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“ Gospel,” or “good news,
good news,” was, we have showed already, viz. The happy tidings of the Messiah being come. Ver. 20, And “they went forth and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” What the “word”
“ was which they preached, and the Lord confirmed with miracles, we have seen already, out of the history of their Acts. I have already given an account of their preaching every where, as it is recorded in the Acts, except some few places, where the kingdom of “the Messiah” is mentioned under the name of “ the kingdom of God;" which I forbore to set down, till I had made it plain out of the evangelists, that that was no other but the kingdom of the Messiah.
It may be seasonable therefore, now, to add to those sermons we have formerly seen of St. Paul, (wherein he preached no other article of faith, but that “ Jesus was the Messiah," the King, who, being risen from the dead, now reigneth, and shall more publicly manifest his kingdom, in judging the world at the last day) what farther is left upon record of his preaching. Acts xix. 8, at Ephesus, “ Paul went into the synagogues, and spake boldly for the space of three months; disputing and persuading concerning the kingdom of God.” And, Acts xx. 25, at Miletus he thus takes leave of the elders of Ephesus: “And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.” What this preaching the kingdom of God was, he tells you, ver. 20, 21, “ I have kept nothing back from you, which was profitable unto you; but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house; testifying both to the Jews, and to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ." And so again, Acts xxviii. 23, 24, “ When they (the Jews at Rome] had appointed him [Paul] a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the king
; dom of God; persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning to evening. And some believed the
things which were spoken, and some believed not." And the history of the Acts is concluded with this account of St. Paul's preaching: “And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus the Messiah.” We may therefore here apply the same conclusion to the history of our Saviour, writ by the evangelists, and to the history of the apostles, writ in the Acts, which St. John does to his own Gospel, chap. xx. 30, 31, “ Many other signs did Jesus before his disciples ;” and in many other places the apostles preached the same doctrine, " which are not written” in these books; “ but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in his name."
What St. John thought necessary and sufficient to be believed, for the attaining eternal life, he here tells us. And this not in the first dawning of the Gospel ; when, perhaps, some will be apt to think less was required to be believed, than after the doctrine of faith, and mystery of salvation, was more fully explained, in the epistles writ by the apostles, for it is to be remembered, that St. John says this, not as soon as Christ was ascended; for these words, with the rest of St. John's Gospel, were not written till many years after not only the other Gospels, and St. Luke's history of the Acts, but in all appearance, after all the epistles writ by the other apostles. So that above threescore years after our Saviour's passion (for so long after, both Epiphanius and St. Jerom assure us this Gospel was written) St. John knew nothing else required to be believed, for the attaining of life, but that “ Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God."
To this, it is likely, it will be objected by some, that to believe only that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, is but an historical, and not a justifying, or saving faith.
To which I answer, That I allow to the makers of systems and their followers to invent and use what distinctions they please, and to call things by what names
they think fit. But I cannot allow to them, or to any man, an authority to make a religion for me, or to alter that which God hath revealed. And if they please to call the believing that which our Saviour and his apostles preached, and proposed alone to be believed, an historical faith ; they have their liberty. But they must have a care, how they deny it to be a justifying or saving faith, when our Saviour and his apostles have declared it so to be; and taught no other which men should receive, and whereby they should be made believers unto eternal life: unless they can so far make bold with our Saviour, for the sake of their beloved systems, as to say, that he forgot what he came into the world for; and that he and his apostles did not instruct people right in the way and mysteries of salvation. For that this is the sole doctrine pressed and required to be believed in the whole tenor of our Saviour's and his apostles' preaching, we have showed through the whole history of the evangelists and the Acts. And I challenge them to show that there was any other doctrine, upon their assent to which, or disbelief of it, men were pronounced believers or unbelievers; and accordingly received into the church of Christ, as members of his body; as far as mere believing could make them so; or else kept out of it. This was the only Gospel-article of faith which was preached to them. And if nothing else was preached every where, the apostle's argument will hold against any other articles of faith to be believed under the Gospel, Rom. x. 14, “ How shall they believe that whereof they have not heard ?" For to preach any other doctrines necessary to be believed, we do not find that any body was sent.
Perhaps it will farther be urged, that this is not a
saving faith ;'' because such a faith as this the devils may have, and it was plain they had; for they believed and declared " Jesus to be the Messiah.” And St. James, ch. ii. 19, tells us, “ The devils believe and tremble; and yet they shall not be saved. To which I answer, 1. That they could not be saved by any faith, to whom it was not proposed as a means of salvation, nor ever promised to be counted for righteousness. This was an act
of grace shown only to mankind. God dealt so favourably with the posterity of Adam, that if they would believe Jesus to be the Messiah, the promised King and Saviour, and perform what other conditions were required of them by the covenant of grace; God would justify them, because of this belief. He would account this faith to them for righteousness, and look on it as making up the defects of their obedience ; which being thus supplied, by what was taken instead of it, they were looked on as just or righteous; and so inherited eternal life. But this favour shown to mankind, was never offered to the fallen angels. They had no such proposals made to them : and therefore, whatever of this kind was proposed to men, it availed not devils, whatever they performed of it. This covenant of grace was never offered to them.
2. I answer; that though the devils believed, yet they could not be saved by the covenant of grace; be- . cause they performed not the other condition required in it, altogether as necessary to be performed as this of believing: and that is repentance. Repentance is as absolute a condition of the covenant of grace as faith; and as necessary to be performed as that. John the Baptist, who was to prepare the way for the Messiah, “Preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins," Mark i. 4.
As John began his preaching with “ Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Matt. iii. 2. So did our Saviour begin his, Matt. iv. 17, “ From that time began Jesus to preach, and to say, Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Or, as St. Mark has it in that parallel place, Mark i. 14, 15, “Now, after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel." This was not only the beginning of his preaching, but the sum of all that he did preach ; viz. That men should repent, and believe the good tidings which he brought them; that “ the time was fulfilled” for the
; coming of the Messiah. And this was what his apostles
preached, when he sent them out, Mark vi. 12, “ And they, going out, preached that men should repent." Believing Jesus to be the Messiah, and repenting, were so necessary and fundamental parts of the covenant of grace, that one of them alone is often put for both. For here St. Mark mentions nothing but their preaching repentance: as St. Luke, in the parallel place, chap. ix. 6,"mentions nothing but their evangelizing, or preaching the good news of the kingdom of the Messiah : and St. Paul often, in his epistles, puts faith for the whole duty of a Christian. But yet the tenor of the Gospel is what Christ declares, Luke xii. 3, 5, “ Unless ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” And in the parable of the rich man in hell, delivered by our Saviour, Lu xvi. repentance alone is the means proposed, of avoiding that place of torment, ver. 30, 31. And what the tenor of the doctrine which should be preached to the world should be, he tells his apostles, after his re. surrection, Luke xxiv. 27, viz. That repentance and remission of sins should be preached “ in his name,” who was the Messiah. And accordingly believing Jesus to be the Messiah, and repenting, was what the apostles preached, So Peter began, Acts ii. 38, “ Repent, and
. be baptized." These two things were required for the remission of sins, viz. entering themselves in the kingdom of God; and owning and professing themselves the subjects of Jesus, whom they believed to be the Messiah, and received for their Lord and King; for that was to be “baptized in his name:" baptism being an initiating ceremony, known to the Jews, whereby those, who leaving heathenism, and professing a submission to the law of Moses, were received into the commonwealth of Israel. And so it was made use of by our Saviour, to be that solemn visible act, whereby those who believed him to be the Messiah, received him as their King, and professed obedience to him, were admitted as subjects into his kingdom: which in the Gospel, is called “ the kingdom of God;" and in the Acts and epistles, often by another name, viz. the 15 Church.”
The same St. Peter preaches again to the Jews, Acts