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these, more than from any others, he is enabled to say, "I know whom I have believed."]
III. This persuasion is a strong support to him under all his trials
Many are the difficulties of the Christian's warfare: but a persuasion of God's ability to keep him,
1. Encourages him to duty
[The path of duty is sometimes exceeding difficult: and too many have fainted in it, or been diverted from it. But we may see in the Hebrew Youths what a persuasion of God's power will effect. They braved the furnace itself, from the consideration that God could deliver them from it, or support them in the midst of it". And thus will every Christian encourage himself in God," and "be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might."]
2. Strengthens him for conflict
[Under temptations of Satan, or the hidings of God's face, the most exalted Christian would sink, if he were not supported by this hope: "I had fainted," says David, "unless I had believed verily to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." But the thought that the grace of Christ is sufficient for him, will turn all his sorrows into joyo: he will chide his dejected spirit, and return again to the charge, knowing that at last " he shall be more than conqueror through Him that loved him."]
3. Enables him to endure sufferings
[Many and great were the sufferings of St. Paul; yet says he, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself." Thus every Christian must "go through much tribulation in the way to the kingdom:" but he learns, not only to bear, but to "glory in tribulation," because it gives him a more enlarged experience of God's power and grace, and thereby confirms his hope, which shall never make him ashamed.]
4. Assures him of final victory
[Those who have not just views of God are left in painful suspense: but they who know whom they have believed, are as much assured of victory, as if all their enemies were lying dead at their feet.]
n Dan. iii. 17, 18. P Ps. xlii. 11.
o 2 Cor. xii. 9. and Rom. vii. 24.
s Compare Isai. 1. 7-9. with Rom. viii. 33-39.
We shall further IMPROVE the subject,
1. For conviction
[All persons are ready to think that they are possessed of true and saving faith. But faith is not a mere assent to the truths of the Gospel, or even an approbation of them. It includes three things; a committing of the soul to Christ; a persuasion of his ability to save us; and a determination to go forward in dependence upon him, doing and suffering whatever we are called to in the path of duty.
Have we this faith? -]
2. For consolation- t
[If there be any amongst us weak and dejected, let them turn their eyes to God as their Almighty Friend. Let them know that" He is able to make them stand":" he is " able to make all grace abound towards them, that they, having always all-sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work." It is God himself who suggests to the fainting soul these very considerations; and he requires nothing, but that we wait on him in order that we may experience their truth and efficacy.
"Now unto Him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."]
t If this were the subject of a Funeral Sermon, the excellencies of the deceased might here be enumerated, and the survivors be comforted by the consideration that THEIR KEEPER lives for ever.
u Rom. xiv. 4.
y Isai. xl. 27-31.
x 2 Cor. ix. 8.
STRENGTH IN THE GRACE OF CHRIST.
2 Tim. ii. 1. My son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
HOW shall it be that all of us, who are assembled here this day, should ever get to heaven, so weak as we are, and so corrupt, and in the midst of so many and great dangers? I look back to the Apostle's days; and find, that when he was in prison at Rome, "all the converts that were of Asia, turned away from him;" but that one pious man, " Onesi
phorus, sought him out with great diligence," to relieve his necessities, and to comfort his soul". Now, if reduced to such straits as the Apostle Paul was, for the Gospel's sake, how should we hope to stand? How should we avoid the apostasy of the many, and retain the fidelity of the few? This instruction the Apostle gives to his beloved Timothy: "Thou, therefore, my son, (seeing how hard it is to stand in times of severe trial,) be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" that is, 'know that there is grace treasured up for thee in Christ: and, in dependence upon that, thou shalt be able to sustain all the trials that shall come upon thee.'
To elucidate these words, I will shew,
I. What a fulness of grace there is treasured up for us in Christ
But how can I present this to your minds in any intelligible shape? Methinks it can be done only in a way of illustration. Take, then, some scriptural illustrations; by means of which you may apprehend, in some considerable degree, the mysterious truth which I wish to submit to you.
Consider Christ, then,
1. As a Vine
[This is our Lord's own suggestion: "I am the Vine; ye are the branches"." Now we know, that every branch derives all its sap and nourishment from the vine; and that, if separated from the vine, it can bring forth no fruit whatever. This, then, will convey a very just idea of the connexion that subsists between Christ and his people; and of their entire dependence on him for every fresh supply of grace
But an husbandman prunes the luxuriant branches of his vine; lest the sap being too widely diffused, its influence be weakened, and its fructifying power be abridged. In this, therefore, the image altogether fails: and we must look for one more suitable, by regarding Christ,]
2. As a Sun
[This supplies the whole universe with light: and every individual of mankind, when exposed to its rays, enjoys as
a 2 Tim. i. 15-18.
b John xv. 5.
much of it as if he alone existed upon earth. Nor has he the less of its influence from its being extended to all the millions of mankind. Thus has every believer as much of Christ's gracious influence as his soul can need; having it neither increased by the paucity of those who partake of it, nor diminished by the numbers "The Sun of Righteousness'
is alike sufficient for all
Yet the sun affords us not the same genial warmth in winter, as in the summer months; and at night it is altogether hid from us. In these respects, therefore, this image also fails. But we shall find an illustration more complete, if we consider Christ,]
3. As a Fountain
[Under this character our blessed Lord commends himself to us: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." But especially is he compared with the rock smitten in the wilderness, " from whence gushed rivers of water," for the supply of all the people of Israel; and which followed them in very abundant streams, through all their journeying in the wilderness. Here then we have a more appropriate image: for as He is the only source of grace to every living soul, so may every one have access to him at all times, to obtain a supply fully commensurate with his utmost necessities. And in this does this image pre-eminently display the fulness that is in Christ Jesus, and the benefit to be derived from it; because "every soul that drinks of that living water has within himself a well of water, springing up to everlasting life:" so that, having Christ within him, he can never thirst again, nor want any other source, either of strength or comfort.
Without attempting to give any further illustration of what, after all, can never be adequately comprehended, I will only observe, that the representation is truly scriptural; since we are expressly told, that "it hath pleased the Father that in Christ should all fulness dwelle," and that all his people are said to "receive, out of his fulness, grace for grace."]
Let us then consider,
II. Our duty in relation to it
We are to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus;" that is,
1. We are to apply to him for it with simplicity[We should have it as a settled principle in our minds, that there is no strength in man, nor any other source of
c 1 Cor. x. 4.
d John iv. 13, 14. and vii. 37, 38.
grace than Christ Jesus: and without hesitation we should go to him from day to day, and from hour to hour, to receive it out of his fulness. We should not dream of meriting it at his hands, or of earning it by any thing that we can do: we should receive it as freely as the Israelites did the waters that issued from the rock; and should go to it as the only source of all that we need. Did the Israelites, think you, attempt to dig wells in the wilderness, when they had access to that stream? So then should we go to Christ for grace continually, and derive from him all that our necessities require -]
2. We are to rely upon it with confidence—
[We should never, for a moment, entertain doubts or fears respecting Christ's sufficiency to supply our wants. Whatever dangers threaten us, we should say, "There be more with us than with them":" and, " If God be for us, who can be against ush?" He has told us, that, whatever be our necessities, "his grace is sufficient for us:" and therefore, instead of dreading trials, lest we should be vanquished by them, we should "take pleasure in them, that the power of Christ may rest upon us, and his strength be magnified in our weaknessi" Knowing in whom we have believed," we should look upon "our enemies as bread for usk," and view their assaults as preludes only to victory and triumph-- -]
Let me now add,
1. A word of caution
[The circumstance of there being such a fulness treasured up for you in Christ does not in the least degree supersede the necessity for exertion on your part; no, nor of fear and watchfulness. To your latest hour you must be like Paul, who "kept his body under, and brought it into subjection; lest by any means, after having preached to others, he himself should be a cast-away1." You will see in the context, that you are to "endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christm:" and your strength in Christ is not to render you forgetful of, but to fit you for, the warfare, which he has called you to maintain n -]
2. A word of encouragement
[Now, for eighteen hundred years has grace been flowing from the Lord Jesus for the supply of all his people. But do you suppose that his power to communicate is therefore