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they only were led by the Lord to see, and know the blessedness themselves : unto their companions, they had no art of persuasion. The servants of the most high God shew the way of salvation : but they can only shew it: and go no farther. It is God only that shall enlarge Japheth, and persuade him to dwell in the tents of Shem ! (Gen. ix. 27.)
But we must not stop here. Though the servants of the most high God have no power of persuasion ; and“ a man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven;” (1 John iii. 27.) yet they are commanded to go forth, as though all depended upon an arm of flesh, “and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark xvi. 15.). And herein, from the different effects induced under the same preaching, and by the same word, is shewn the Lord's people, from the ungodly. While to the one it proves “the savour of life unto life ; unto the other the savour of death unto death." (2 Cor. ii. 16.) Where the Lord gives spiritual life there will be spiritual apprehension ; and the hope of being sent to such encourageth the servants of the most high God. to go forth to shew the way of salvation, because they know that the Lord hath a people in the earth, to be gathered to himself, to whom He will give grace, “ to know the joyful sound.!” (Psm. lxxxix. 15.) And who shall describe the pleasing emotions of their souls, when they discover that the Lord hath sent them, hath blessed them to the souls to whom they are sent? Paul felt this, in a very high degree, and so doth every faithful servant, sent of the Lord, like Paul; when he can, and doth say: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; that our gospel came not unto
you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost: and ye became followers of us, and of the Lord.” (1 Thess. i. 246.)
Neither do we stop here. For as it is God's work,
and not man's, and in the instance of every one whom the Lord makes “ willing in the day of his power; the servants of the most high God, in shewing the way of salvation, unto the Lord's people, depend for success upon their ministry on the sovereign pleasure of God; and not their labours; the weakest instrument hath nothing to fear, nor the greatest to boast. “We have (saith the apostle) this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Cor. iv. 7.) All that are made partakers are made alike partakers in the new and spiritual life; though not all alike sensible of it. From a state of deadness, and death, in trespasses and sins, when quickened, and made new creatures in Christ Jesus, they are equally brought into this participation of “the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust! Such honour have all his saints !” (2 Pet. i. 4. Ps. cxlix 9.)
Keep these observations in view as we enter upon the subject held forth to us in the text. First; that the proof the preachers of the word give of their being servants of the most high God, is in that they shew the the way of salvation, distinguished from all subjects which have not, for their first, and ultimate object, salvation. And whatever doth not tend to humble the sinner, and exalt the Saviour, is not salvation. Secondly; That the highest and best taught servants of the most high God, can only shew salvation, not help to the accomplishment of it; can but preach it; not offer it. “For do I now (saith Paul) persuade men,or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Gal. i. 10.) If the subject was not too serious to be trifled with, one might be prompted to smile, to hear the many wooings and winnings of those who offer Christ indiscriminately to all, and call upon the sinner “dead in trespasses and sins” to quicken himself, and
believe: and concerning whom the Lord saith ; “Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake! to the dumb stone, Arise ; it shall speak !” (Habak. ii. 10.) And Thirdly; keep no less in remembrance that as creation work and renewing work is of the Lord, and not of man; and all whom the Lord quickens, into a new and spiritual life, are alike quickened; the servants of the most high God, who are distinguished as such by shewing the way of salvation, have every suited encouragement to go forth“ in the strength of the Lord, making mention of his righteousness, even of his righteousness only.” (Ps. lxxi. 16.) And knowing, that it is the Lord that worketh in them, and by them, “both to will, and to do, of his good pleasure ;" his promise is absolute, in which the Lord hath said: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth : it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please ; and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isai. lv. 10, 11.) The Lord's pleasure be so, if it be his holy will, with us now!
If with these impressions on your mind, and looking to the Lord for his blessing, you will turn to the portion of Holy Scripture from whence the words of the text are taken, I shall hope, that the present season, will be a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord !
It appears, that by a vision from the Lord to the apostle Paul bimself, and Silas his fellow-labourer in the gospel, they had been directed towards Philippi. They had assayed to go into “Bithynia ; but the Spirit suffered them not.” Here let us pause, to mark distinguishing grace. They were called by the Lord to go to Philippi, but forbidden of the Lord to go into Bithynia. And the same is now. Whence is it, that in some places the gospel is preached with the Holy Ghost “sent down from heaven;" whilst
others have not those privileges ? The Lord himself explains: “I caused it to rain upon one city : and caused it not to rain upon another.” (Amos. iv. 7.) And as it is in nature, so in grace. The Lord hath mystical showers forhis people, while allthe rest are left dry, like the fleece of Gideon. (Judges vi. 37, 38.) It should seem, that at this time, when Paul and Silas were not permitted of the Lord to go into Bithynia, there were none of the Lord's people there; for we find that about six years after, the Lord had a church there, to whom Peter sent his first Epistle. (1 Pet. i. 1.) And if there be one of the Lord's here, the Lord in his own time will find him out.
It is worthy observation also, that though the apostle had an intimation by vision from the Lord to go to Philippi, yet we are told that he and his companion were there “abiding many days," before that they had an opportunity of preaching. Speaking after the manner of men, we should have thought, that no sooner had the apostles arrived at the appointed them by the Lord, but the Lord who sent them to preach, would have sent his people to hear. Here we learn another profitable lesson : “My thoughts are not your thoughts ; neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” (Isa. Iv. 8.) “There is a set time to favour Zion.” (Ps. cii. 13.) “The vision is for an appointed time; but in the end it shall speak and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it: because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” (Hab. ii. 3.) No waiting soul, or seeking soul, should ever be discouraged when means of grace do not seem profitable. The Lord's time is the best time. The Lord is said “to wait to be gracious:” and the Lord's people are said to be “blessed in waiting for the Lord.” (Isa. xxx. 18, 19. Ps. xxvii. 13, 14.)
At length the first among the causes for which the Lord called Paul to Philippi, appeared. A poor
woman of the name of Lydia, who earned her bread by selling purple, (not a wearer of purple, 1 Cor. i. 26.) came to the spot of Paul's preaching ; she heard; she listened to what those servants of the most high God were delivering, of the way of sal-vation; and it is said, concerning her“ whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken by Paul.” Here then we behold the blessed effects, which follow, when the Lord's word, and the Lord's Spirit, work together, upon the hearts of the Lord's people. What succeeded in the after circumstances of others in Philippi, I stay not at present to notice. But the church of Christ, at this hour, hath reason to bless the Lord for sending Paul to Philippi; for we have proof of the Lord's planting his church there; and we partake in the blessedness of it from that divine epistle, which the apostle afterwards wrote by inspiration, to the church of the Philippians.
But the great enemy of souls, as now, so then, instantly takes alarm when his kingdom is in danger; a mighty opposition arose to Paul and Silas, to stop their preaching. The apostle hath stated particulars. “ It came to pass (said Paul) as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters, much gain by soothsaying. The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying; These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation." It is highly observable, how, in all ages, the faithful in Christ Jesus have been opposed in their labours. And it is yet more highly observable, how the Lord hath overruled such opposition to his glory, and his people's happiness. When Balaam, who it appears had a head knowledge of God, hired himself out for this world's gain, to curse the people of God; the Lord compelled this wretched man to