« PreviousContinue »
them utterance. For as much then as God gave them (the Gentiles) the like gifts as he did unto the Jews who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ on the Jewish day of Pentecost; it demonstrates now, as it demonstrated then, that God also hath to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life; and it is upon evidence like this alone that it can be believed-but where have we such evidence, except in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
I will bestow some attention upon the case of Lydia, recorded in the 16th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.
This case is relied on more to prove the opinions relative to the immediate operations of the Spirit in conversion, than any other which is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles; and on no other account than because it is said that the Lord opened Lydia's heart that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. It is never asked whether any means were employed in opening her heart, and, if any, what they were? Such an inquiry might produce a conclusion against the doctrine of immediate agencies. With me there is no doubt; nor can there be any, according to the principles established, and the proofs adduced, that the Lord opened Lydia's heart to attend unto the things which were spoken of Paul. I think I have abundantly proven, in the ding chapter, that no means, merely natural or human, could possibly have done it. The impossibility of this, is in perfect unison with the plan employed by Christ before, and, through the Apostles, by the Holy Ghost, since his ascension; nothing merely human or natural were employed. The only question is, whether her heart was opened to attend unto Paul, by instrumentalities of a spiritual, and divine character? To this question, I answer in the affirmative; and think, that the regular, and established plan of the divine administrations amongst mankind, as intelligent, and moral beings; after the Gospel first began to be preached at Jérusalem on the day of Pentecost, (as exhibited in the examination of the manner, the means, and the effects of teaching, and preaching in the foregoing pages of this chapter, until the case of Lydia occurred,) establishes it. The case of Lydia furnishes testimony itself to the same purpose.
Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, says, "A vision apa peared to Paul in the night; there stood a man of Macedo nia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us." They accordingly went "to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: And we (says Luke) were in that city, abiding certain days. And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river.. side where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman, named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul, &c." There is a very striking resemblance between the case of Cornelius, and Lydia. It seems that they were both worshippers of God before the Gospel was preached to them by the Apostles. Peter, by an angel, was sent to Cornelius, several years after the Gospel was first preached at Jerusalem; and Paul was sent into Macedonia by a man whom he saw in a vision, where he met with Lydia. This was, as computed by chronologers, about twenty two years after the Gospel began to be preached at Jerusalem. That Paul imparted spiritual gifts, as he was accustomed to do, by the imposition of his hands to the members of the church at Philippi, is evident from the 3d verse of the second chapter of his Epistle to the Philippians, in which he cautions them against strife, and vain glory, in the exercise of their spiritual gifts; as was too much the case in the church at Corinth. (Corinth. 14.) Lydia, probably, at the time Paul instructed her, was in a state of acceptance with God, as Rahab was; whose faith (produced by hearing how the Lord dried up the water of the red sea. for the Israelites to pass through, when they came out of Egypt,) was counted to her for righteousness;-having secretly received, and concealed the spies who were sent by Joshua to Jerico, and sent them away by a different road from. that which she knew their pursuers would go. Josh. 2. 311. Heb. 11. 31. James 2. 25. Rahab believed from what she heard, that the Lord, the God of Israel, he is God in heaven above, and in the earth beneath. This faith was produced by the Spirit, and power of God, in the miracles
which were wrought. God declared that he designed by the miracles, the signs, and the wonders which he wrought in Egypt, and in favour of the children of Israel, to make known, and establish his name upon the earth.
Lydia, after she believed, may have received the Holy Ghost as did Cornelius; and Paul may have wrought miracles before her eyes in the name of Jesus Christ, by which her heart was opened to attend unto what he said; or, he might have told her, (which he most probably did,) that he was sent by the Holy Ghost to instruct her; having gathered, as Luke observes, that the Lord had called them to preach the Gospel unto them in Macedonia. The Lord opened the hearts of the three thousand, and of the five thousand, to attend unto what Peter said, and by which they were converted-he did this by the signs, and wonders, on the day of Pentecost; and the miracle, in healing the lame man, which they saw, and heard. I pass on to the case of the Jailor.
The conversion of the jailor, and house, was effected by miracles; for, says the historian, "At midnight, Paul, and Silas (having their feet made fast in the stocks, in the inner prison,) prayed, and sang praises to God; and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earth-quake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, (he probably slept in a part of the prison,) he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, do thyself no harm, for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul, and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (The answer is a plain one.) "And they said, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the zvord of the Lord, and to all that were in his house."
The great earth-quake, together with the penalty which seems to have been annexed to the keepers of prisoners letting them go, were probably the cause of the jailor trembling. Peter, when confined in jail, was rescued by an an,
gel; and Herod commanded that the keepers of the jail should be put to death. Acts 12. 7-19. The jailor saw and felt that there was safety no where but in the faith of Paul, and Silas; and in their God. Hence the inquiry, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" To which the answer was plain, and the ground of safety easy with the evidence before him, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ."
* It appears, from all the cases recorded of the prophecies in the Old Testament; and the fulfilment of Christ's promi ses in the New; relative to the operations, and gifts of the Spirit, that they were designed to establish a new epoch in the government of God in his dispensations of grace; by developing to mankind an ample view of the great purposes of heaven, the glory of God in the redemption of men, and their true relations to the invisible world; as well as to restore the union, and communion with God, which were lost by transgression, upon supernatural, divine, and gracious principles, through the Redeemer, by faith in him.
The necessity, design, and use of the miraculous operations, and gifts of the Spirit in the establishment of the Gospel in the days of Christ, and the Apostles; and their use in its extension, and perpetuation.
The mediatorial government of Jesus Christ, had two objects in view. The first was, by his vicarious sufferings, to reconcile the salvation of sinners with the justice of God; and thereby maintain the honour, and purity of his throne, in the redemption of man. The second object was, the exposition of the plan of redemption to man, as an intellectual, and moral being; who is the immediate subject of the government, and for whose benefit it was established. means for the accomplishment of those purposes are of divine appointment. With respect to the nature, and sufficiency of the atonement, through which God is reconciling the world unto himself, it is enough that he has declared himself well pleased with it; and that he is willing for Christ's sake to
pardon sin, and receive the sinner into favour, on condition of repentance towards God, and faith in Jesus Christ; as it is through his revelations only, that we have any knowledge of it, or its character. The ways, and means which God has employed, in developing the plan of redemption to man as an intellectual, and moral being, and as a subject of the govern, ment; and of establishing it by divine authority, are sus ceptible of particular examination, and their fitness capable of being clearly perceived, and forcibly felt: Not by the trees of the forest, nor the beasts of the field; but by intelli gent man, in the due use of his mental powers upon the supernatural, and divine means of instruction; which have been furnished by the Spirit of God, and accommodated to the fallen, and spiritually blinded state of man-blind by na ture to every thing of a spiritual, and divine character, not only as to quality but real existence. Every thing in the dise pensation of grace, (the love of God, the sacrifice for sin, the means employed in communicating the knowledge of them) are so far beyond the deductions of human reason; that when declared, and made manifest, they exhibit the most astonishing events that fall within the compass of it. The revelation of a design of mercy, and a promise of forgiveness through a Messiah,, was, as stupendous an instance of divine benignity, as it was from a necessity of nature, and of mind, utterly beyond, the conception of man without that revelation;; although as necessary for his present intellectual, and moral improvement, and comfort, as redemption was to his future. happiness. In this amazing transaction, as formerly ob-, served; we must look higher than any dealings had with. man, viz, to the eternal purposes of God concerning his res. toration; wherein "the lamb was slain from the foundation, of the world," Rev. 13. 8, And "the hope of eternal life,. which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world be gan." Titus 1. 2. In the will, and works of God, every thing is impenetrable to man, further than he declares them. Had the death of Jesus Christ been designed, by the divine mind, only to expiate for transgression, it would not have been necessary to exhibit the sufferings of Messiah to our The manifestation of God in the flesh to mankind, or to angels; his being preached to Jews or Gentiles; or believ