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and invite him to make room for himself, and he will do it. He is able to cast out your idols, and to pull down the strong-holds of sin and Satan that are in your hoarts.
3. Some will not, because they like not the onerous cause of the gift. There are many that cannot digest what is required of them who belong to Christ: “If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” They could take the crown, but they cannot away with the cross, or the hard service. Such are to be pitied, for they are led aside by mistakes; if Christ was in your hearts, his service would be your choice, and you would glory in his cross.
4. Many will not, because they have no will to come under the obligation of a gift. Thus it was with the Jews; going about to establish their own righteousness, they submitted not themselves to the righteousness of God. This pride of heart lies osten vailed under the shew of humility, when all the while the soul refuses to come to Christ, because of unwillingness. Well, you must either bo obliged to Christ for your salvation, or perish; for do what you will, or suffer what you will, if Christ be not yours, you perish.
Lastly, Not a few will not, because they think, though it may do good to others, yet it can do none to them. Who knows but this may be the temptation of some ! this is the poisonous breath of monstrous unbelief, that at once flies in the face of God's truth, making him a liar, 1 John v. 10; and in the face of his wisdom, as if he had provided an unsuitable remedy. Sinner, who ever perished in the hands of Jesus ? and O what desperate cases has he cured ! But do you object there was never the like of yours? Answ. Then you will glorify Christ the more, if you will venture yourself in his hand. Many wonderful precedents have you as proofs of his ability. Venture yourselves then in his hand, " for he is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us." Amen.
THE CHRISTIAN WEAK, YET STRONG.
2 Cor. xii. 10,
The text is a gospel-paradox, best understood by experience. The Christian is a mystery, a mystery to the world; the saints are hidden ones, yea, in a great measure they are a mystery to themselves; so is the Christian life. The apostle in the text, tells us one of the great mysteries of the Christian life, and that is meat out of the eater: "I take pleasure," says he, “in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake." Christianity teaches not a Stoical apathy, no man is more sensible of the weight of his burden than a Christian; yet he can not only bear a heavy burden patiently, (which I believe is a mystery to many of us), but he even finds a pleasure in a burden he is not able to stand under. After sense has considered a trial, gone out and in through it, and found nothing but bitterness, faith can discover a great deal of sweetness in it. The Christian well exercised, may get some glorious sights in his trials and temptations, that afford a refined pleasure.
1. It is a sweet sight for a Christian to see himself standing a candidate for glory, and on his trials for heaven, 1 Pet. i. 6, 7, " Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness, through manifold temptations, that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Christ."
2. It is sweet to see Christ dragging the corrupt will to the cross, and driving the nails through it, for its mortification : Jam. i. 3, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience."
3. It is sweet to see Christ, in order to the starving of lusts blocking up the passes by which provisions might be brought to them.
4. To see the soul out of weakness made strong, and the devil outshot with his own bow. This account of it the text gives, "For when I am weak," that is, when I am weak in myself, “then am I strong" in Christ; ver. 9, “ My grace is sufficient for thee, for my
* This and the following discourse delivered July 12, and 13, 1713.
strength is made perfect in weakness.” The Lord allowed the temptation to continue with him till he was driven out of himself, and was brought to confess he was not man enough for it, and then the Lord gives him strength against it.
1. In the text there is something supposed, namely, that the Christian is not always weak in the sense of the text; he has not always the due sense of his weakness; sometimes his looks are cut, and yet he will go out as at former times. It is no small piece of Christian labour to keep a due sense of our weakness and insufficiency. When the Christian is strong in himself, then he is dead weak. If the devil can but get the man blown up with conceit of his own ability to stand his ground against him, then he has him fair before the wind, as Peter. Hence it is that some will stand before great temptations, and fall before less ones.
2. In the text, there is something expressed. When the Christian is weak in his own sight, then he is really strong; he baffles the temptation, he stands the trial, when he sees he is not man enough for it. Sometimes the devil rages, drives furiously by temptations, persecutions, and the like; but unless he raise the dust, so as to blind the Christian's eyes, that he see not his own weakness, nor the strength of the grace without him in Christ, instead of driving him off his way, he will drive him to Christ, in whom he is enabled to stand, so as to come off a conqueror. I take up the sense of the verse in this
Doct. That when the Christian is weak, then he is strong; weak in his own eyes, strong in Christ.
In discoursing upon this subject, I shall consider the following points.
I. What is that weakness, which paves the way to spiritual strength ?
II. Offer some remarks for confirming this point.
IV. The illustration of these will make way for a large practical improvement, in various uses of the subject.
I am then,
I. To shew what is that weakness which paves the way for spiritual strength.
1. There is in it a holy bent of the heart to that work, to which strength is required, with an honest desire and resolution to go through with the work. If a man bath no mind for the work, it is all one in that respect, whether he be weak or strong : Matth xxvi. 41, “ Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation ; the Spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Bat the Christian, however weak,
(1.) Aims honestly at the performance of every duty. Like David he has respect unto all God's commandments, Psalm cxix. 6: he dares not baulk any of the laws of Christ; the whole law is written in his heart by divine grace, and he labours to write it over in his practice; he has no objection to any duty he knows to be enjoined of the Lord, but says, “I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right," Psalm cxix. 128.
(2.) He is honestly resolved to resist temptation, and mortify lusts. This is what must be done, though he knows not well how; he concludes, that though there be a lion in the way, he must be forward : “I have chosen," says he, “the way of truth," Psalm cxix. 30; his feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; he dares not think to fail with every wind, nor to go back and lie down in the embraces of his lusts, for it is to be supposed God has set fire to his rest there.
(3.) He has laid bis account with the cross, and resolves to continue his weak shoulders under it, at Christ's call: Mattb. xvi. 24, “If any man,” said Jesus, “will come after me, let him deny himself, take up the cross and follow me.”
He is resolved to follow the Lamb, though he should lie at the end of it, and never to leave the way of the Lord, for all the storms that Satan may raise in it; ho prefers Christ's cross to the world's crown; and what he cannot keep with a good conscience, he will reckon himself better without than with it.
2. A sense of utter inability, and insufficiency, to go through with that work, or any part of it: 2 Cor. iii. 5, “ Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God." Though his designs are noble and generous, he knows he has nothing in himself to accomplish them; for yo must know, that the Christian's confession of weakness is no compliment, they are children that will not lie; it is no preposterous modesty or diffidence, that blinds a man to his own ability. But he sees things as they really are, and believes himself no more weak than he is. When he looks over all his inventory, of what he is, and what he has in himself, he sees nothing to depend upon, either in point of doing or suffering.
The Christian lies fairest for spiritual strength, when he is so low and weak in his own eyes, as that he dare not trust to anything for his through-bearing, that is not Christ's or in Christ : “They are the circumcision which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and bave no confidence in the flesh," Phil. iii. 3. A man is no more weak in his own eyes than he bas reason.—The Christian considers himself as weak,
(1.) When he dare not trust to his own stock of natural or acquired abilities for suffering for Christ. These things may sometimes carry a man through what is duty for the matter, but oftentimes they leave a man in the lurch, and can never help a man to do any good thing that God will accept; and no wonder; for saith Jeremiah, chap. xvii. 5, 6, “Thus saith the Lord God, Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land not inhabited.” See also Isa. xl. 29–31.
(2.) When he dares not trust to the principles and resolutions of his heart. Nature is mighty venturous in religion, when it is flushed with vigorous resolutions. The Scriba said unto Jesus, “I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest,” Matth. viii. 19. But when the temptation or trial comes, they fall down like the walls of Jericho; the fire-edge soon wears off the spirit that is not stayed on the Lord.
(3.) When he dares not trust to vows and engagements. Every gracious soul will give itself away to the Lord, but they will not trust to these bands, but to him to whom they are bound : Isa. xlv. 24, “Sarely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” If men trust to their own vows, they will find them a sorry fence, that will go like Samson's withs when he heard the Philistines were upon him.
(4.) When he dares not trust to his own endeavours: Psalm cxxvii. 1, “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” A Christian must be as diligent and vigorous in his way of duty, as if he were to do all alone ; but if he would see the success of these endeavours, he must look for it from another quarter, as if he had done nothing. If the saint will not learn this lesson otherwise, God will let him work on, till he work himself out of breath, and so lie down at the Lord's feet, as the church did : Isa. xxvi. 8, “We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have, as it were, brought forth wind, we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth.”
(5.) He dare not trust to the good frame he sometimes finds his spirit in. A good frame is a precious ointment to refresh the weary traveller, but is not a staff to lean upon, 1 Chron. xxix. 17, 18; it may be quickly lost, Psalm cvi. 13, “They soon forgot his works;" it is a tender bud of heaven that is easily nipped, as Peter at the