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other words, seek to obtain everlasting food. In Matthew, he also says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,'—the righteousness which is esteemed in the sight of God, and which he hath commanded.
Cornelius did seek, but in a natural manner, and according to the light and knowledge he had already obtained. He endeavored, as far as he could, to do what was right, to fulfil the law and the commands of God. He was charitable to the poor, kind and friendly to his family and servants, fasted often, prayed continually, and was reported among the Jews to be a righteous man. But the more he tried to fulfil the law, to lead a godly life in thought and deed, and to secure the divine approbation, the more he perceived the deficiency of his own righteousness, the poverty of his works, and the sinfulness of his character. It is impossible, by outward actions, to change the nature of the heart as long as the foundation of all goodness is awanting, the animating and quickening love of God. Through the works of the law a man can become a servant but not a child of God. Cornelius was the servant; and certainly his soul, in offering the sacrifices of faith and obedience, longed to be the child. But the stronger this desire became, and the more he tried to love and serve the Lord with his heart and soul, the more he felt his own incapacity, and perceived his distance from that righteousness of which God approves, and which could only be imparted to him by means of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit. His soul hungered and thirsted for this, with the most heart-felt humility; like the little
seed of corn beginning to open, which languishes for the dew and the sunshine.
Whosoever humbly feareth God, and doeth righteously, and earnestly desires his fellowship, is accepted with him; God regards him graciously, receives and adopts him. “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him,-in those that hope in his mercy,' and the works which they do are sacrifices of righteousness, which are well pleasing in his sight. So were the prayers and alms of Cornelius in the eye of God—he was esteemed worthy of a revelation from the invisible world; and an Apostle of the Lord was sent to preach the Gospel to his household, and lead them into the kingdom of God, which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. He who, by the reading of the Scriptures, had awakened holy desires in his mind, would now, through the gracious influence of his Spirit, enable him to bring forth the fruits of righteousness.
We see, from the words of the Apostle, the way in which Cornelius attained righteousness and happiness, and became accepted with God. In this manner, and in no other, can we become partakers of this treasure. Before we can desire the salvation of God, we must feel our need of it. The whole need not a physician, but they that are stk. The work of regeneration must begin in our hearts, with the fear of the Lord, a knowledge of his commands, and a lively conviction of our own sinfulness and separation from him ;-in other words, it must begin with humiliation and repentance.
Conscience already, if we listen to its voice, shows us
that we have departed from the living spring, and lost the paradise of the divine fellowship. Thou hast made us, O Lord,' says a father of the church, therefore our heart is always disquieted until it finds rest in Thee ! Conscience is in reality, a dim feeling, a sort of misty conviction of the original innocence which we have lost, -of the image of God which is now distorted by sin. Hence man, having lost the original equipoise of his faculties, feels from his birth a restlessness and disquietude from which he seeks to escape by means of levity, dissipation, and too frequently by means of vice. Thus Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord, and Cain, prompted by the envious feeling of his ungodly nature, became his brother's murderer.
The word of God is the awakener of the conscience, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Then man becomes alarmed for himself, and asks, 'What must I do to be saved ?' This internal disquietude, the consequence of our fall, is that which leads the sinner back to the living spring which he has forsaken. Happy is he who, feeling this, and perceiving its real origin, instead of seeking to escape from it, or to calm it by worldly means, permits it to lead him into the presence of God. This is the true fear of the Almighty, which is the beginning of wisdom! And more and more vividly does that man feel his own poverty and insignificance; and more and more humbly and lowly does he become !
Happy is it for us that God is greater than our hearts. * Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, and the
earth is my footstool :—but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.' Isaiah lxvi. 1, 2. - If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not, with him also, freely give us all things ? Rom. viii. 31, 32. Let us, therefore, repair to his mercyseat, though we be of the same class of people as the publicans and sinners! Even though our sins be as scarlet they shall be made white as snow.
If we, like Cornelius, hunger and thirst after righteousness, or if we feel an earnest desire to forsake an ungodly life and obtain peace; and if we, like him, seek the Lord in fasting and prayer, and with faith and patience long for eternal life, then will the Lord draw nigh unto us; we shall more and more experience his grace and love; he will purify us from all unrighteousness, and, by his word and Spirit, give us that peace which passeth understanding, which the world can neither give nor take away, and which will remain through all eternity, for he is faithful that promised.
JESUS CHRIST THE LORD OF ALL, THE AUTHOR OF ALL PEACE.
'God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.'
This is the commencement of Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews; what infinite grace and mercy, on the part of our heavenly Father, do these simple words imply! God has spoken to man, to the sinful and fallen human race. He has descended among them after they had broken his covenant and lost his light and fellowship! He has given them his word, after they could no longer behold his countenance, and has made a new covenant with them, rebellious and apostate though they be. The Word, or, to express the idea differently, the wonderful gift of speech,* is the means of connecting the minds of men with each other, and is the instrument of all human improvement and development. Without the Word, or human speech, there would be neither faith nor hope, friendship nor love, sympathy in suffering, nor universal joy; we should not have the reciprocal cares and affections of parents and children, nor, indeed, any other permanent human connection; we should be like the dumb beasts of the field ; but, the longings of our
* See Note F.