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THE NECESSITY OF DIVINE GRACE TO MAKE THE WORD
Acts xi. 20, 21.
And some of them were men of Cyprus, and Cyrene,
which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them ; and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
salvation of sinners is, that they may be to the praise of the glory of his grace, Eph. i. 6. All the causes and means of salvation work together for this good and glorious end. The Son of God, who is the chief gift of his grace, and the foundation of all grace, is be that quickens us; and we are said to be quick. ened with him, " that in the ages to come God might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards us, through Christ Jesus,” Eph. ii. 7. i.e. the kindness of the Father in giving his Son for us. The Spirit of God is called the spirit of grace; and it is given to make us know God's grace, and to THẾ NECESSITY OF DIVINE GRACE, &c. 173 make us partakers of it. The law of God entered, that sin might abound, that we might know the abounding of sin ; and the end of this knowledge is, that grace might much more abound. The gospel is called the gospel of the grace of God; the end of it is, " that as sin hath reigned unto death, so grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life.” The gospel offers salvation through faith ; and it is of faith, that it might be of grace. For further advancing the same end it is, that faith is “ not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.” Faith comes by the word of God, as we are told, Rom. x.; and the word of God is designed to publish the unsearchable riches of God's grace. The way and manner in which it is published is also designed for advancing that glorious end. That treasure is committed to earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power, i. e. of the power of God's grace, may appear. Nor can any run a greater risk, than an earthen vessel that shall endeavour to frustrate that grace of God, or to make it of no effect. If an apostle, or an angel, should attempt such a thing, there is a repeated curse pronounced against him. And no wonder : for certain it is, if any
* Preached in the North West Church of Glasgow, Jan. 6. 1723, the Sabbath after Mr Maclaurin was admitted as Minister of that church,
frustrate the grace of God, he loves not the Lord Christ in sincerity; and whoever loves not the Lord Christ, there is a strange curse, in a strange language, pronounced against him, Anathema maranatha, accursed till the Lord come, till be come again to do justice on them for despised merey, and refused grace, and to put it out of their power to despise it any more. All God's works, and all his designs, are glorious and honourable, done in truth and uprightness. The design of advancing the glory of his grace must be, in an eminent manner, a glorious design, when he who is perfect in knowledge, and whose understanding is infinite, and a most just God, bestows so much pains upon it. When God is so jealous of the glory of his grace, it becomes us to be so likewise:
We are under the strongest obligations in this matter to be
followers of God as dear children. Particularly, in dispensing or attending on the ordinances of the gospel, in order to get benefit by them, it is necessary that we design the same end in making that use of them that God designed in appointing them, that the name of the Lord Christ may be glorified in us, and we in him, according to the grace of God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thess. i. 12. On this account it is very needful for us to have lively imprassions of these two great principles : First, That the knowledge of Christ Jesus, the doctrine of God's grace, is the means of turning our souls to God, and of cleansing us from our filthiness and our idols; and then, 2dly, That though that doctrine be an excellent means of turning us to God, that it is but a means, that it is but an instrument, that the efficacy of it de pends upon the manitestation of that power of God, ihat exceeding greatness of his power that raiseth souls from the dead. It is necessary for us to have a due esteem indeed of the planting and watering by the word; but at the same time, that though Paul should plant, and Apollos water, that it is God only that can give the increase; and that, on the other hand, though earthen vessels, incomparably inferior to those great master-builders, plant and water; yet if it be the same word that is preached, that the same power can make it as effectual as though the greatest instruments were employed in it. This is the way to have a right esteem both of God's power, and of his word, to consider his power as the cause of turn. ing us to God, and his word as the instrument. Both these truths are joined together in the words we have read, and that in a manner proper to be considered at this occasion. At all times indeed, we ought to remember the power of God, the power of his grace. We ought to consider his power as oft as we consider his word ; and we ought to meditate upon that day and night. It is a part of blessedness to be so employed. But in a special manner, such an occasion as this, when a congregation receives a pastor for dispensing the ordinances of the gospel constantly among them, is suitable for considering, not only the end of those ordinances, but the power of Christ, the cause whence all their efficacy flows. We are told, Col i. 6. that the gospel brings forth fruit, when men know the grace of God in truth ; which shews, that the acknowledging, in a bumble and dutiful manner, the power of God's grace, is the way to make us bring forth fruit. The consideration of this great truth is proper for directing us in the use of gospel-ordinances, and in our prayers for a blessing, for encouraging our hopes that God will give testimony to the word of his grace, and for exciting us to wait upon bim, as the
eyes of a servant wait on the hand of his master, as the eyes of a maid wait on the hand of her mistress. We are told, that it is God's word that quickens us; but we are quickened by the faith of the operation of God, that raised Christ from the dead, believing and acknowledging, that that operation is one of the principal means for working the experienee of it.
In the verses preceding the text, we have a remarkable instance, how he who is wonderful in counsel brings good out of evil. The unbelieving Jews had raised a persecution against the sect that was every where spoken against
. They designed thereby to bury that glorious light. God made their cruelty a means of spreading it further, as Joseph said to his bretbren, " They indeed thought evil; but God meant it for good, to save much people alive.” Those burning and shining lights, wherever they went, spread that glorious light themselves had received. They preached Christ to the Grecians. The Lord himself put his hand to the work, caused his glorious voice to be heard, and the lighting down of his arın to be
None can stay his hand. The success was answerable to the power that accompanied the word ; 80 remarkable, that it is left on record to future ages, “ A great number believed, and turned to the Lord.”
In the words we may distinguish these two or three things : 1. The subject matter of those mens' preaching, the Lord Jesus. 2. The power that accompanied it, the hand of the Lord. 3. The great success they had, numbers believed, and turned to the Lord.
1. We have in the words the subject matter of those mens' preaching : They preached the Lord Jesus ; that is, as it is expressed in the former chapter, preached peace by Jesus; and that he is Lord of all. We are told, Mat. i. the reason of the name Jesus is, he was to save his people from their sins. We are taught frequently to consider the reason of the name; the name of a deliverer ought to be a sweet and a desirable name to them that are in distress and
Jesus is a deliverer ; the deliverance he works is a deliverance from sin. He is called our Lord, because he is our King, a King that gives good laws; not only good laws, but good hearts to obey them, good inclinations to keep them. Preaching the Lord Jesus, is to preach the Son of God as our Lord, and as our Saviour ; a Saviour that deliversfrom the punishment of sin, and from the power of it; that saves us from the curse of the law, and saves us from disobedience to it. His being our Lord, his making us his subjects, is a part of the salvation he works for us, saving us from other lords that had dominion over us, and making us free by his truth; bringing us to the glorious liberty of the children of God. Preaching the Christian religion is called preaching Jesus, in many other parts of the New Testament; because that Christ is not only the author of it, but the subject matter of it. Paul was determined, no doubt, to know all the word of God, to know all the Christian religion; and yet he was de. termined to know nothing else, save Christ, and him erucified; which shows, that the doctrine of Christ, and him crucified, does, in effect, contain all that knowledge that is necessary for salvation.
2. We have an account of the power that accom