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peculiar people; and the world knoweth them not. Some of the effects and advantages of their religion indeed, may be palpable to others; but its principles and resources are among the deep things of God, which the natural man knoweth not, because they are spiritually discerned. How strange to many must the language of Paul appear—"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” “Most gladly will I glory in infirmity, that the power of Christ may rest upon me—I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN AM I STRONG.”
As this expresses his experience not only or principally as he was an Apostle, but a Christian, let us in this exercise consider the weaknesses to which he refers ; and in the next see how it becomes an accession of strength.
The weakness is spiritual. But we must distinguish between the reality of it, and the apprehension. The fall has deprived us not only of righteousness, but of strength; and by nature we are weak, as to all the purposes of the divine life. But all are not sensible of this. In general, men are far from believing it; and will sooner acknowledge their guilt than their inability. They will confess that they have not been what they ought to have been, or done what they ought to have done ; but they always presume upon their competency for these things; and resolve by-and-by to accomplish them. But Paul speaks of the apprehension of our weakness. This is effected by the Holy Spirit; who convinces men of sin, and makes them acquainted with their true character and state before God. But the sense of their weakness is increased by observation and experience. They hear of many falling around them who once seemed much more likely to stand than themselves; and each of these declensions cries, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” And when they read the Scriptures, they see the falls of good men there, and men whose grace was very superior to their own: and can they help fearing for themselves, when they find Abraham betrayed into dissimulation by unbeliet Moses speaking unadvisedly with his lips ; Job cursing the day of his birth; Solomon playing the fool; and Peter acting the coward ? The events of life also enlarge their self-acquaintance. Who knows what he is till he is tried, and till he meets with his own trial ? For every one is not discovered in the same way: and as Joab adhered to David in the rebellion of Absalom, yet turned aside after Adonijah; so we may be firm in one peril, and fail in another. Afflictions are frequently called temptations, because they try and prove us: and where is the Christian who, in consequence of these experiments, has not been led, if not to question the reality of his religion, tó mourn over the deficiencies of it? Thus fresh and painful secrets are constantly coming to light; and the knowledge of their depravity, which they could not have borne at once, is produced by little and little. “ And where," says the Christian, often appalled, “ where will the mystery end? Who can understand his errors ? Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin ?" Thus he often seems worse, because he is wiser. There is not more in him of unbelief, and impatience, and vain thought; but he sees and feels more of them.
And how far does this sense of the Christian's weakness extend ? He feels that he is unable to do what he ought. His work is laid down in the Scripture. It requires him to run the race that is set before him; to fight the good fight of faith; and to perform a thousand duties with regard to God, his neighbour, and himself-the view of which forces him to exclaim, “Who is sufficient for these things ?" He feels that he is unable to do what he would. To will is present, but how to perform that which is good, he finds not. He would gladly flee, but the wires of his cage tell him that he is a prisoner. He attempts to sing, but his voice is untuned ; and his harp is hung on the willows, and sometimes too high for him to reach. He feels that he is unable to do what he has done. His former experience humbles him. “O that it was with me as in months past!" I fear I shall never pray again as I have prayed. Never trust in the promise as I have trusted. Never kneel before the cross again as I once did, and said
“Here it is I find my heaven,
While upon the Lamb I gaze." He feels that he is unable to do the least duty. He always thought himself inadequate, were he called to die at the stake, or to offer up an Isaac: but he is beyond this now. He now feels that he cannot order his speech properly in company; nor endure, with Christian temper, the trifling vexations of the hour-yea, that without Christ he can do nothing." He feels unable to preserve himself from the greatest sins. He once thought that he was in no danger from these; and supposed that reputation, and common prudence, would secure him from such iniscarriages. But he now prays with David, not only, cleanse thou me from secret faults, but keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.
And wbat is there to meet all this weakness? When he examines, he finds that nothing is sufficient. He cannot depend on the grace he has received—He can no more live without fresh supplies of the Spirit, than he can see with the light, and respire with the air, of yesterday. He cannot depend upon his present frames. These may be lively and delightful; but they are of the nature of cordials, not food-he cannot live by them. He knows too how variable they are; and how often rapture has ended in gloom. He cannot depend upon his resolutions and vows. He has seen their vanity in binding his depraved heart. Though they seemed invincible, they have yielded in the hour of temptation : and before the assaults of the enemy, they have been no more than a hedge of cobwebs, or a wall of vapour. He cannot depend upon means and ordinances. He values these, and will be found in the use of them; they are his privilege as well as duty. But unless the Lord give the increase, Paul plants and Apollos waters in vain. We are to wait only upon God. His influences and communications can alone relieve and elevate, refresh and strengthen the soul. This seems a discouraging state of mind to be in-but what follows ?
FEBRUARY 6.-"When I am weak, THEN AN I STRONG."'--2 Cor. xii. 10.
The consciousness of our spiritual weakness becomes the accession of strength three ways.
First, as it inspires us with diffidence and caution. It will keep us from venturing into the company of the infidel and the wicked, lest we learn of their ways, and get a snare to our souls. It will re strain us from scenes and places of dissipation where there is so much temptation, and we feel we have so little power of resistance. He who knows how much tinder he has about him will not invite sparks. The humble will always be self-diffident. He will not vainly think that he can withstand where others are overcome. Therefore he will not make haste to be rich, lest he should not be innocent, but fall into many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition He will perfectly tremble at the thought of the love of money, Srnce God tells him it is the root of all evil. He will not exercise himself in great matters, or in things too high for him; he finds himself unequal to the difficulties and dangers of superior offices and employments. If God calls him into an arduous and perilous situation, the call insures his safety and assistance; but presumption has nothing to plead. He will therefore look for his commission; and follow God, instead of going before him. The Jews would go up the hill-but the ark remained behind. What was the consequence? The enemy easily discomfited them, and chased them like bees. The self-sufficient are never safe, because no one can warn them of danger without giving offence : but the man who knows himself, and is not high minded, welcomes admonition and even reproof; and says, Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
Secondly, as it makes us more prayersul. When a màn, concerned for his safety and welfare, finds that he cannot rely upon himself, he will naturallylook after another to rely upon. So did Jehoshaphat in the pressure of his straits: “We have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.” And thus, when the weak sees an adversary approaching, he will not go forth to meet him alone; but hasten and call upon the Captain of his salvation to come to his succour: and thus he succeeds. What is prayer but an application to the strong for strength ? And as in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength, but we cannot hope for its aids without asking and seeking; it follows, that nothing can strengthen us like prayer. It is availing ourselves of Omnipotence. It is our being strong in the Lord and the power of his might. The babe cannot support himself: yet he is not abandoned. Provision is made for him in another: and what his little hands cannot accomplish for him, bis cries and tears can effect. The mother hears him, and flies to relieve and indulge. She, even she, may indeed forget; or prove unkind or unable: but the God of all grace never said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me, in vain. Therefore,
Thirdly, as it encourages and animates the soul by bringing us under the certainty of divine promise. There is something very winning and endearing in confidence. Who could take away the life of a bird that fled to his bosom from the pounce of the hawk? or who could take advantage of having him in his hand to deprive the little trembler even of his liberty? Nothing is ever lost by trusting in the ingenuous and noble-minded: they always feel a responsibility to repay the confidence reposed in them. What then may
we not expect from the God of all comfort ? But not only does the honour of his goodness incline him to succour those who rely on him, but also the honour of his truth. For has he not said, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble ? Hé filleth the hungry with good things; but the rich he hath sent empty away ?"
Therefore you need not be afraid to know the evil of your spiritual condition ; since suitable relief of every kind is provided-And we see what is indeed the most enviable state and frame of mind you can be in. The best evidence of prosperity in the divine life is not great knowledge and ecstasy ; but lowliness of mind. “He that abaseth himself shall be exalted.” “A man's pride shall bring him low; but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.” “With the lowly is wisdom.” “With him also is affluence and might”—“when I am weak then am I strong."
And let it comfort us that our resource is not future only, but immediate. We cannot doubt of our being strong in heaven. There our powers will be fully equal to every demand upon them. There we shall be able to serve him day and night in his temple, feeling no languor, and requiring no repose. But we are strong not only after weakness, but in it-" when I am weak, then am I strong."" "As thy day so shall thy strength be.” “I will water it every moment."
Thus, out of weakness I am made strong. “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me."
FEBRUARY 7.-"Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you."--1 Thess. iii. 11.
In order as it is said, in the foregoing verse, to "see their face, and perfect that which was lacking in their faith.” But two remarks arise from the words.
The first is of a doctrinal character, and regards a leading article of the faith once delivered to the saints~" Our Lord Jesus' is here addressed in prayer, as well as God himself and our Father,” and even with him.' This cannot be confounded with the practice of the Romish Church in praying to the Virgin Mary, and a multitude of patron saints. Such prayers have no authority from the Scriptures; and the persons to whom they are addressed, being mere creatures only, can have no knowledge of the wants and feelings of thousands that may address them at the same time. But the manner in which the Saviour speaks of himself, before he left the earth, shows the reasonableness of our addressing him: “Lo,” said he, “Í am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them.” " He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. He therefore, though unseen, is accessible ; omnipresent; knows all things; is able and engaged to manage all our concerns: and because he lives, we shall live also. Hence the first Christians are described, as “calling on the Name of the Lord Jesus.” Hence Stephen, when dying, and full of the Holy Ghost, invoked him. And Paul, not only in the text, but in various other places, is chargeable with
“ Where the same idolatry, as it certainly must be deemed, without conceding his divinity. Indeed he begins all his Epistles with this salutation and benedíction: “Grace be to you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”. In once instance, he has even reversed the order before us, and in his supplication, places the Saviour before the Father: "Now our Lord Jesus Christ hinself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.” And if we pass from the Church below to the Church above, where, though their prayers are ended, they are still praising; how are their praises expressed ? " I bebeld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." Is this adoration confined to the saints ? "'I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands ; saying, with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." Is there no exception? “ And every creature which is in heaven, and on
earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.” Be not therefore faithless, but believing; in all your dependance and hope ; and exclaim, with Thomas, "My Lord and my God!"
The second remark is of a practical nature: “Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you." Does not the example of Paul and his brethren in this case teach us, that we ought to consider our visits and journeys as under the influence of a special Providence? We are not to confine religion to extraordinary occasions; but to acknowledge God in all our ways; and in every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, make our requests known unto him. We are to love the Sabbath, and remember to keep it holy: but we must serve God every day, and be in the fear of the Lord all the day long. We are to repair to the sanctuary, and to enter the closet: but we must abide with God in our calling; and whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, do all to the glory of God. Paul speaks of " a prosperous journey by the will of God;" and John enjoins his friends to bring “the brethren on their journey after a godly sort."),
And what is the truth of the case? “ The way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” “A man's heart deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps.” Have we a journey.or a visit in prospect? We must ask the permission, and implore the blessing of Him in whom we live and move and have our being. He can stop our breath; or lay us on a bed of languishing. If we achieve our undertaking, he can subvert the design of it, or mar all our satisfaction in it. How much often depends upon a single excursion! It may terminate in a friendship