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which had obstructed his sight, 'was removed: and through the similitude he was enabled to discover the substance. To the same divine aid let us fly in all our difficulties and dangers, with fervent prayer and supplication, and he will direct us in the right and safe way. The usual resources of men in such circumstances, even when employed in the study or pursuit of heavenly things, are merely human means and contrivances : whatever these cannot reach and master, is despaired of : or, perhaps, on account of its mysterious dignity, instead of due veneration, excites scorn and contempt. Strange, that men, who cannot but acknowledge themselves fallible, short-sighted, and weak, in the most ordinary affairs of life, should yet, in matters of a most sublime nature, or in perplexities too intricate for mortals to unravel, wholly rely upon their own wisdom and strength, nor once resort to that great Power, who guides and governs all things.
Another reflection arising out of the behaviour of Peter after this vision, relates to the nature and degree of influence exerted by the Holy Spirit upon the human mind. For although the present case was of an extraordinary kind, and must, consequently be supposed to have at least as ample measure of his bounty, as can be expected upon less important occasions ; yet we see, that even here great room was left for the exercise and co-operation of the human understanding and will ; without
which we must not hope for success. - While Pes ter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee : arise, therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing.” Such was the notice given him, leaving to his own pious study the just interpretation of the vision, and the conduct which he should observe towards Cornelius. This was sufficient for a candid and well disposed mind; but had been without fruit to an indolent, careless, or refractory temper. It is, therefore, one of the most indispensable duties of our whole Christian profession, to watch over the motions of our hearts, whenever virtuous resolutions happen to spring up in them ; that we may not fail to improve all such as being derived from the fountain of good) to the utmost of our ability. Most of us are too apt to let these great advantages pass by, for want of proper care, satisfying ourselves with that degree of virtue which consists in present good propensities ; although these may be nothing more than intimations of the Spirit, for a trial of our dispositions, without the least active concern of our wills. They pass over the mind like gleams of sunshine, delightful and refreshing for the moment, but soon obscured by the cares and passions of the world ; whereas it should be our comfort and joy to preserve this heavenly light in our bosom, free from all impurity, and to nourish it with the best faculties of the soul.
But to return. Peter having demanded of Cornelius for what intent he had sent for him, is answered that he did so by command of an angel from God; whose discourse Cornelius repeats in the 30th and following verses to the 34th of this 10th chapter. Here we read, that «Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” What a just and noble idea does this present of the Lord of the whole earth, the common Father of mankind; who embraces all his children with paternal and impartial care, distinguishing them in his love, not through a capricious fondness, but according to their own conduct and merits! It is very remarkable tliat the same character is to be found in the old covenant ; as if designed to correct that vicious pride of the Jews, which arrogated to themselves the peculiar and exclusive favour of Heaven. And if they had well considered the original ground for God calling their father Abraham, and bestowing upon him the great blessings which he did, they might have been led to the same conclusion ; for it was the righteousness and faith of Abraham which made God his friend, and extended the divine mercy and goodness to his posterity. But that posterity, either overlooking this, or so far imputing his righteousness
to themselves as to think it sufficient for securing to them God's favour, instead of treading in the steps of their father Abraham, grew proud and forgetful, ungrateful and obstinate, yet foolishly still called themselves a chosen people. They relied upon the promises of God, as if these had been absolute and unconditional, without respect to their obedience ; although the law abounds with threatenings also in case of disobedience ; and these were frequently executed upon them with tremendous justice. Șo that, whatever Jews and infidels, whether from vanity or malice, may pretend to say of God's extraordinary partiality to the Jews, there was nothing in his conduct to them inconsistent with the character here given by St. Peter. Moses says of him, that “ he regardeth not persons ;" and in the second book of Chronicles we read, that “ there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons."
Do I mean to say, that no particular kindness was shewn to the Jews, by selecting them for a people among whom God should place his name, and from whom was to descend the Messiah ? Far from it indeed! These were great and extraordinal'y blessings, considered as means of happiness, but not as the end ; in which last point of view alone can the dispensations of God be examined, when a charge of partiality is brought against them. It is the same thing here as in the natural
course of his providence. Some men are much more highly gifted with understanding and different advantages in life than others. So far, çertainly, they are favoured above the rest ; yet no man ever thinks of calling the justice or goodness of God in question on such accounts, but rather adinires the beautiful variety of this economy. Whether these things are to be esteemed truly blessings, must entirely depend upon the use made of them. If they be rightly applied, they are good and valuable gifts ; otherwise they become a curse to the possessor. In the same manner, the abuse of those spiritual blessings, conferred upon the Jews, was attended with repeated calarnities and losses, with the destruction of their temple and city, joined to a seventy years captivity ; and at last with the utter ruin of their state and nation, accompanied with circumstances of the deepest sadness and dismay that ever befel any people. What say you now to these instances of divine vengeance ? Were the people who suffered them greatly to bé envied ? And do you not discern the hand of a just and impartial God in the punishment of men, who grew insolent under his kindness, rebelled against their Sovereign, and at last put to death his only and beloved Son ? Better, surely, had it been for them not to have known the statutes and judgments of the Lord, than having known them, to have turnel back so often as they did to their abominable