite attention; calling to men, to hearken and understand, speaking in a familiar manner, sometimes using well contrived parables and similitudes, teaching the word to all sorts of men, as they were able to bear it, in their synagogues, at the temple, at the houses of Pharisees, when they made entertainments, and much company was present.
For this end he set forth the twelve, and the seventy, to go over the land of Israel, and prepare men for him; and afterwards he enlarged the commission of the twelve, “ to go and teach all nations.”
II. In the next place we are to consider the benefit proposed to them who believe in Jesus: “ And thou shalt be saved;" or, you shall know what you ought to do in order to be saved ; and if you observe it, you will obtain salvation.
This is evidently the design of the words, as they stand here in connection. And it is confirmed by other texts. Cornelius, at Cæsarea, was directed by an angel, “ who should tell him words, whereby he and all his house should be saved,” Acts xi. 14. Our Lord tells the Jews; “ These things I say, that ye might be saved,” John v. 34. Zachariah prophesying over John the Baptist says:
6 Thou shalt go before the face of the Lord, to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation, by the remission of their sins,” Luke i. 77. And the evangelist Mark assures us, that after his resurrection our Lord said to the apostles : “ Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved. And he that believeth not shall be damned," Mark xvi. 15. 16.
III. We should now observe the truth and certainty of this; that he who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, shall have knowledge of the way of salvation; or know what he
1 ought to do in order to be saved. And if he attend to the instructions contained in the doctrine of Christ, he shall be saved.
1. This is evident from the doctrine itself; for it teaches men how they may approve themselves to God, the creator and governor of the world; on whom we depend for all our happiness both here and hereafter.
Men are here taught to repent, and then to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, or to walk becoming the character of Christ's disciples. Upon these conditions they are assured of forgiveness of past sins, and the favour of God.
Men are instructed to love God with all the heart, and their neighbours as themselves; and to do to others as they would that others should do to them. They are required to be holy in all manner of conversation; to abstain not from some sins only, but from all; to perform all the duties of their station and condition. And they are instructed to be careful about the frame of their minds, and to govern their thoughts and affections.
Are not these, and other things contained in the gospel of Christ, excellent rules? Is not this true religion? Does it not appear very likely and reasonable, at first sight, and after mature consideration, that this should be the right way of men's approving themselves to God? and that such should be prepared for a future happiness? They who have this perfection of sincerity, though not the perfection of innocence, cannot be finally rejected of God; but will certainly be accepted and rewarded by him.
2. We know, that this is the way of salvation from many express assurances of Christ and his apostles.
John iii. 16, “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him, might not perish, but have everlasting life,” Ch. v. 24, “ He that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation." Ch. viii. 12, " Then spake Jesus unto them again; I am the light of the world. He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness; but shall have the light of life." And says
John the apostle and evangelist, near the conclusion of his gospel : “ These things are written, that ye might believe, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name,” John xx. 21.
Therefore the will of God, taught by Christ and his apostles, is called the “ word of life,” Philip. ii. 16. And is the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation,” Eph. i. 13. Soon after the ascension of Jesus, the apostles were imprisoned by the Jewish rulers: but were delivered by an angel, who said, “ Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life,” Acts v. 20. And they who rejected this doctrine are said to “ judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life," ch. xiii. 46.
3. We are farther assured of the truth of what our Lord and his apostles taught, from the confirmation given to their doctrine by the miracles wrought by them; works of divine power, and manifest tokens of the divine presence with them, and concurrence with them in their design.
No men could do such things “ if God was not with them,” John üi. 2. Our Lord was a prophet, “ mighty in word and deed, before God and all the people,” Luke xxiv. 19. Or, as St. Peter says, at the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, “ God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power; who went about, healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him," Acts x. 38. He had “ the Spirit without measure,” John iii. 34. And from him also the apostles received grace to accomplish the ministry assigned to them. They were enlightened themselves, and they taught the truth to others with perspicuity,“ The Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word with signs following,” Mark xvi. 20.
Beside their miraculous works of divine power, we might observe their divine temper; the spotless innocence of Jesus, and the shining virtue of his apostles; their meekness, patience, indefatigable and disinterested zeal. Whence we may be assured, they thought as they said ; and were firmly persuaded, that the word they taught was from heaven, and that whosoever received it and obeyed it would be saved.
4. They who receive this doctrine are in the way of salvation; for it contains motives and cousiderations of great moment, to induce men to follow and obey its precepts.
Here life and immortality are set in a clear and engaging light. We are mightily animated and encouraged by the perfect example, the willing death, and the triumphant resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. And in the glory