You're here: » Articles Home » Benjamin Franklin » New Testament Example Of Conversion

New Testament Example Of Conversion

By Benjamin Franklin

      COMMENCING Acts viii:26, a report is found of the conversion of the distinguished officer of state, the treasurer of Queen Candace. The title given to this book, in the common version of the New Testament, is incorrect. It is not the Acts of the apostles, but only some acts, or transactions, of some apostles. Even "Acts of Apostles" imparts but feebly what is contained in it. This book is a history, by Luke, an evangelist of the Christ, of the election of Matthias to supply the vacancy occasioned by the apostasy and fall of Judas; the descent of the Holy Spirit; the endowment of the apostles with supernatural power, to guide them into all truth, in performing the great work of their mission; the first preaching, conversions, founding churches, setting them in order, visiting and encouraging them. In this book are found brief reports of preaching of apostles and first evangelists; and, from these reports, in a goodly degree, we were to learn what was preached, and how to preach.

      When these reports are taken together and summed up, the amount of apostolic preaching is found in them. The length and breadth, the height and depth, of what is found here is what is to be preached now to convert and save sinners. To these reports the man who wants to know what to preach and how to preach must go. To these reports the man who wants to know what the apostles preached and how they preached must go. To these reports of apostolic and evangelical preaching, conversions under that preaching, must men go to learn how men and women were converted. Here must they go to ascertain precisely what was preached to sinners, what effect it had on them, what they believed, what they were commanded to do, what it was to be done for, and what the Lord would do for them.

      Here is the divine pattern for all preaching, in matter and manner, the pattern of all conversions, the example that occurred under the eyes of the apostles, with their direction and sanction. The preacher who is free, and has no purpose only to preach the Gospel precisely as it was preached at the first, and maintain it, will examine all the preaching reported in Acts, in all its parts, and maintain it. He does not have to inquire what this man or that man says, but continually inquires what the Lord says, what the apostles say, and what they did. With him that is authority. The examples, of which he finds record in Acts of Apostles, are divine precedents with him. Every item he finds here he treasures up. What was preached once must be preached all the time. What men and women believed at that time, and in one instance, must be believed in every instance and at any other time. What they had to do in any one instance to become Christians had to be done in all instances.

      The preacher bound up in some human system, so that he can not plant himself on the Lord's commission to his apostles, and follow the apostles as they went forth under that commission, learn and re-preach precisely what they preached, and who can not, when sinners inquire "What shall we do?" give the precise answer given by the apostles when the same question was propounded to them, in the same words, is not a free man, but is in spiritual bondage. It is, nevertheless, a lamentable truth, that a large proportion of the religious teachers of these times are thus bound up.

      There is but one body of people in this country among whom the preacher of the Gospel can stand up boldly, plant himself squarely on the commission which the Lord gave to the apostles, declare openly and independently that he will follow the apostles and preach precisely what they preached in all things--that men and women must now believe precisely what persons believed in the time of the apostles, do the same things and for the same purpose, in order to become Christians or to be saved, and when they come to the question "What shall we do?" give the answer in the precise words of the apostle. How a man must feel straightened when he preaches to sinners till they are penitent and cry out "What must we do?" and is so tied up and bound that he dare not give an answer to this vital question in the very words of the inspired apostle and maintain that it is right! Yet thousands of men are thus tied up in spiritual bondage, and some of these think they are considerable men and free, but they never knew what it was to draw one free and spiritual breath.

      In all kindness and with the utmost good feeling, permit an example or two to be introduced. Let a Baptist preacher take for his text the last commission given to the apostles, and tell his audience that he will, by the blessing of God, follow the apostles as they proceeded under that commission. Suppose him to follow up to the sermon of Peter on Pentecost, proceed honestly and faithfully to present every thing contained in the discourse of Peter, and, at the close, some in his audience cry out "What shall we do?" and he honestly and fairly proceeds, in the very language of the inspired apostle, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Suppose he would thus proceed on through Acts and present what was preached in every case, and the inspired answer, how long would he be received as a sound Baptist preacher? Not a month. The same is true in the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, and every other church, except the one before alluded to. That "one body," "the body of Christ," requires a man to plant himself on our Lord's commission, follow the apostles, preach precisely what the apostles preached, and nothing else. When sinners inquire what they shall do, that body requires the precise words in answer to that inquiry to be given, and nothing else. It requires the "right way of the Lord" to be set forth, and no other, and requires the converts to walk in it.

      It is delightful to stand in the "one body," looking to the one great Head of the Church, then, with no human system in the way, nor fear of man, when about to give the example reported, commencing Acts viii:26. The points to be considered in the investigation of this case are the following:

      1. What did the angel of the Lord do in the case?
      2. What did the Holy Spirit do in the case?
      3. What did the preacher of Jesus do?
      4. What did the officer do himself?
      5. What did God do for him?

      These are all plain matters of inquiry, and the young men and women should be able to explain them to the children in the Sunday-school, as parents should to their children at home. But several things should be observed before proceeding with the examination, such as the following: If there shall be any thing found in this case, on careful examination, not agreeing with any man's views or practice now, no one here is to blame for it. This case occurred before any one of this generation came into the world. Any one, then, differing from what is found in this case, must make his objection to the record made by Luke, or to the manner in which Philip the evangelist transacted his part, and not to any one now living. The case is taken, in this discourse, as it is found on the sacred record, and assumed to be right. Therefore, no effort is here made to prove any part of the transaction to be right, but the case is taken as an authoritative example, so far as the conversion is concerned.

      1. What did the angel of the Lord do? He did not directly do any thing to the man to be converted. He did not go to the man to be converted, nor did he preach to him the Gospel; nor yet did he appear to him in a dream, a voice, some mysterious sight or sound. What, then? Why not go to him and preach the Gospel? The Lord did not call nor send angels to preach the Gospel, but committed that work to men. He ordained that men should be instrumental in saving men.

      The angel went to the preacher--to Philip, an evangelist--and had but a brief message for him. He simply said to him, "Rise, and go toward the south, to the way that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is desert." This was the sum of the angel's mission in the case, so far as the record informs us. There is, too, something beautiful in the simple-hearted obedience of this ancient preacher. There were several points which preachers generally want some light on, left entirely in the dark, after the angel had delivered his entire message. Such points as the following would occupy the mind of most preachers to some extent: Why send me down a way that is desert? Why not send me to some populous town, large city, and into the midst of the people?

      Then, there was no light on another subject that sometimes comes into the minds of preachers. There was no light about the pay, who will foot the bill, pay the expenses of the tour, and the laborer for work done. On these points there was no light. Then there was no instruction what was to be done down that way. The Lord assumes absolute authority over His servant, and orders him to the spot where He has use for him, without informing him what he is to do. The servant of the Lord has to take it for granted that his Master understands His business, will order him to the right place, and find the work for him.

      He, therefore, gives him the order to go. There is no intimation of his hesitating a moment asking a question, or, in any way, taking any concern on himself about what was to be done, or the consequences. "He rose and went." This is an example of most implicit obedience on the part of the preacher. This ends all the angel had to do with the matter. When his work was done, the man to be converted was not touched. Not an impression is made on him. He put the preacher in the way leading to the work to be done.

      2. What did the Spirit do? He did not enter the man to be converted, go to him, preach to him, immediately impress him, change his heart, or convert him. He did not impress the man to be converted in a dream, in a strange noise or sight. Immediately, he did nothing to him in the way of regenerating him, or any thing of the kind. What, then, was his part of the work? As the officer approaches in his chariot, reading the prophetic Scriptures--the preacher, up to this point, not knowing that he is to have any thing to do with the officer, or that he had reached his divinely-intended work--the Spirit of the Lord said to Philip, "Join yourself to this chariot."

      This was an influence of the Spirit not easily mistaken. It was in open day. It was not an intangible and unintelligible operation that took effect in the flesh, and reached the understanding through the sense of feeling, but an intelligible utterance, in clear words, distinctly heard, understood, remembered, reported, and incorporated in Luke's narrative, entitled Acts of Apostles. It impressed him that he should join the chariot, or, in modern style, made him feel like joining the chariot; but the feeling came from the knowledge of the requirement to join the chariot, but the knowledge of the requirement did not come from the feeling. The requirement came to the understanding embodied in intelligible words, and the feeling followed, resulting from the knowledge.

      This was the part directly performed by the Spirit, not on the man to be converted, but in bringing his conversion about. His part of the work was like that of the angel, not in changing the officer's heart, taking away his sins, or preaching the Gospel to him, but in bringing the man, whom the Lord had sent to preach to him, in contact with him. This the Spirit did by words.

      3. What did the preacher do? Before this matter is attended to, a curiosity, a strange thing demands attention. An officer of state, in great authority, having charge of the treasure of the Queen Candace, as he journeys, is seen reading the Scriptures. Though this occurred eighteen centuries back, it has novelty about it to any one of our time. What! you are ready to inquire, an officer of state, of immense power and distinction, reading the Scriptures? That is not the kind of reading indulged in by officers of state now. They glance over the political news, then pass over some cunningly devised and artfully-conceived tale of law, of disappointment or triumph, of achievement or failure. True, there are some honorable exceptions, but they are the exceptions, not the rule. This man was not only reading the Scriptures, but the most appropriate scripture in the holy volume for him, the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. Shall it be said that he was accidentally reading the scripture, or was it not providential? At any rate, he was reading the following most graphic prophetic description:

      "Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was on him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before the shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand."

      This wonderful description, written seven hundred and fifty years before its fulfillment, is almost as graphic and full as the historical account of the same matters given by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. As Philip approached him and found him reading this prophecy, he said to him, "Do you understand what you are reading?" He replied, "How can I understand unless some man guide me?" He invited the preacher to a seat with him, which was accepted, and the chariot moved on.

      This preacher was emphatically a Gospel preacher. Had he been of the type of some, getting into company, with a distinguished officer of state, he would have taken the opportunity to have shown that he, too, was posted and deeply interested in matters of state, and they would have had a fine discussion of the civil affairs of the world. The officer would have seen that the preacher was more under the influence of the flesh than of the Spirit. But the preacher sent of God was not of that kind. He was a preacher of Jesus, and his soul was full of love to God and to his race. He had a divine mission, loved it, and did not forget it when an opportunity was afforded to do the work of his Divine Master. He immediately proceeded with his grand work without waiting for meeting-house, pulpit, or a great audience; nor did he wait to prepare a sermon, to write it out, or read it, but "begun at the same scripture, and preached to him Jesus." He did not preach to him his opinion about Jesus, his views about Jesus, or the views of his brethren, but preached to him Jesus. How was that done? It was done as Moses was read. Reading Moses was reading the writings or the law of Moses. Preaching Jesus is preaching the Gospel, or the good news of Jesus. It is not preaching some man's opinion of the Gospel, nor proving some man's opinion by the Gospel, or some creed, doctrine, or commandment of men, nor preaching about the Gospel, but preaching the Gospel itself--nothing else. It is complete in itself, the thing to be preached, the wisdom of God and the power of God.

      This was the theme the preacher had in his heart, and the theme that dwelt on his lips, as he discoursed to the officer of the Queen Candace. He opened and begun at the scripture the officer was reading, and showed him, no doubt, that the language of the prophet referred to had its fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth, and the transactions connected with his trial and crucifixion recently in Jerusalem. He had no modern doctrines to preach or prove. All he had to do was to bring his Lord before the officer and convince him that He was the promised Messiah--that He had come and fulfilled the prediction of the prophet. This work he did.

      4. What did the officer do? He did not say he could not do any thing, nor did the preacher tell him that he could do nothing. The only way to ascertain correctly all about it is to follow the record carefully. The historian says:

      "As they went on their way, they came to a certain water: and the officer said, 'See, here is water; what hinders my being immersed?'"

      This is an important inquiry. It opens the way for looking round in many directions. No man of intelligence can avoid thinking what would have been the reply if some preacher of the present time had been there instead of Philip. One sort would have brought him before a church to tell an experience, and give evidence that his sins were pardoned and he had obtained a hope, before he could have been immersed. Another class would have proposed to put him on six months' trial, and, if he proved faithful and "got religion," he could then be "baptized by immersion" if he desired it. But the unsophisticated Philip knew no such supplements, amendments, or improvements on the Lord's method of justification, but proceeded in a way divinely adapted to man, saying, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." When the officer heard this, without hesitation, he told Philip what he believed. Said he, "I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." Do you say "It is a great matter to believe with all the heart." It certainly is, and no other kind of belief is of any value. "I thought you made a bare assent of the mind, faith, and all the faith required," says one. In that you have been misled by misrepresentations and false statements. No man of intelligence ever taught that the Lord would receive any person to the ordinance of immersion, or to himself in any way, on the bare assent of the mind. The requirement of the Lord is to believe with all the heart. But what is the meaning of that? It is the cordial, free, full, and cheerful assent to the grand proposition, that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." It is like this:

      You are in distress. A small amount of money will relieve you. You see two men of your acquaintance standing together, and apply to one, asking for the amount required to relieve you. He listens to you, is slow to answer, and finally, but evidently reluctantly, replies, "I suppose I can let you have the amount." You see that it is not free, cordial, nor cheerful--that he would rather not do it, and that if another ounce were on the other end of the scale, he would not. That is the bare assent of the mind--no more. But the other man advances toward you, with an earnest look, and says, "Sir, I will let you have the amount you need with all my heart."

      Who can fail to see the difference? It is no bare assent of the mind in this latter case, but a cordial, free, and cheerful thing. He enters into the act with his heart. It does him good to do it.

      How can there be an intelligent human being who can not, on becoming acquainted with the evidence, cordially, most freely and cheerfully, or, which is the same, with the whole heart or affections, believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? We are in a world of uncertainty, and liable in a single moment to be hurried out of it. Jesus is the soul of the Bible, the center, the grand embodiment of It. On Him it all rests. To deny Him is to deny it all. He is the light of the world, the way, the truth, and the life. Set Him aside, and not one ray of light penetrates beyond the grave. All your friends who passed away from this world are covered in eternal darkness. When you shall sink into the grave, eternal night will brood over you. Not one ray of light have you, if you reject Jesus, in reference to all that have died. They have gone into an eternal oblivion. Well may you, then, with all your heart or affections, press the faith of Christ to your soul. "If you believe with all your heart, you may." "I believe," replied the officer, "that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." On this grand fundamental and sublime statement the man of God received him to the obedience of the faith.

      The historian says, "He commanded the chariot to stand still; and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the officer; and he immersed him." Owing to the captious, perverted, and caviling spirit of these times, some things must be noticed here that would not, under other circumstances, demand any attention. Some men, whose business it appears to be to darken counsel, instead of opening the way for the clear light to shine, and who yet claim to be called and sent to preach, have, in numerous instances, said that they could not tell from this history which one baptized the other.

      To this it may be replied, that if any man has so little mind that he can not tell, after making an honest trial, which one baptized the other, he is simply not a subject of religion. Preaching can not do him any good. If any one who can easily see which immersed the other, still tries to blind the weak and ignorant, by saying he can not tell, he is too insincere and uncandid to have any thing to do with any appointment of God. When one man inquires what hinders that he may not be immersed, and another informs him of the terms on which he may be immersed, and the history explains that the terms were complied with on his part, and "he immersed him," and a man persists in saying that he can not tell which one immersed the other, it is useless to waste time in talking with him. A man must have in him a good and honest heart before he hears the word. The officer inquired, "What hinders that I may not be immersed?" Philip says, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." He answers, "I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." Giving the attending circumstances, the history says "and he immersed him." There is no such thing as misunderstanding which one immersed the other.

      But now attention must be given to the circumstances attending the case, and the peculiarity of the narrative. There is something very peculiar in this little piece of history. The Divine Spirit of all wisdom and all revelation appears to have looked down through eighteen long centuries and seen the little cavilers and caviling of these times, and to have employed such a class of terms and so arranged them as to leave no possible room for mistake. Open your book and look at the passage:

      "And they came to a certain water." Where does that place them? "To a certain water," or "unto" it, as it is in the common version, is at the water, to the edge of the water. What followed after they were to the water, or at it? The history proceeds:

      "They went down." In giving a common history, this word "down," is not strictly necessary, for they could not have gone into the water without going down. Who went down? "Both Philip and the officer." In a simple narrative the word "both" is not necessary. The word "they," used just before it, included both. But after this apparent redundancy, to be still more descriptive, and to put caviling out of the question, he adds the words "Philip and the officer."

      Why all this particularity? Evidently to put honest misunderstanding out of the question entirely. They came to the water first, then went down into the water. Does some one say, that "into" only means to or at the water? That can not be, for they had already come to the water, and were at it, after which they went. Went where, after they were to the water, or at it? "They both went down into the water." They were already at the water; to it before they advanced beyond that point, or "both went down into the water." This placed them in advance of where they were--at the water or to it--which advanced position was "down into the water." They were now in the right position for the performance of the act which the Lord commanded.

      The commandment was not obeyed when they had gone "down into the water." What they had gone through was preliminary and necessary to the performance of the act commanded. Some little things must be noticed here, seeing that little men sometimes darken counsel with them.

      1. It has been said that there was no water of consequence there--not more than a quart or two at the outside. How this precise information is obtained can not be explained here. But one thing is certain, and that is, that Luke's statement is true, that "they both went down into the water;" but they did not both go down into a bowl, cup, a quart, or a gallon of water, nor do sensible people think they did. This needs no argument.

      2. "But there was no water in the desert." That can not be, for they came to "a certain water." The man who does not believe the narrative needs no baptism, nor is he a fit subject for baptism. It is faith that he needs. He must become a believer before he has any thing to do with baptism. The atlases teach falsely if there is no water there, for they were in the course of a stream of water more than a hundred miles in length, including its windings. Do you say, "It was a water that went dry at some seasons of the year?" No matter if it was. It was not dry at the time the event in question occurred; or they could not have gone "down into the water," nor "come up out of the water," as the history says they did if there had been no water there.

      3. "But the apostles could not have immersed three thousand in one day," says an objector. What is to be argued from that? The assumptions run as follows:

      A. That none but preachers could have immersed. This can not be proved, but stands as an unsupported assumption, and can not be reasoned from as a settled matter. B. There were no preachers present but the apostles. This is another unsupported assumption for which there is no proof. A short time before this the Lord had sent out seventy preachers besides the apostles. It is not in argument to be assumed that none of these were present on Pentecost, and reasoned from as a settled point. C. It is assumed that the apostles could not have immersed the three thousand in the given time. This assumption not only can not be proved, but can be clearly demonstrated to be false. The apostles alone could have immersed the whole three thousand in three hours. D. It is, then, assumed that, as immersion was impossible, the three thousand must have been sprinkled. But this by no means follows. There is no sprinkling in all this. The only thing attempted is to find something opposed to immersion. That is not done; but if it were, there would be nothing in it for sprinkling. There is nothing in all that about sprinkling at all. Sprinkling is entirely out of the question. Independently of all that, sprinkling must be found and proved. There is not one word about sprinkling for baptism in the Bible, or in any thing written in the first three centuries.

      What was the precise thing done while Philip and the officer were both in the water? In the common version it says "He baptized him." What does that mean? It does not say, he baptized water on him. It is a noticeable thing that we never read of baptizing water. The element used in baptizing is not the subject of the action, no matter whether it be water, fire, sufferings, or Spirit. We never read of baptizing water, Spirit, fire, or sufferings on any person or thing. Where water is the element, and sprinkling is the action, the water is sprinkled on the subject. The same is true where pouring is the action. The Spirit was poured out, but not baptized. The persons were baptized, but not "poured out." Philip did not pour him out, but "baptized him."

      Some modern teachers of religion, who draw more on their imaginations than on the authority of Scripture, have discovered, or thought they discovered, that the officer got the idea of being baptized from the expression "so shall he sprinkle many nations," in the last verse of the chapter preceding the one which he was reading. True, in the common version of the Old Testament we find the word "sprinkle," but the officer was not reading the common version, but, in all probability, the Greek Septuagint, which does not contain the Greek word for sprinkle in the passage, nor any word meaning sprinkle, nor is there any thing about baptism in the passage in any translation or the original. It is simply "He shall astonish many nations." There is nothing about sprinkling or baptizing in the passage. The officer did not, therefore, find baptism in this reading, unless he found it where it was not, like our modern divines. He learned, in one of two ways, that he must be baptized.

      1. He may have learned while in Jerusalem that all who became Christians were baptized.

      2. In preaching Jesus, or the Gospel of Jesus, Philip may have preached it to him. No matter in which of these ways he learned it, the information was right.

      We find, now, that he went down into the water, and, after the act in question, "they came up out of the water." What, then, did he do to him when "he baptized him?" This question can not be examined here carefully, but a few things may be set forth in a few words. There would have been no difficulty here had not the word "baptize" been left untranslated. It is a Greek word, and when it is correctly translated, the thing done is so clearly set forth that no one can misunderstand. It is simply, "he immersed him." There is no misunderstanding that. But the mere English reader is ready to say "How shall I know that your statement is correct?" By the following:

      1. All admit that "baptize" is a Greek word.

      2. There is no translation, no matter by whom made, in which it is rendered sprinkle or pour.

      3. No scholar maintains that baptize should be translated sprinkle or pour.

      4. No lexicon in common use defines baptize to mean sprinkle or pour.

      5. There is not a trace of sprinkling or pouring for baptism in any thing written in the first two centuries, in the Bible or any other book.

      6. There is not a more clearly established fact in history than that immersion was invariably practiced for the initiatory rite during the first two centuries.

      7. There is not a more clearly established fact in history than that, after sprinkling or pouring came into use in case of weakness or sickness, that it was not regarded as regular baptism; but the subjects of it were not permitted to hold any office in the church.

      8. The change from immersion to sprinkling or pouring is clearly admitted in all the authorities of any note.

      9. Immersion was invariably practiced by all Christians, except the cases of weakness already alluded to, for the first thirteen hundred years.

      10. Luther, Calvin, and Wesley admit that immersion was the original practice. The Romish and Greek Churches admit this.

      11. The Greek Church, which has always spoken the Greek language, has immersed from its origin.

      12. It makes sense to read immerse for baptize in every instance where it occurs. It does not make sense to read sprinkle or pour.

      13. The figurative allusions to baptism, such as "buried with him in baptism," "born of water," "planted together in the likeness of his death," are admitted by all the authorities of any note to refer to the original rite--immersion.

      14. Changes from the appointments of God are seldom from the easier to the more difficult, but are almost invariably from the more difficult and unpleasant to that which is easy and pleasant.

      15. It is a notorious matter of fact, that but few if any who have been immersed, on a confession of their faith in Christ, ever doubt the validity of their baptism. Those who have received sprinkling for baptism frequently doubt the validity of their baptism, and can not rest till they are immersed.

      16. Persons in their last and most solemn moments, in the immediate expectation of death, frequently distrust the validity of their sprinkling or pouring for baptism, but no one has ever been known to distrust the validity of immersion, even in the midst of the solemnities of the approach of death.

      There is, therefore, no doubt that when they were in the water he immersed him. This is precisely what was done, and this is precisely what the Lord commands to be done now. "Repent and be immersed every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ," is the commandment.

      What has appeared in the investigation may now be recapitulated, as follows:

      1. The part of the work performed by the angel, in bringing about the conversion of the nobleman, was to send the preacher down the way leading from Jerusalem to Gaza.

      2. The part of the work performed by the Spirit was to command the preacher to join himself to the chariot.

      3 The part of the work performed by the preacher was to preach Jesus to the officer and immerse him.

      4. The part performed by the officer was to hear the preaching, believe it, and yield himself to the Lord.

      The repentance is not mentioned, but was unquestionably in its place, as he could not have believed "with all the heart" without the repentance. Repentance is present in every case. Not a man ever turns to the Lord without repentance.

      5. The fifth and last part to be considered in this discourse, is what the Lord did for him. This part, like repentance, is not mentioned in Luke's account, but no one must infer from that circumstance that that part of the work was omitted, or that the Lord did nothing for him. From other parts of the holy record it is clearly seen what the parts already found were in order to. He had heard, believed, repented, confessed, and been immersed. He passed through this process in order to justification or pardon. The Lord says, in the great commission, "He who believes and is immersed, shall be saved." This he had done, and thus came to the promise--"shall be saved," or pardoned. In accordance with the promise the Lord granted pardon. This was not something done in him, but in heaven for him. It was an act of God performed in heaven which freed him from all his past sins. This was one thing done by the Lord for him--saved him from his sins.

      Another thing done for him was the impartation of the Holy Spirit. The Lord imparted to him the Spirit. This is omitted in the history. It is clearly shown to be the case from other Scriptures. The Gospel opened out with the assurance that the Holy Spirit was imparted as widely as pardon was granted: "Repent and be immersed every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." This promise stands connected with pardon at the opening of the kingdom, and extends to all who receive remission of sins. This promise was, in his case, as in all other cases, fulfilled when he yielded to the Gospel of the grace of God. He received the Holy Spirit.

      What is the last that is seen of him in the sacred record? It is that "he went on his way rejoicing." What was the ground of his joy? Surely there was great reason for joy. When Philip met him, he did not know of whom the prophet was speaking in the scripture he was reading, though the prophet was pointing to the Savior of the world, his humiliation, His pouring out His soul even to death, and making His soul an offering for sin. Now he has the matter explained to him, that the prophet was speaking of the Messiah; that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah; that all that was described by the prophet was fulfilled in him. He believes with all the heart that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, has repented, confessed his faith, and been immersed into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. He has thus been adopted into the new-born family, received a full, free, and gracious pardon of all past sins, and received the spirit of adoption, whereby he can call God his Father.

      Instead of the mazes in which he was before Philip preached to him, when he did not know of whom the prophet was speaking--whether of himself or some other man--he now has the clear understanding that he was speaking of the Messiah, of whom all the prophets spoke, who had now come in accordance with the prophecies, lived the life assigned Him, died the death, risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, and been crowned Lord of all; that He had sent the Holy Spirit, inspired the apostles, enabled them to preach the Gospel, founded the kingdom or Church, opened the door, and introduced many thousands into the new and living way--nay, more, that he had received this faith himself, been translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son, made an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ.

      For the first time in his life, he saw that all the light of prophecy had culminated in the Messiah, and that the way to the Father was not only opened, but that he had entered by that way, and was not now simply a son of Abraham according to the flesh, but a son by faith, an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ. His sins are to be remembered no more forever. The Spirit of God has now been imparted to him to dwell with him forever. "He went on his way rejoicing," as he had great reason to do, and, no doubt, carried the joyful tidings to his own country.

      May we expect all these parts connected with every conversion now? So far as related to what the officer heard, believed, and did, and what the Lord did directly for him, all may be expected now. No man need wait for an angel to appear to a preacher now, and tell him which road to go to find him and preach to him. This part of the case transpired in the incipient period--the creative period--in which the supernatural was necessary in founding, unfolding, and confirming the new institution. So far as the work of the angel was concerned, it was miraculous, and forms no precedent for any other conversion. It may not be expected, nor necessary, that an angel of the Lord should appear to a preacher and guide him to every man to be converted. So, the Spirit of the Lord speaking to Philip, and commanding him to join himself to the chariot, was miraculous, and not a precedent for every case. The preacher need not now expect to hear the Spirit say, "Join yourself to this chariot." That was a special act for a special case, in the age of miracles, and not a precedent in the general law for all cases. But the hearing the Gospel, or being in some way brought to know it, believe it, repent, confess the faith, and be immersed into the name the the and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit--the remission of sins, and the impartation of the Holy Spirit, belong to all cases of conversion alike. Not one of these items can be omitted in any case. They are not each one mentioned, in every case, in the holy record. But while every item mentioned in any one case really exists in every case, whether mentioned or not, no item can ever be omitted mentioned in any one case.

      For instance, in the reference to the commission made by Mark, he does not give repentance. He says, "He who believes and is immersed shall be saved." But that does not prove that repentance can be omitted, in any case, in the justification of the sinner. In the words of Paul to the jailer, he said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Here repentance and immersion both are omitted. That does not prove that they were left out in the case of the jailer, for he "took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes, and was immersed, he and all his, straightway." In the words of Peter, on Pentecost, faith is omitted. He said, "Repent, and be immersed every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

      You are not to assume, because faith is not mentioned in this case, that it was omitted, or that they were saved without faith. It was present in their justification and performed its regular part, as it does in every other case. The reason Peter did not command them to believe was that they already believed. He had regard to their position, and commanded them not to do what they had done, but what they had not done--to repent and be immersed. In the words "the like figure whereunto even immersion doth also now save us," neither faith nor repentance is mentioned, yet immersion is nothing to any one without faith and repentance.

      The conversion of the Ethiopia treasurer, therefore, in all that pertained strictly to it, was the same as any other conversion, aside from the work of the angel and the Spirit in guiding the preacher to and bringing him in contact with him. Apart from what the angel said and what the Spirit said to Philip, the process was the same as in every other case. The work of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, of the preacher, and of the man himself, was precisely the same as in all other cases. The case forms a divine precedent. In the examination it will be found:

      1. That he heard the same Gospel that is the power of God to salvation to every other person that believes.

      2. That he believed the same Gospel that all are required to believe in order to salvation.

      3. That he repented the same as all others.

      4. That he made the same good confession as others.

      5. That he was pardoned the same as all others who become Christians.

      6. That the Lord imparted to him the Holy Spirit the same as he did to all others on their becoming obedient to the faith.

      7. That he had the same ground for rejoicing as existed in all other cases of turning to God.

      What remained for him after his turning to the Lord, was to be faithful till death; to be true and loyal to his new and glorious Sovereign; to fight the good fight; to run the race with patience; to continue in well-doing; seek for glory, and honor, and immortality, in order to the obtaining of eternal life. The Lord is reasonable, and what He has laid down for us, in order to becoming Christians and living to his honor and glory, is clear, easy, and reasonable. If men and women are not saved, it will be their own fault. They are left without excuse, and have no cloak for their sins. Come, then, be persuaded, by all His tender mercies, His love, His goodness and compassion, by his long-suffering and forbearance, to turn and live. "He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." Come, then, to him that loved you and gave himself for you, and live forever and ever.

Back to Benjamin Franklin index.


Like This Page?

© 1999-2019, All rights reserved.