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panied their preaching the Lord Jesus: The hand of the Lord was with them. The hand of the Lord, in Scripture, signifies the power, the strength of God ; and sometimes bis favour, his powerful favour. It is his sanctifying, converting power, that is here meant; as is evident from ver. 23, where it is said of Barnabas, When he came, and had seen the gruce of God, he exhorted them ull, that with purpose of heart they would cleave to the Lord. That grace of God is invisible; its seat is in the inner man, the hidden man of the heart : but the fruits of the Spirit, as well as the fruits of the flesh, are manifest. Barnabas was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost, and could discern the fruits of the Spirit in other good
e are not to think, therefore, that the power of God bere mentioned, is only that power that was manifested in working outward miracles on mens' bodies. It was power manifested in miracles of
grace upon their souls. The expression in the text, is not the expression made use of in Scripture, describing outward miracles; and the effects ascribed to the hand of the Lord, are effects which outward miracles alone cannot produce. It was before a company, all of whom had seen outward miracles, though few of them believed, that Christ said, “ No one can come to me, unless the Father which hath sent me, draw him," John vi. 44. In other Scriptures, where we have the like expressions, there is no mention of outward miracles, but of the internal exercise of God's power on the hearts and souls of sinners; as 2 Chr. Xxx. 12. “ Also in Judah the hand of the Lord was to give them one heart to do the commandment of the King and of the princes, by the word of the Lord.” Here we see the hand of the Lord was the cause that produced that one heart; and the instru. ment by which it was produced was the word of the Lord. We have the like expressions in several parts of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. These men having been eminently assisted by God to build his church and his temple in Jerusalem, the expression
by which they signify that divine power that accompanied them, is, “ that the hand of the Lord was upon them that seek him for good.” Thus Ezra vii. 9. we have an account of the
effects of the good hand of God being upon them: “ Upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him." The effect of it was, bis heart was prepared to seek the law of the Lord. The same expression occurs frequently in the book of Nehemiah, showing it was the good hand of God upon them, that made these men ready scribes in the law of Moses, and that made them capable to teach statutes and judgments, and that inclined and enabled them to build. We are to understand the words in the text, no doubt, as signifying, that the hand of God was upon the speakers, but so as not to exclude the hearers. The band of the Lord was with the speakers, as with Jeremiah, chap. i. 9. ; where we are told, that “ the Lord put forth his hand, and touched his mouth, and said unto him, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth." And as to the hearers, the power of the Lord was present to heal them.
3. We have an account of the success that followed: A great number believed, and turned to the Lord; that is, as it is expressed, 2 Thess. i. 11, 12. God fulfilled in them all the good pleasure of his goodness, and wrought the work of faith with power, that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ mighi be glorified in them. It was given them to believe with that faith which is the gift of God; and it was a sincere faith. It could not be otherwise when the hand of the Lord wrought it. They believed with the whole heart, and turned to the Lord. Faith and repentance, as we are taught by Paul, Acts xx. are the whole counsel of God, the substance of the gospel; and they are also the effects of it, when, as at that time, the hand of the Lord accompanies it. The Lord turned them, and they were turned. It is said, that this effect was wrought on a great number. Not but that the same power is required to work it upon a few, or upon one ; as in the sermon where Lydia was a hearer, though there is none mentioned but her, yet it is said, the Lord opened her heart. There is joy in heaven, we are told, at the conversion of one sinner; much more at the conversion of a great number, And accordingly we see what joy this caused among the church of God on earth ; which is but a part of that family, of which the principal part is in heaven. It is a melancholy truth, but it is useful to consider, that, in the largest accounts of the success of the gospel, though sometimes it may be said, that many believed, yet we never read, that the whole auditory believed, and turned to the Lord, not where the apostles were preachers, not even where the Son of God himself was the preacher. The result was, some believed the things that were spoken, and some believed not; some trembled at God's word, and others mocked. But wisdom is still justified of her children and where the gospel is not the savour of life unto life, it is the savour of death unto death.
The doctrine that I design, through God's grace, to insist upon from these words, is this, That we ought to consider the power of God as the cause, and his word as the instrument, of conversion, or of mens believing, and turning to the Lord. We ought to have a high esteem of God's word, as it is the power of God to salvation ; but still to consider, that the excellency of the power is from God; that in order to its bringing forth fruit, it must come, not only in word, but also in power.
This is one of the most important truths contained in the Scriptures, and one of the truths that the carnal mind has the greatest enmity at. There is scarce any doctrine that there has been more, I shall not say opposition, but rage and fury, exercised against in all ages, though it be a doctrine that shows the greatest 'good-will of God towards man.
I. Considering our necessity, our corrupt and weak
natures, it is of the greatest usefulness for us to have the evidences of this doctrine richly dwelling in our minds. I shall mention a few.
1. The first evidence of it may be drawn from those scriptures that give us the plainest account of the causes of regeneration and sanctification ; for in those scriptures we have these truths frequently joined together, to wit, that the power of God is the cause, and that his word is the means, or the instrumenti Thus, James i. 16. we have a remarkably clear evi, dence to this purpose : ** Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." Here we see it is God that begets us again, but that the means by which this is done, is by the word of truth; that word that is called, 1 Pet. i. 23. the incorruptible seed ; " being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." One of the most obvious doctrines in the Scripture is, that sinners are born again by the Spirit of God; which we have at large John üi. Here we have an aceount of the means by which it is dune ; " born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God.” The original bears it, and many expound the following words to be understood of the word, as well as of God himself, which liveth and abideth for ever : All flesh is grass, but “ the word of the Lord endureth for ever." It is immortal seed ; and where it is once implanted by God's grace, it never dies. And we are told, 1 Pet. i. 25. what this word of the Lord is that endureth for ever : “ And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” And if God's
be the cause, and his word the means, of regeneration, it is plain, that faith bas the same cause that regeneration has. When sinners are born again, they are the children of God; and Gal. iii. 26. shows, that we are the children of God by faith : John i. 12. They that have received Christ, they that believe in his name, are they who are born, not of flesh, nor of blood, 'nor of the will of man, but of God. And the scriptures that give the plainest accounts of sanctification, express the same great principle we are speaking of, to wit, That God's power is the cause, and his word the instrument'; as in Christ's prayer, John xvii. 17. “ Sanctify them by thy truth : thy word is truth.” And Eph. v. 26. we are told, that “Christ give himself for his church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” We are said to be cleansed by the word ; which signifies, that the word is the means of cleansing. This is evident when we compare the 2d and 3d verses of John xv. In the 2d verse, it is said, “ Every branch in me that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." It is God that is the cause of purging the branches. What are the means made use of, we are told ver. 3. “ Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” Which words are parallel to those already mentioned, Eph. v. 26. “ that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” And therefore it is also the cause of true faith and turning to God; for our hearts are purified by faith. It is evident of itself, indeed, that faith cannot be wrought in our souls, without knowledge of the truths contained in the word ; for how can we believe them without knowing them ? But that is not all that is included in those scriptural assertions. It is the word of God, in reading or hearing it, that is the means in which we may expect that the Spirit will come into our souls, in order to turn us from i. dols to serve the living God, and to wait for his Son Jesus Christ, who delivered us from the wrath to
2. Another general evidence of the doctrine may be drawn from scriptures that speak of a divine power accompanying the word, beside that extraordinary manifestation of God's power by miracles in the days of the apostles. Thus, Rom. i. 15, 16. the apostle says, “ I am not ashamed of the gospel." He means more than he expresseth ; be means, that he