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and quit the dearest interest it hath in this world for Jefus Christ, Phil. iii. 7, 8, 9. Riches, honours, felf-righteousness, dearest relations, are denied and forfaken: Reproach, poverty, and death itfelf, are willingly embraced for Chrift's fake, when once the efficacy of the word hath been upon the hearts of men, 1 Thef. i. 6. Those that were their companions in fin, are declined, renounced, and caft off with abhorrence, 1 Pet. iv. 3, 4. In fuch things as these the mighty power of the word discovers itself.
Secondly, Next, let us fee wherein the efficacy of the word, upon the fouls of men, principally confifteth: and we find in fcripture it exerteth its power, in five diftinct acts upon the foul; by all which it ftrikes at the life, and kills the very heart of vain hopes. For,
First, It hath an awakening efficacy upon fecure and fleepy finners: It rouzes the conscience, and brings a man to a fenfe, and feeling apprehenfion, Eph. v. 13, 14. The firft effectual touch of the word ftartles the drowsy confcience. A poor finner lies in his fins, as Peter did in his chains, fast asleep, though a warrant was figned for his execution the next day : but the Spirit in the word awakens him, as the angel did Peter: And this awakening power of the word is in order, both of time, and nature, antecedent to all its operations, and effects.
Secondly, The law of God hath an enlightening efficacy upon the minds of men: It is eye-falve to the blinded eye, Rev. iii. 18. A light shining in a dark place, 2 Pet. i. 19. A light shining into the very heart of man, 2 Cor iv. 6. When the word comes in power, all things appear with another face: The fins that were hid from our eyes, and the danger which was concealed by the policy of Satan from our fouls, now lie clear and open before us, Eph. v. 8.
Thirdly, The word of God hath a convincing efficacy: It fets fin in order before the foul, Pfal. 1. 21. As an army is drawn up in an exact order, so are the fins of nature and practice, the fins of youth and age, even a great and terrible army is drawn up before the eye of the confcience; the convictions of the word are clear and full, 1 Cor. xiv. 24, 25. The very fecrets of a finner's heart are made manifeft: his mouth is flopped; his pleas are filenced; his confcience yields to the charge of guilt, and to. the equity of the fentence of the law. So that the foul stands mute, and felf-condemned, at the bar of confcience: It hath got nothing to fay why the wrath of God fhould not come upon it to the uttermoft, Rom. iii. 19.
Fourthly, The law of God hath a foul-wounding, an heartcutting efficacy: It pierces into the very foul and fpirit of man,
Acts ii. 37. "When they heard this, they were pricked at their
hearts, and faid unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles ; "men and brethren, what fhall we do?" A dreadful found is in the finner's ears; his foul is in deep distress; he knows not which way to turn for cafe; no plaister but the blood of Chrift can heal thefe wounds which the word makes: No outward trouble, afflic tion, difgrace, or lofs, ever touched the quick as the word of God doth.
Fifthly, The word hath a heart-turning, a foul-converting efficacy in it: It is a regenerating, as well as convincing word, 1 Pet. i. 32. 1 Thef. i. 9. The law wounds, the gofpel cures; the law difcovers the evil that is in fin, and the misery that fol lows it; and the Spirit of God, working in fellowship with the word, effectually turns the heart from fin. And thus we fee in what glorious acts the efficacy of the word difcovers itself upon the hearts of men; and all these acts lie in order to each other: nor until the foul be awakened, it cannot be enlightned, Eph. v. 14. Till it be enlightned, it cannot be convinced, Eph. v. 13. Conviction being nothing elfe, but the application of the light that shines in the mind to the confcience of a finner; till it be convinced, it cannot be wounded for fin, Acts ii. 37. And until it be wounded for fin, it will never be converted from fin, and brought effectually to Jefus Chrift. And thus you fee what the power of the word is.
Thirdly, In the last place, it will concern us to enquire, whence the word of God hath all this power: And it is most certain, that it is not a power inherent in itself, nor derived from the instrument by which it is managed; but from the Spirit of the Lord, who communicates to it all that power, and efficacy which it hath upon our fouls.
power is not in, or from itfelf: It works not in a phy fical way, as natural agents do; for then the effect would always follow, except it were miraculously hindered: But this fpiritual efficacy is in the word, as the healing virtue was in the waters of Bethesda, John v. 4. "An angel went down at a cer
tain feafon into the pool, and troubled the water: Whofoever then first after the troubling of the water ftept in, was "made whole of whatsoever difeafe he had." It is not a power naturally inherent in it at all times, but communicated to it at fome special feafons. How often is the word preached, and no man awaked or convinced by it!
2. The power of the word is not communicated to it by the inftrument that manageth it, 1 Cor. iii. 7. Neither is he that
planteth any thing, neither he that watereth." Minifters are
nothing to fuch an effect and purpose as this is; he doth not mean that they are useless and altogether unneceffary, but infufficient of themselves to produce fuch mighty effects: It works not as it is the word of man, 1 Theff. ii. 13. Minifters may fay of the ordinary, as Peter faid of the extraordinary effects of the Spirit, Acts iii. 12. " Ye men of Ifrael, why marvel ye at this? 65 or why look ye fo earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?" If the effects of the word were in the power, and at the command of him that preacheth it, then the blood of all the fouls that perish under our miniftry muft lie at our door, as was formerly noted.
3. If you fay, whence then hath the word all this power? Our answer is, It derives it all from the Spirit of God, *1 Ther. ii. 13. "For this caufe thank we God without ceafing, because "when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye "received it not as the word of man, but (as it is in truth) the "word of God, which effectually worketh alfo in you that be"lieve." It is a fuccefsful inftrument, only, when it is in the hand of the Spirit, without whose influence it never did, nor can convince, convert, or fave any foul. Now, the Spirit of God hath a fovereignty over three things in order to the converfion of finners.
1. Over the word which works.
2. Over the foul wrought upon.
3. Over the time and season of working.
First, The Spirit hath a glorious fovereignty over the word itfelf, whose inftrument it is, to make it fuccessful or not; as it pleaseth him, Ifa. lv. 10, 11. "For as the rain cometh down, and the fnow from heaven, &c. fo fhall my word be that go"eth out of my mouth :" as the clouds, fo the word is carried and directed by divine pleasure. It is the Lord that makes them both give down their bleffings, or to pafs away fruitless and empty yea, it is from the Spirit that this part of the word works, and not another. Thofe things upon which minifters bestow greatest labour in their preparation, and from which accordingly they have the greatest expectation; thefe do nothing, when, mean time, fomething that dropped occafionally from them, like a chofen fhaft, ftrikes the mark, and doth the work. Secondly, The Spirit of the Lord hath a glorious sovereignty over the fouls wrought upon: it is his peculiar work" to take
* What is commanded by the word, is given by the Spirit. Aug. Ep. 157.
away the ftony heart out of our flesh, and to give us an heart "of flesh," Ezek. xxxvi. 26. We may reafon, exhort, and reprove, but nothing will abide till the Lord fet it home. The Lord opened the heart of Lydia under Paul's ministry: he opens every heart that is effectually opened to receive Chrift in the word if the word can get no entrance, if your hearts remain dead under it ftill, we may fay concerning fuch souls, as Martha did concerning her brother Lazarus; "Lord, if thou "hadft been here, my brother had not died.", So, Lord, if thou hadst been in this fermon, in this prayer, or in that counsel, thefe fouls had not remained dead under them.
Thirdly, The Spirit hath dominion over the times and feafons of conviction and converfion. Therefore the day in which fouls are wrought upon is called " the day of his power," Pfal. cx. 3. That shall work at one time, which had no efficacy at all at another time; because this, and not that, was the time appointed. And thus you fee whence the word derives that mighty power it hath.
Now this word of God, when it is fet home by the Spirit, is mighty to convince, humble, and break the hearts of finners, John xvi. 9." The Spirit when it cometh fhall convince the "world of fin." The word fignifies conviction by fuch clear demonftration as compelleth affent: it not only convinces men in general that they are finners, but it convinceth men particuJarly of their own fins, and the aggravations of them. So in the text, Sin revived, that is, the Lord revived his fins, the very circumstances and aggravations with which they were committed: and fo it will be with us when the commandment comes; fins that we had forgotten, committed fo far back as our youth or childhood; fius that lay flighted in our confciences, shall now be rouzed up as fo many fleepy lions to affright and terrify us: for now the foul hears the voice of God in the word,, as Adam heard it in the cool of the day, and was afraid, and hides itself : but all will not do; for the Lord is come in the word: fin is held up before the eyes of the confcience in its dreadful aggravations, and fearful confequences, as committed against the holy law, clear light, warnings of confcience, manifold mercies, God's long-fuffering, Chrift's precious blood, many warnings of judgments, the wages and demerit whereof, by the verdict of a man's own conscience, is death, eternal death, Rom. vi. 23. Rom. i. 32. Rom. ii. 9. Thus the commandment comes, fin revives, and vain hopes gives up the ghost.
Infer. 1. Is there fuch a mighty power in the word? then certainly the word is of divine authority. There cannot be a more
clear, and fatisfying proof that it is no human invention, than the common fenfe that all believers have of the Almighty Power in which it works upon their hearts. So fpeaks the apostle, 1 Thef. ii. 13. "When ye received the word of God which ye heard "of us, ye received it not as the word of man, but (as it is in "truth) the word of God, which effectually worketh alfo in
you that believe." Can the power of any creature, the word of a mere man, fo convince the confcience, fo terrify the heart, fo discover the very fecret thoughts of the foul, as to put a man into fuch tremblings? No, no, a greater than man must needs be here: none but a God can fo open the eyes of the blind, fo open the graves of the dead, fo quicken and enliven the confcience that was feared, fo bind over the foul of a finner to the judgment to come, fo change and alter the frame and temper of a man's Spirit, or fo powerfully raise, refresh and comfort a drooping dying foul: certainly the power of God is in all this; and, if there were no more, yet this alone were fufficient to make full proof of the divine authority of the fcriptures.
Infer. 2. Judge from hence what an invaluable mercy the preaching of the word is to the world: It is a bleffing far above our eftimation of it: little do we know what a treasure God committeth to us in the ordinances, Acts xiii. 25. "To you is "the word of this falvation fent." It is the very power of God to falvation, Rom. i. 16. And falvation is ordinarily denied to whom the preaching of the word is denied, Rom. x. 14. It is called the word of life, Phil. ii. 16. and deferves to be valued by every one of us as our life: the eternal decree of God's election is executed by it upon our fouls: as many as he ordained to eternal life shall believe by the preaching of it. Great is the ingratitude of this generation, which fo flights, and undervalues this invaluable treafure: which is a fad prefage of the most terrible judgment, even in the removing our candlestick out of its place, except we repent.
Infer. 3. How fore and terrible a judgment lies upon the fouls of those men to whom no word of God is made powerful enough to convince and awaken them! Yet so stands the cafe with thousands, who conftantly fit under the preaching of the word; many arrows are fhot at their confciences, but none goes home to the mark, all fall fhort of the end: the commandment hath come unto them many thousand times, by way of promulgation, and minifterial inculcation, but yet never came home to their fouls by the Spirit's effectual application. O friends! you have often heard the voice of man, but you never yet heard the voice of God: