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EMPHATIC MEANING OF CHRIST.

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which it cannot be received unfeignedly. When therefore Christ says, he would have repentance and remission of sins preached in his name among all nations, it is as much as to say, 'I will that all men every where be sorry for their sins, and accept of mercy at God's hand through me, lest they fall under his wrath in the judgment. For as I had said, without repentance, what pretence soever men have of faith, they cannot escape the wrath to come. Wherefore Paul saith, “God now commands all men every where to repent” (in order to salvation), “because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained.

And now we come to this clause, “Beginning at Jerusalem ;” that is, that Christ would have Jerusalem have the first offer of the gospel.

1. This cannot be so commanded, because they had now any more right of themselves thereto than had any of the nations of the world; for their sins had divested them of all self-deservings.

2. Nor yet, because they stood upon the advance-ground over the worst of the sinners of the nations; nay, rather, the sinners of the nations had the advance-ground of them : for Jerusalem was, long before she had added this iniquity to her sin, worse than the very nations that God cast out before the children of Israel. 2 Chron. xxxiii.

3. It must therefore follow, that this clause, 'Begin at Jerusalem,' was put into this commission of mere grace and compassion, even from the overflowings of the bowels of mercy; for indeed they were the worst, and so in the most deplorable condition of any people under the heavens,

Whatever, therefore, their relation was to Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob; however they formerly had been the people among whom God had placed his name and worship; they were now degenerated from God, more than the nations were with their idols, and were become guilty of the highest sins which the people of the world were capable of committing. Nay, none can be capable of committing such pardonable sins as they committed against their God, when they slew his Son, and persecuted his name and word.

From these words, therefore, thus explained, we gain this observation; which is the doctrine to be unfolded :

THAT JESUS CHRIST WOULD HAVE MERCY OFFERED IN THE FIRST PLACE TO THE GREATEST SINNERS.

That these Jerusalem sinners were the greatest sinners that ever were in the world, I think none will deny, that believes that Christ was the best man that ever was in the world, and also was their Lord God. And that they were to have the first offer of his grace, the text is as clear as the sun; for it saith, “Begin at Jerusalem." "Preach," saith he, “repentance and remission of sins" to the Jerusalem sinners; to the Jerusalem sinners in the first place.

One would have thought, since the Jerusalem sinners were the worst and greatest sinners, Christ's greatest enemies, and those that not only despised his person, doctrine, and miracles, but that a little before had had their hands up to the elbows in his heart-blood, that he should rather have said, Go into all the world, and preach repentance and remission of sins among all nations; and after that offer the same to Jerusalem; yea, it had been infinite grace, if he had said so. But what grace is this, or what name shall we give it, when he commands that this repentance and remission of sins, which is designed to be preached in all nations, should first be offered to Jerusalem, in the first place to the worst of sinners !

Nor was this the first time that the grace which was in the heart of Christ thus showed itself to the world. For while he was yet alive, even while he was yet in Jerusalem, and perceived even among these Jerusalem sinners, which was the most vile amongst them, he still in his preaching did signify that he had a desire that the worst of these worst

THE WORST HAVE THE FIRST OFFER.

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should in the first place come unto him. The which he showeth, where he saith to the better sort of them, “The publicans and harlots enter into the kingdom of God before you.” Also when he compared Jerusalem with the sinners of the nations, then he commands that the Jerusalem sinners should have the gospel at present confined to them. not,” saith he, “into the way of the Gentiles, and into any of the cities of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel;" yea, go rather to them, for they are in the most fearful plight.

These therefore must have the cream of the gospel, namely, the first offer thereof in his lifetime : yea, when he departed out of the world, he left this as part of his last will with his preachers, that they also should offer it first to Jerusalem. He had a mind, a careful mind, as it seems, to privilege' the worst of sinners with the first offer of mercy, and to take from among them a people to be the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb.

The 15th of Luke also is famous for this; where the Lord Jesus takes more care (as appears there by three parables) for the lost sheep, lost groat, and the prodigal son, than for the other sheep, the other pence, or for the son that said he had never transgressed; yea, he shows that there is joy in heaven, among the angels of God, at the repentance of one sinner, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. Luke xv.

After this manner therefore the mind of Christ was set on the salvation of the biggest sinners in his lifetime. But join to all this, this clause, which he carefully put into the apostles' commission to preach, when he departed hence to the Father, and then you shall see that his heart was vehemently set upon it. For these were part of his last words with them, Preach my gospel to all nations, but see that you begin at Jerusalem. Nor did the apostles overlook this clause when their Lord was gone into heaven. They went first to them of Jerusalem, and preached Christ's gospel to them. They abode also there for a season and time, and preached it to no body else, for they had regard to the commandment of their Lord.

And it is to be observed, namely, that the first sermon which they preached after the ascension of Christ was preached to the very worst of these Jerusalem sinners, even to those that were the murderers of Jesus Christ (Acts ii. 23); for these words are part of the sermon: “Ye took him, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain him.” Yea, the next sermon, and the next, and also the next to that, was preached to the self-same murderers, to the end they might be saved. Acts iï. 13-16; iv. 10, 11; v. 30; vii. 52.

But we will return to the first sermon that was preached to these Jerusalem sinners, by which will be manifest more than great grace, if it be duly considered. For after that Peter, and the rest of the apostles, had, in their exhortation, persuaded these wretches to believe that they had killed the Prince of Life; and after they had duly fallen under the guilt of the murder, saying, “Men and brethren, what shall we do ?” he replies, by a universal tender to them all in general, considering them as Christ's killers, that if they were sorry for what they had done, and would be baptized for the remission of their sins in his name, they should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts ii. 37, 38.

This he said to them all, though he knew that they were such sinners. Yea, he said it without the least stick or stop, or pause of spirit, as to whether he had best to say so or no. Nay, so far off was Peter from making an objection against one of them, that by a particular exhortation, he endeavors, that not one of them may escape the salvation offered. “Repent," saith he, “and be baptized every one of you." I shut out never a one of you; for I am commanded by my Lord to deal with you, as it were, one by one, by the word of his salvation. But why speaks he so particularly? Oh!

OBJECTIONS ANSWERED.

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there were reasons for it. The people with whom the apostles were now to deal, as they were murderers of our Lord, and to be charged in the general with his blood, so they had their various and particular acts of villany in the guilt thereof, now lying upon their consciences. And the guilt of these their various and particular acts of wickedness, could not perhaps be reached to a removal thereof, but by this particular application. “Repent every one of you; be baptized every one of you, in his name, for the remission of sins, and you shall, every one of you, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.'

Object. “But I was one of them that plotted to take away his life. May I be saved by him ?'

Peter. Every one of you.

Object. “But I was one of them that bare false witness against him.

Is there grace for me?' Peter. For every one of you.

Object. “But I was one of them that cried out, Crucify him, crucify him; and desired that Barabbas the murderer might live, rather than he.

What will become of me,

think you?

Peter. I am to preach repentance and remission of sins to every one of you, says Peter.

Object. “But I was one of them that did spit in his face when he stood before his accusers. I also was one that mocked him, when in anguish he hung bleeding on the tree. Is there room for me?'

Peter. For every one of you, says Peter.

Object. “But I was one of them that in his extremity said, Give him gall and vinegar to drink. Why may I not expect the same when anguish and guilt are upon me?'

Peter. Repent of these your wickednesses, and here is remission of sins for every one of you. Object. But I railed on him, I reviled him, I hated him,

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