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and necessities, and persecutions for Christ's sake with another eye; he applied to them the great principle in which he had been instructed; he fell back into the arms of his heavenly Father, saying, with his divine Lord, “Not my will, but thine be done."
You observe now the paradox unfolds itself. Knowledge of God's design in our continued weakness, and acquiescence of heart in those ways of procedure, are a good beginning of strength, which is only another word for the power of sustaining with resignation, and without murmuring and impatience, the burden which God imposes.
3. And this is the next part of the result-actual power communicated ; “that the power of Christ may rest upon me”-“ for my strength is perfected in thy weakness.” The apostle now found the internal might which Christ promised; he felt his weakness, not removed indeed, but sustained ; he had something beside and beyond himself; he was able to exercise patience, to endure pain, to abstain from unbelief, to meet reproaches, contempt, persecution, and to go on with his work with cheerfulness. The "outward man perished,” it is true, but “the inner man was renewed from day to day.” Grace, like a tide, was flowing in, and bore up the vessel above the rocks and quicksands around it. As the necessity increased, the measure of grace was increased ; the “power of Christ” rested, pitched its tent upon him, surrounded him, covered him, settled on him, as the glory of old on the mercy seat. The feeble creature clinging amidst his unnumbered infirmities, like the ivy to the oak, was supported in all its weakness, by the mighty strength to which it adhered.
4. Accordingly, as a last result, the apostle instead of being any longer depressed and astounded at his sufferings, gloried in them, in order that the grace of Christ might have its full display, and all God's purposes be entirely accomplished. Hear the strange resolve: hear the paradox asserted in all its strength : “ Most gladly therefore do I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” “ For when I am weak, then am I strong."
Happy man! Like the disciples with their master in the vessel, he is persuaded that he shall not only not sink, but shall display to others, and experience himself, the power of Christ, which, but for the storm, would not, and could not have been so manifested. He knows that the most honorable, as well as the safest state for a Christian, is not one of ease, of outward prosperity, of health, of success, of respect from those around him ; but that in which the power of Christ
may have most room for being magnified and acknowledged. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” saith the triumphant warrior ; for me to live is Christ. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Here, then, let us pause and contemplate, before we conclude, the Christian paradox unveiled, developed, solved, triumphant! Let us see the strength of God sustaining human feebleness. Let us behold “ the weakness of God”-to use the apostle's expression—mightier than the fancied power of man. Let us see how the strength of the flesh is overthrown, the weakness of faith raised up; how the glorying of nature is subdued, the contrition of grace exalted; how the strength and self-sufficiency of the outward man is laid low, the impotency and infirmity of the sinner magnified ; the might of Satan, his“ messengers,” his impoisoned darts, his fell purposes, de
feated; the “ weakness” of Christ, his“ messenger," his “thorn,” his methods of humiliation, made more than conquerors ;-in a word, all the inflation and external promise of the fallen heart detected ; all the internal and real strength of Christ vindicated and established.
But which side of the alternative are you, my dear hearers, choosing ? Is the paradox still unintelligible and displeasing to you? There are two branches of it. The strength of the flesh boasted in, with real spiritual weakness; and the infirmity of man acknowledged, and Christ's might infused. Are you still trusting to yourselves, relying on nature, looking to what you term your strength of mind, aiming chiefly to make a fair show in the flesh; " and shunning sorrow, the cross, thorn, the heavenly discipline, the humiliations of Christ ? Oh, consider again the whole question which has been brought before you. Tell me what this vain prowess has ever accomplished as to real spiritual religion. Confess how miserably your vaunted ability has failed you in the combat with sin and the world. Conscience speaks within your breast. You know that in the moment of sorrow and temp. tation, your religion, like the house built upon the sand, has sunk under its own ruins. What then will you do in the last hour, when the pleasures of sense will have been exhausted ; when flattery will not cheer, nor learning soothe, nor philosophy occupy, nor poetry charm, nor self-delusion elevate. Awake, then, to the truth of your case. Rely no longer on your own strength, which is only as the swelling of a dropsy. Discover your weakness, by making an honest attempt to repent and turn to God, and to do works meet for repentance.” The first serious endeavors of an aroused mind dissipate his former notions of unaided spiritual might. Thus he is led to seek grace from the fountain of life,
The paradox gradually opens also to his mind. He sees that it involves“ Christ the power of God and the wisdom.”
Finally, do you, my brethren, who are already receiving the heavenly discipline, bring nearer to each other the two branches of the paradox. Enter more fully into the apostle's grateful confession, “When I am weak, then am I strong”—at the very time when I feel most sensibly my infirmities, at that crisis ; in the very hour of danger, in proportion to my perception of my own weakness ; just when Satan seemed about to triumph. “Then am I strong ;” though the thorn rankle still, though to the eye
of flesh all be hopeless. “ Then am I strong”— but strong through the strength of Christ; strong through grace made sufficient ; strong by means of thorns, and weaknesses, and reproaches, and persecu. tions, and necessities, which empty the heart, to make room in it for the abundance of grace; strong in the midst of contempt and disappointment, temptation and grief, which sink the valley low enough for the gigantic might of Christ to rear its lofty eminence and be clearly and distinctly seen-"Most gladly, therefore, do I rather glory in my infirmi. ties, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
2 CORINTHIANS v. 14, 15.
For the love of Christ constraineth us ; because we
thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead ; and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him that died for them and rose again.
In considering the application of the mysteries of Christianity to the human heart, we have noticed the danger of false conceptions of the divine cha. racter;1 The reasonableness of the demand which Christianity makes upon man;? The importance of distinguishing between the false and true method of learning the doctrine of Christ;. The greatness of God the source of comfort to the contrite; * And strength derived from weakness. 5
In all these topics no inconsiderable traces of beneficial tendencies were manifest. But in the
present subject, these tendencies will be yet more dis
I Sermon VII. 2 Sermon VIII. 3 Sermon IX.
Sermon X. 5 Sermon XI.