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will come next! No: "hear, O heavens, and give ear, 0 earth,” the majesty of the blessed and only Potentate proclaims the breast of the humble to be his temple; fixes this as the law of the gospel, this as the principle of the last dispensation; this as the manner in which he resisteth indeed “the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”
The value of redemption, again, is elevated by the majesty and holiness of the exalted and lofty One, who dwells in the contrite heart. For it is these very perfections of the moral Governor of the world which required such a sacrifice as the death of his only-begotten Son. If you sink God's holiness, sovereignty, eternity, law, you sink the ransom-price of that redemption by which this Almighty ruler of all was exhibited in the Cross as a just God and a Savior.”
The sense of security and deliverance, also, is greater ; for if God, this God be for us, who can be against us? If this exalted and glorious Being undertakes to give us a reviving; to pardon, rescue, comfort, and save, who can destroy ? Who enter the pavilion in which he hides us ? Who penetrate the shadow of his wings ? All the greatness of God, which was before against us, is now for, and with, and around us.
Our petty, feeble nature is no ground of fear, if he, who is “ The Rock of ages” covers us, as it were, in a cleft of it with his own Almighty hand.
Lastly, the final end of man seems more distinctly taken into account and provided for. For we were made to enjoy this great God. We were endowed with all but angelic powers, that we might know, adore, possess, find our felicity in this glorious Creator. The more, therefore, his natural and moral perfections are displayed in connection with his inhabitation in the contrite heart, the more distinctly doth man seem to approach his final end, his ultimate repose, the purport of his reasonable and moral nature. Mercy and compassion are thus less directly illustrative of the incomprehensible fulness of the heavenly bliss, than this sublime description of the greatness and glory of Him, whose presence consti. tutes heaven ; who is himself the self-existent and beatific source of felicity; and who, with the Son and the Spirit, will for ever dwell and walk in his redeemed and glorified people.
But where, then, will “the ungodly and the sinner appear,” in the last fearful day? Let such tremble at the thought of standing in judgment before this Holy Lord God. If God be so glorious ; if his being, and perfections, and government, and revelation of redemption in Christ Jesus, be not a speculative, but a grand, practical, all-pervading truth; then what will become of those, who, like Pharaoh, refuse to humble themselves before Him? What will become of the proud, the stout-hearted, the selfrighteous, the careless, the superstitious, the intellectual sophists, the vain disputers of this world ?"
God will ere long “ lift up himself;" God will ere long close the time of long-suffering ; God will ere long vindicate his moral government, and justify his ways before an assembled universe. Then will none but the humble be exalted; then will none but the contrite ones be revived; then will none but the meek believers in a crucified Savior be acknowledged as the heirs of that kingdom which he hath prepared for them that fear him.
Submit yourselves therefore, ere it be too late, to this great God. Implore his Holy Spirit to enable you to do so. Approach him in Christ Jesus. Sink, that you may hereafter rise. Be abased, that you may be exalted.
Be humble and contrite now, that you may be acknowledged, and revived, and placed in the enjoyment of eternal life, at the last day.
2 CORINTHIANS XII. 9.
Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my
infirmities that the power of Christ may rest ироп те. .
The Christian paradox is here announced-strength derived from weakness. For one of the new principles brought into operation by our divine religion is, that man's moral power lies in the knowledge of his own feebleness, and in his casting himself by faith on the might and grace of God in Jesus Christ.
This is the remarkable topic which the apostle is treating in the passage of which the text is a part.
He had received some extraordinary proofs of the divine favor; he had been caught up into paradise;" “ whether in the body or out of the body, he could not tell ;” and had heard unutterable mysteries, Lest however he should be “exalted by the abundance of the revelations,” there was sent unto him, what he terms, a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan, to buffet him.”
For the removal of this affliction he repeatedly besought the Lord; but upon receiving the assurance that the grace of Christ would be sufficient and
adequate for his sustentation under the discipline; and that the strength of his Savior would be the more displayed in the support thus administered, he changes his view of the case, and breaks out in the holy resolution of the text, “ Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Therefore,” continues he, “ I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake;" and then he concludes his triumph by affirming in yet briefer terms the paradox which I have selected as our present subject ; for when I am weak, then am I strong."
An extraordinary conclusion, surely; and to which he could have only arrived by means of a painful discipline, in the first place; and then of unlooked for grace vouchsafed under it and in the midst of it. To these I am now to call your attention. For the paradox must be analysed; its two several parts must be separately considered, as well as the process by which the conviction of the first, and the experience of the second, were produced.
We have therefore to notice, first, The apostle's weakness; then, The salutary conviction of it gradu. ally produced ; and, lastly, The strength ultimately flowing from both.
May God the Holy Spirit so be pleased to strengthen us all with might in the inner man,” that we may discern and feel for ourselves the truth and consolation of this apparently inexplicable statement!
I. The apostle's weakness, included all those various classes of difficulties from without, and of interior trials from within, with which he was chastened by Almighty God.
1. He had, as a Christian, to meet the ordinary afflictions and sorrows which attend our mortal conflict with the world, Satan, and sin. He was
susceptible of pain as well as others ; he felt disappointment; he was grieved at the removal of friends; he was conscious of injury from reproach, contumely, ingratitude; he felt the cruelty of imprisonment without cause; he wept over the miseries of the world, the perverseness of the Jewish prejudices, and the pride of wisdom in the Greeks; he was aware of his own many infirmities of judgment and purpose in the discharge of his conflicting duties. He was in all these senses weak, in common with other servants of God, especially in days of persecution.
2. But the expression before us rather refers to the peculiar trials which attended his apostleship. For he was in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft :” and “besides those things which were without, that which came upon him daily, the care of all the Churches.” For who was weak, and he was not weak; who was offended, and he burned not ?"
The disorders also and contentions which arose amongst the Corinthian and other converts, filled him with additional grief. The false teachers who endeavored to sap his authority, who preached Christ even of envy and strife, “supposing to add afflictions to his bonds;" who divided into parties the body of the faithful, and ranked themselves, some “as of Paul, and some of Apollos, and some of Cephas, and some of Christ ;" must have been a source of distressing weakness and anxiety.
3. But some one especial affliction was more oppressive than the rest." There was given me,” he says, “a thorn in the flesh”- -some painful visitation resembling in its effects a goad or thorn inserted in the flesh, and there festering and irritating the whole body; not mortal in itself, but disqualifying for duty, impeding, weakening, obstructing; some sorrow that pursued him every where, exhausting his strength, and drinking up his animal spirits ; and which, like a