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THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND PREACHER,
Patronized by the Clergy and others.
(PUBLISHED BY AUTHORITY) Preached at the Episcopal Chapel, Gray's Inn Lane, Saint Pancras, on
Sunday Morning, August 13th, 1837,
REV. T. MORTIMER, B. D.
MINISTER OF THE SAID CHAPEL.
Text.—" And he showed us how he had seen an angel in in his house, which stood and said unto him, send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter: who shall tell thee words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.”—The 11th chap. of the book of the Acts of the Apostles, the 13th and two following verses, being a part of the second lesson appointed by the Church for this morning's service. The conversion of a Roman soldier to the faith of Christ as here recorded is an event of great interest and great importance. Of great interest, because one cannot but view with peculiar feelings of pleasure such a man so engaged—an officer in the army, devoted to martial pursuits, with many temporal cares to attend to, many things I mean connected with this life in that profession to which he belonged. But we contemplate this matter not merely with interest, but we speak of it as one of great importance, Why? because he was the first Gentile convert to Christianity. Hitherto the converts were Jews: here was a Gentile, a Roman officer, a devout man, one that feared God with all his house, and who gave much alms to the poor. He is to be instructed in Christianity, for there is
no admission for him to heaven, but by the gate of the Christian religion ; he is to go to glory and to God, but he is to go thither through being taught the verities of the Christian faith. There is no earthly link in this chain of mercy by which salvation can come to this Roman officer. He seems to have been acquainted with no Christian friend, he seems to have had none of those around him who knew anything of the peculiarities of the Christian creed. The man was at his prayers when an angel appeared to him, and this angel appeared to tell him what he was to do in order to hear the gospel. The angel does not attempt to preach to him; he does not attempt to give him one leading doctrine of the faith. No; he bids him send to Joppa to inquire after one Simon, whose surname was Peter, that thus lie might learn that which he could learn in no other
way. He obeys the divine and heavenly direction. He sends some of his own household servants, two devout soldiers, and a most beautiful picture is thus presented of piety even in the Roman camp,—two of his devout household to go to Joppa. They at length find the apostle, and deliver their message. Peter, it was well known in the highest quarter, it was well known by Him who regards all hearts, that Peter, as a Jew, had amazing antipathies against going into the presence of the Gentiles. He had all the peculiar prejudices of a Jew, and therefore, if this message had come to the apostle without his being specially prepared for it, would have said, -" No; I am a Jew, I cannot go into the society of those who are Gentiles.” But he was prepared for it by a peculiar revelation; and the moment the messengers arrived, without any gainsaying, he assented to return with them. He went with them to Cornelius according to their request, and the heavenly vision he had received. You read in the 10th chapter, a most interesting and beautiful account of the interview between the apostle and the soldier, and of the simple manner in which he details his vision. He sums up all by saying, "Now, therefore, are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.” A pattern to all Christian congregations to the very end of the world.
But the mother Church at Jerusalem thought the apostle
had been guilty of a breach of Jewish propriety: he was therefore called to order, and it was inquired why he had acted in this way. And he was now called to give an account of what he had done. The simple and intelligent, the forcible, eloquent, and masterly manner in which he defends himself is well worthy of your attention. He says,“ Who was I that I should withstand God, after being so solemnly warned by the heavenly vision? Who was I that I should resist such a call ?'' He tells them that the Holy Ghost had descended and ratified the preaching of the word. In the end, as you know, the brethren greatly rejoiced when they heard the account given by the apostle. So much for the history. The words of my text will lead us, as God may
enable the consideration of some topics highly interesting and highly important to ourselves." He showed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter, who shall tell thee words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them as on us at the beginning.
The vision of the angel, the preaching of the apostle, and the descent of the Holy Ghost-these three points will well repay our consideration.
1. THE APPEARANCE OF THE ANGEL.--" He (that is, Cornelius) showed us that he had seen an angel which stood and said, “ Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter."
This appearance of the angel, and the words which he uttered, may well teach us these two things. 1. The amazing interest that the holy angels take in the conversion and salvation of man.
You have never seen any of those holy and blessed intelligences. You shall see them by and by, for we are expressly told, they shall come, multitudes of them as a guard of honour, when the King Messiah, the Lord Jesus shall again appear on earth ; " when the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory.” Mark, I pray you, the intense interest which these angels take in the conversion and
salvation of man. Oh, know your own dignity! However poor man may be, however wretched man may be, however forlorn man may be, however friendless, or apparently so, man may be, there are those in heaven who care for him here. And why do the angels care for hiin? For this special reason : because the Lord of angels cares for him. They have their commands. They are spoken of as attending especially on little children, “whose angels do always behold the face of your Father which is in heaven." They are spoken of as attending on dying saints of God; like Lazarus, such saints are carried by angels into Abraham's bosom. Yea, the description given by St. Paul is still more extended ;—" Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation ?” O, brethren, mark, I say, the intense interest which angels take in the history, and the state, in the wants, and the sufferings of men.
But mark, further, connected with this first division of my subject, 2. The importance which angels attach to the preaching of the Gospel, ---" Thou shalt send to Joppa, and Peter shall come and preach unto thee words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.” God knows if we think lightly of the holy Gospel, the holy angels do not. They think not lightly of it; they know whence it emanated,
even from the everlasting purpose of the eternal Father. They know whither it is ultimately designed to bring men, even to the felicities, enjoyments, and glories of eternal life. They know it is scoffed at here below, as well as you know it, but they know its infinite value. They know what it has done for thousands already, and what it will do for millions more. And they know well that the great condemnation of man consists in this, that he loves darkness rather than light. - This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deels are evil.” Let us learn something from the angels. God help us that we may never trifle with the Gospel, that we may never think lightly of it, that we may never put it in a low place in our estimation, and that we may have very high, holy, and sacred thoughts connected with the Gospel ! We see from the text what the angels thought of it. They thought it would save this
Was that all? No: they thought it would save all his house ; yes, and we may go further; they knew its efficacy to be such that if it were universally believed, it would save all the world ; if universally received into every heart, and bringing forth fruit in every life, it would save all mankind. Yea, that there is no limit to the power and efficacy, to the fulness, grace, and blessedness of the holy Gospel. Brethren, learn then, from the appearance of the angel these two things: the interest angels take in the welfare of man, and the importance which angels attach to the preaching of the cross, the preaching of the Gospel.
Some may inquire, why did not the angel preach the Gospel? I answer, he was not authorized to do it. None in heaven or earth is authorized to preach the Gospel, but those whom God bas called to this work. God might have called him, God might have instructed him to preach the Gospel, but he would do honour to his rising Church, to his infant Church. He would let this Roman officer see and know that however lightly and meanly the apostles were regarded here on earth, amid the principalities and powers in the heavenly places they were highly honoured. And he would have Cornelius know, that however
and insufficient of bimself this apostle was, however, I say, poor, and insufficient, and inefficient of himself, yet that a mighty energy attends the preaching of Christ, and that the Holy Spirit should descend and ratify from heaven what the apostle preached here on earth Brethren, I have often wondered that God Almighty ever committed the ministry of reconciliation to man. I am sure it is a depth of wonder that he should have committed to mortal man such a work as this, to preach that Gospel, which is to every living man that hears it, “a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death.” To every man that hears it, that Gospel either promotes his eternal damnation, or his eternal salvation ; his eternal damnation if he rejects it, if he trifles with it, or slights it, or opposes it; his eternal salvation if he believes and receives, if he embraces and obeys it. " Who then is sufficient for these things ?" Do you think we suppose we are? God knows we suppose no such thing. We often come before
you with those messages that might make angels tremble': knowing that among our hearers there is