And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned to the Lord.
I. THE END WHICH WE DESIRE.
1. That men may believe the testimony of Christ to be true. There are some who have not reached as far as that: they reject the inspired Word, and to them the incarnation, etc., are so many old wives' fables. There are also many who profess to believe these things, but their only reason is that they have been taught so, and it is the current religion of the nation. But we want more than this faith of indifference, which is little more than unbelief; we want men to believe for themselves because they have felt the saving power of Christ. We pray that nominal believers may treat the doctrines of revelation, not as dogmas, but as facts.
2. That men may savingly believe by putting their trust in Christ. A man commits his soul to Christ for safe keeping, and that saves him. He makes the Saviour trustee of his spiritual estates.
3. That men may so believe in Jesus that they may be turned unto the Lord. This means —
(1) To turn from idols to the living and true God. We desire that faith in Jesus may lead you to give up the objects of your idolatrous love, yourselves, your money, your pleasures, the world, the flesh, the devil.
(2) To turn from the love of sin. He who looks sinward has his back to God — he who looks Godward has his back to sin.
(3) That henceforth God shall he sought in prayer. The man who lives without prayer lives without God, but the man who has turned to God is familiar with the mercy seat.
(4) To yield yourself obediently to His sway. Faith is nothing unless it brings with it a willing mind.
II. THE POWER BY WHICH THIS CAN BE ATTAINED. "The hand of the Lord was with them." Be encouraged; the hand of God —
1. Is upon men before we speak. I am studying a certain subject, and praying for a blessing on it, and in a chamber, which I have never seen, one of my hearers is smitten with a sense of sin, or troubled with uneasy thoughts, or rendered hopeful of better things, and thus he is being made ready to accept the Christ whom I shall preach to him. Sickness and pain, shame and poverty, often produce a condition of mind most hopeful for the reception of the gospel. Sow, brother, for God has ploughed. Go up and build, for God has prepared the stones and made ready the foundation.
2. Upon the teachers and preachers themselves. There are strange impulses which come over us at times, which make us think and say what otherwise had never crossed our minds, and these work with power upon men's minds.
3. Upon the hearts of men when the gospel is preached. Not only is the Spirit in the Word, but over and above that He makes men —
(1) Recollect their sins. Men who have been giddy and careless and forgetful have on a sudden found themselves reviewing the past.
(2) See the beauty of holiness. When the preacher proclaims the way of salvation the Spirit leads men to admire it and to long for a share in it. Yes, it is not the preacher, and it is not altogether what the preacher says, but there is a power abroad as potent as that by which the worlds were made.
III. THE DESIRABLENESS OF OUR OBJECT. Because conversions —
1. Promote the extension of truth, godliness, and virtue.
2. Make men happy. If religion be indeed a source of joy to yourself, you are inhuman if you do not wish others to drink of it.
3. Save men from hell.
4. Increase the Church. Self-preservation is a law of nature, and the Church can never preserve herself except by increasing from the world by conversion.
5. Promote the glory of Christ and give Him to see the travail of His soul.
6. Augment personal blessedness.
IV. HOW WE MAY PROMOTE ITS ATTAINMENT.
1. We must distinctly aim at it. As a rule, a man does what he tries to do, and not that which is mere by-play. There is the target, and if you continue to shoot into the air long enough an arrow may perhaps strike it; but if you want to win the prize of archery you had better fix your eye upon the white and take your aim distinctly and with skill.
2. We must press upon men the truths which God usually blesses (ver. 20). If we do not preach Christ we shall not see souls saved. Who ever heard of a Unitarian Whitfield, or a Socinian Moody gathering twenty thousand people to listen to a Christless gospel? We must equally avoid the modern intellectual system in all its phases. How many conversions are wrought by displays of genius, fine rhetoric, etc.? Certain views as to man's future are equally to be kept clear of, if you would be the means of conversion. Diminish your ideas of the wrath of God and the terrors of hell, and in that proportion you will diminish the results of your work. Other crotchets and novelties of doctrine are also to be let alone, for they are not likely to promote your object, and will most probably divert men's attention from the vital point. If you want a harvest, look well to your seed. If I had to sow my fields with wheat I would not take any but the very best.
3. We must feel a solemn alarm about souls. Believe their danger, their helplessness, that only Christ can save them, and talk to them as if you meant it. The Holy Spirit will move them by first moving you.
4. There must be much prayer. In your closets, at your family altars, and in your prayer meetings be importunate, and the hand of the Lord must and will be with you.
5. There must be direct personal effort on the part of all of you. Great numbers may be saved by my preaching if the Holy Spirit blesses it, but I shall expect larger numbers if you all turn witnesses for Christ. We must expect converts. "According to your faith so be it unto you."
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.