ACTS II. 37, 38.

Brother G. Beebe - Dear Sir: Your paper has been a welcome visitor for a number of years in my house. My papa and mamma think there is nothing in all this wide world beside it that is equal to it. I belong to, or live in the same church with them, but I cannot see things just like they do, and I would like to have your notions on Acts ii. 37, 38. You may guess that I am somewhat tinctured with what is commonly called Campbellism. Now I wish you to do your best with this text, for if you are right, you know that I am most woefully wrong; and I assure you there is nothing that you could do that would please my old pa and ma so much as for you to give me what they would term a good whipping on this subject. You can do as you like with this. Yours, as ever,

A. G. C.
Franklin, Ky., Sept. 19, 1858.

Reply: The propriety or impropriety of our querist holding the Campbellite doctrine and retaining a membership in a Regular Baptist church, we leave with that church to consider and decide; but it is a little remarkable for one claiming such membership to publish to the world that he is not what he professes to be; still such discrepance between profession and reality may be harmonious with Campbellism. There being no Campbellites in this section of the country, that we are aware of, we do not profess to be very well posted in regard to what they hold. Nearly all we have heard of their peculiar views has come to us from those who profess to disagree with them. We shall, therefore, in offering our notions” on the text proposed, do so without regard to the manner in which the Campbellites, or any other ITES may interpret it. And as to whipping our correspondent, we will leave his or her (as the case may be) papa and mamma to use the rod, as our calling requires that we “be no striker.” The text itself is to us a precious one, and taken as it stands in connection with the wonderful display of divine power and grace, and the outpouring of the Spirit of God on the day of Pentecost is the more interesting.

“Now when they heard this.” The people addressed were from many, and perhaps all the nations and tribes at that time on the earth, many of whom being Jewish proselytes, had come up to Jerusalem, as their custom was to keep the Pentecost, and they testified that they heard the preaching of these illiterate Galilaeans in their own mother tongue in which they were born, and others mocking, (for there were mockers in the apostles’ days as well as at the present time,) said, “These men are full of new wine.” Not a very unusual charge to be hurled against the advocates of the truth at the present time. “But Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice,” and repelled their slanderous charge, and preached unto the multitude, the gospel, as he was inspired to do by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, and after having proved by the most unanswerable testimony, that this was in fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures, and especially of the prophecy of Joel, and having charge upon the Jews the crucifixion of the Son of God, and that they had done it with wicked hands, he asserted also the resurrection of Christ, and that what they then witnessed was in evidence that Christ was risen and exalted at the right hand of God, and that he having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he had shed forth this which they saw and heard. Then addressing himself to the house of Israel, proclaimed the triumph of the Redeemer, saying, “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” These were the people addressed, and they who heard; and this was what they heard.

“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart.” Men may be wounded, and survive their wounds, but no man, ever pricked in his heart, could recover from the wound. On another occasion some were cut to the heart, and it only made them gnash with their teeth. But when God had poured out his Spirit, quickened their ears, and pricked them in their heart, they cried out, or said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Here was a change wrought in them; before they were thus pricked in their heart, they mocked and slandered the apostles, but now the Holy Spirit had operated effectually, not only ON but IN their heart, sin revived, and they died; that is to their legal hopes they stood convicted of murder, of sacrilege, and of having wickedly and maliciously crucified the Lord of glory. Every filthy rag of their selfrighteousness was effectually stripped off, and their lost and helpless condition was felt and confessed. But although quickened by a spirit that they were strangers to until that hour, they did not know how deliverance could reach their case unless it were by their doing something; and what that something was, or by what power they could perform it, they knew not, and hence the earnest inquiry, “What shall we do?”

Let our querist here observe that those guilt-stricken, heart-pricked sinners, were at this very moment of their anxious inquiry subjects of the quickening power of the Holy Ghost, and that their being quickened was the reason that they were thus affected by what they heard the apostles preach. It was not the preaching that had quickened them, and stopped their mocking, and impelled the heartbroken cry, “What shall we do?” but it was the outpouring of the Spirit and the power of the Holy Ghost that had circumcised their ears and hearts, and prepared the apostles to preach, and them to hear, and feel, and tremble at the word which was declared unto them. This had disarmed them of their rage and malice against the apostles and their doctrine, and brought them down at the feet of the apostles as humble inquirers after the way of life and salvation through the crucified, risen and exalted Redeemer. If the preaching could of itself have quickened them, it would have also quickened all who heard the sound of the apostles’ voices; but such was not the case. The exalted Jesus has himself declared, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words which I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.” As he only hath immortality, he only can speak life to the dead. The dead shall hear the voice of (not simply the apostles’ or preachers’ but of) the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. I give, says Jesus, unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. No man cometh unto the Father but by him. Now these quickened sinners require living bread, as new born babes they desire the sincere milk of the word that they may grow thereby, and Peter is already commissioned and qualified to feed these lambs. They bleat for living, spiritual food, for the spirit of life which has entered their heart has given them an appetite: “What shall we do?” Peter now deals out the children’s food, not to dogs, but to new born babes. “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you,” &c. Neither repentance nor baptism precedes life, but both follow as the genuine effects of life. If Peter had regarded repentance and baptism as conditions on which life was to be offered, he would not have confined his words to those whom the Lord our God had called, and whose hearts were pricked. But in this case he makes the exclusive application of his words to “every one of you,” and gives us the reason of this special and exclusive application, “For,” says he, “the promise is unto you, and unto your children, and unto all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” What promise? The promise of the outpouring of the Spirit, and its life-inspiring effects, as in Peter’s text, in the prophecy of Joel, and the promise of repentance and remission of sins, for the giving of which the crucified and risen Savior is exalted to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance unto Israel and the remission of sins.

All descriptions of Arminians and workmongers seem to regard repentance as a something preceding spiritual life, and exacted as a condition of salvation, but the Scriptures assure us that it is the gift of God, and that it is a sense of the goodness of God entertained by quickened sinners that leads them to repentance; a vital principle in them leading them to a godly sorrow, which worketh repentance unto life, which needeth not to be repented of. The repentance enjoined on these converts at Pentecost, was that they should renounce Judaism, confess their sins, and rely alone on the risen Redeemer for salvation, to take his yoke, own his name, obey his commands, follow him as their leader, and honor him as their God and Savior.

And with the presentation of these fruits meet for repentance, they were to be baptized, not to put away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience; not to procure remission of sins, but as an ordinance in which is set forth figuratively the washing away of our sins, our death to the law, our burial from the elements of this world, and our resurrection to newness of life.

“And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” Over that generation awful judgments were impending, according to what Christ taught his disciples. (Matt. xxiii., xxiv. and xxv.) And the repentance of baptism enjoined on these disciples would effectually disconnect them from that generation and from the temporal judgments which was to be executed on Jerusalem before that generation should pass away.

“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls; and they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship,” &c. They were in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship before they were baptized, or they could not have continued steadfastly in it, for if baptism had initiated them into their doctrine and fellowship, it would not be mentioned as a continuance, but as an entrance into it.

We have thus stated some of our “notions.” As to “our best,” we always try to do as well as we can in giving our views on the Scriptures. We have made no extraordinary efforts, but such views or “notions” as we have, we have presented candidly, and if A. G. C. is benefited by what we have written, or if it shall prove edifying to any of the lambs of the Redeemer’s flock, we shall have great cause to rejoice and be thankful.

Middletown, N. Y.
October 15, 1858.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 144 - 149