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“AND a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” – Acts xvi. 9.

We do believe there are such things as visions, that there are such things as dreams that have a spiritual value. Not to believe this would be to deny the Scriptures. “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction.” – Job xxxiii. 15, 16. Paul was God’s preacher. The Lord alone sought him out, called him by his grace and qualified him to preach the gospel of Jesus. Also, the Lord appointed him his field of labor and put him in it. This was not left optional with Paul, nor with the churches to whom he preached. At times Paul had desires and inclinations to visit places where the Lord would not let him go, also he was compelled of the Lord to go into places where his natural bent would never have led him. We have such a case in this sixteenth chapter of the Acts. Having gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, he would have gone into Asia to preach, but the Holy Ghost forbade him to preach the word of God in Asia. Why, I do not know, and Paul did not know, only God knew, and he did not explain the matter to Paul. God never explains the “why” of anything. After Paul came to Mysia, he tried to go into Bithynia, but again the Spirit did not suffer him to do so. All the way along his pathway was hedged in, as had been that of his Master before him. We may devise our way, but the Lord alone can and does direct our steps. Then it was that Paul had this vision and saw a man who said to him, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” One way to test whether a preacher has been called of God to preach, or has called himself to, is to watch and see whether he goes against his will into places against his inclination, or whether he follows his own likes and dislikes and the lure of the largest congregations and the largest salaries. Some men proclaim loudly their zeal for the Lord of hosts and their concern for men’s souls, but they take great care to be well paid for all the work they do. How long, think you, would such zeal endure should the dollar and its charms be withdrawn? To what kind of help was Paul called into Macedonia? Was he needed over there to help the Lord? Was there something in Macedonia that the Lord could not do without Paul’s help? The man whom Paul saw in a vision did not say, Come over into Macedonia and help the Lord, but, “ Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” Who were the “us”? Was it the case-hardened sinners over there that needed Paul, was it the unregenerate and unrepentant that called to Paul for help? We have only to continue on reading down in this same sixteenth chapter of Acts to learn that God already had a people in Macedonia which he had chosen for himself, whose hearts he had touched, and who, as being already his sheep, needed the preaching of the gospel. Paul did not go into Macedonia and invite a single soul to accept Christ, nor did he persuade a single one to become a christian. His preaching did not procure for God one more child in Macedonia than God already had there. But these in Macedonia who were already the Lord’s people and whose hearts already were being exercised by the Spirit needed their joy helped, they needed comforting, they needed instruction “in” and not “for” righteousness. Preaching never instructs any one how to get righteousness, but it instructs in righteousness; that is, those who are already righteous in the Lord’s righteousness. Following Paul in Macedonia, we find him in Philippi, a chief city there. He had not sent the city word of his coming beforehand, he had advertised himself in no way, he had mapped out no plan or itinerary, he had not arranged beforehand with the citizens of the city for a big tabernacle in which to preach, and had not required a previously guaranteed sum before making his advent there. In fact, Paul came into Macedonia unknown and unheralded. None but the Lord and himself knew he was there. Paul went and sat down by the riverside where it was the custom of the people to repair for prayer, and spake to the women that came out there. Now, among these women, was a woman from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple, named Lydia. This woman heard Paul preach. She heard him not only with her natural ears, but with her spiritual ears, with her faith. The reason she thus heard him was because the Lord had already opened her heart, already she worshiped God, otherwise the preaching could not have benefited her, and never can benefit any one only as the Lord opens their hearts. Following this case of Lydia, there was a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination. This maiden followed Paul. Paul did not invite her to follow him, he did not dog her steps, coaxing her to join his church; instead, the woman followed him about listening to his preaching, and said, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. Paul did not tell her how to be saved, or what she must do to be saved, but he, as all gospel preachers do, showed the way of salvation; that is, he preached Jesus the way, the truth and the life. In the case of Lydia and this damsel, neither had been made to believe through Paul’s efforts, but, God having wrought by faith in them, they recognized Paul as a servant of God and his preaching as a message sent from that God. Now, the third case in Macedonia was that of the jailer. This man, when he put Paul and Silas in jail and bound their feet in the stocks, rejoiced in doing so, not knowing that these men were the servants of the true God, and that they preached the truth of that God. But during the night this jailer had a revolutionary experience within himself, so that he was prepared to hear the preaching and to receive the message they bore. Paul and Silas had nothing to do with opening this man’s heart or his eyes, the Lord alone could and did bring the earthquake that upset all the jailer’s calculations and brought him in fear and trembling to the feet of Paul and Silas. This, then, was the kind of help required of Paul in Macedonia. He was not called there to help the Lord save souls, but to preach to those whom the Lord had already selected and saved, to help their joy and comfort them with comfortable words. He was not called there to purify the politics, nor the society of Macedonia, nor to help the prohibition ticket at the next election. If, in this day, these evangelists that run around the country saving souls went into a country to preach, and only three persons responded, and had to suffer arrest to reach one of these, they would give up their ministry as a failure, and go into something else promising better returns, but with the true servants of the Lord there can be no giving up nor backing out. There is no discharge in that war. Their faith is in God, and they abide in the work until the Lord calls them home. This is written, not by request, but because we have felt like it. L.

Elder H. H. Lefferts

Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 6.
March 15, 1916