2 Corinthians 12:8
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
Sermons
On Paul Being Caught Up to the Third HeavenF. W. Krummacher.2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Paul's VisionF. W. Robertson, M. A.2 Corinthians 12:1-10
St. Paul's Rapture and Thorn in the FleshJ. Leifchild, D. D.2 Corinthians 12:1-10
An Instructive ExperienceD. Fraser 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
Need of Humility Add the Means Appointed to Secure itC. Lipscomb 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Affliction an Antidote to TemptationC. F. Childe, M. A.2 Corinthians 12:7-11
Paul's Thorn in the FleshJ. A. Beet, D. D.2 Corinthians 12:7-11
Pride and its AntidoteT. Turner.2 Corinthians 12:7-11
Rejoicing At the Misfortunes of OthersA. K. H. Boyd, D. D.2 Corinthians 12:7-11
St. Paul's Thorn in the FleshF. W. Robertson, M. A.2 Corinthians 12:7-11
St. Paul's Thorn in the FleshJ. F. S. Gordon, M. A.2 Corinthians 12:7-11
The Temptation of St. PaulC. Bradley, M. A.2 Corinthians 12:7-11
The Thorn in the FleshW. Cardall, B. A.2 Corinthians 12:7-11
The Thorn in the FleshB. D. Johns.2 Corinthians 12:7-11
The Thorn in the FleshAbp. Trench.2 Corinthians 12:7-11
The Thorn in the FleshC. H. Spurgeon.2 Corinthians 12:7-11
The Thorn in the FleshW. Bird.2 Corinthians 12:7-11
The Thorn in the FleshW. Jay.2 Corinthians 12:7-11
The Thorn in the FleshR. Collyer, D. D.2 Corinthians 12:7-11
The Thorn in the Flesh, or Soul SchoolingD. Thomas, D. D.2 Corinthians 12:7-11
Christian Trial and Ungranted PrayerG. McMichael, B. A.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
CourageJ. F Clarke.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Grace Equal to Our NeedC. H. Spurgeon.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Grace SufficientW. H. Lewis, D. D.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Grace, Secret OfW. Arnot, D. D.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Man's Extremity, God's OpportunityJ. Vaughan, M. A.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
My Grace is Sufficient for TheeJames Bannerman, D. D.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
On the Nature and Efficacy of Divine GraceT. Gisborne, M. A.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Strength in WeaknessA. Maclaren, D. D.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Strengthening Words from the Saviour's LipsC. H. Spurgeon.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Sufficiency of GraceA. Raleigh, D. D.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Sufficient GraceA. MacEwen, D. D.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
The Moral Power of ChristianityNewman Smyth.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
The Power of Divine GraceDean Paget, D. D.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
The Quietness of True PowerW. M. Statham.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
The Sufficient Grace of GodBp. Phillips Brooks.2 Corinthians 12:8-9
If the Lord Jesus passed from the baptism in the Jordan, and the dovelike descent of the Holy Ghost upon him, to the solitude of the wilderness and the assaults of the tempter; if he came down from the mount of transfiguration to witness the failure of the disciples to heal the lunatic boy, and to give expression to his sorrow in the words, "O faithless and perverse generation!" etc. - it is not surprising that an apostle should be sorely tried after his exaltation. New endowments must have new tests. New and larger grace must be immediately put off probation, since there are many probations in this one probation that have eternal issues. "Lest I" - this man in Christ, who fourteen years ago was prepared by special revelation for the toil and trial of his Gentile apostleship - "lest I should be exalted above measure;" and what was the danger? "The abundance of the revelations." Against that danger he must be fortified. If new endowments and new graces are instantly put on trial, and the conditions of life's general probation changed, then, indeed, a new check to guard against abuse of increased gifts must not be lacking. The man is not precisely the same man as before, nor is he in the same world that he previously occupied. Accessions of outward advantages, such as wealth and social position, are full of risks, but accessions of inward power are far more perilous. To preserve St. Paul from self-glorification, there was given him "a thorn in the flesh." First of all, the revelations were as to the fact itself to be kept a secret, and this was a means of humility, but the thorn in the flesh was added. What it was we know not, but it was a bodily infirmity that caused him much suffering. "This is significant. It is of the very nature of thorns to be felt rather than seen, and to appear trifling evils to all but those directly stung by them" (Dr. Bellows). It was "a messenger of Satan," though this does not imply that it was not under God's direction. The idea is that this "angel of Satan" was an impaling stake that produced severe and continued pain, and the reason therefore is twice stated, "lest I should be exalted above measure." So, then, it was not as an apostle, but as the apostle to the Gentiles, that he was specially afflicted. Pain is instinctively resisted as an enemy to the activity, comfort, and pleasure of life. Naturally, therefore, St. Paul felt that it would interfere with his energy and happiness, and, of course, the Satanic side of the torture would be uppermost in his thought. The evil in pain is what we see first. If this were not realized, it could not be an affliction. Hence he prayed thrice to the Lord that it might depart from him. But his prayer was denied. At the same time, the promise was given - a promise worth far more than the removal of the pain - "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." The thorn was to continue - a lifelong suffering in addition to his other infirmities was to be fastened upon him, a special and grievous suffering. Yet, while it had to remain a sad memorial, not of his exaltation, but of human frailty in connection with great endowments, there was an assurance direct and specific of sustaining grace. Along with that a most important truth was taught him, namely, that the perfection of strength is attained through the consciousness of our utter weakness. First, then, the evil of pain; next, the good of pain under the agency of God's grace; - this is the method of providence and grace, for the two are one in the Divine purpose. Alas! had the prayer of those sensitive nerves of his been literally answered, what a loser would he and we have been! How much of his power would have vanished with the pain! How many thoughts and emotions that have cheered the afflicted and inspired the weak to be heroic, would have been unknown! Such Epistles as the apostle wrote (to say nothing of his other services to the world) could never have been written under the ordinary experience of the ills of life. All men have thorns in the flesh, for there is no perfect health, no human body free from ailments. But in St. Paul's case the thorn was a superaddition to existing infirmities. Nor is it difficult for us to see how this particular infirmity, sanctified by the Spirit, was specially adapted to guard him at a most exposed point. Inasmuch as he was the object of a peculiar and violent opposition, he was singularly liable to the temptation of over asserting himself and his merits, the more so as his enemies took delight in taunting him with his personal defects as to manner and appearance. The safeguard was provided where it was most wanted. Such, in fact, was his own view of the matter: "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." "My infirmities," he argues, "instead of being the hindrance they would be if left to themselves, are helpers, since they are the occasions of grace, and this grace rests upon me, i.e. abides continually. The thought is precious; it must be repeated. "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities," etc.; for the power of Christ had been imparted to him with such fulness as to transform pain into pleasure so far as his spiritual nature was concerned. The body continued to suffer, the humiliations were increased, but his soul was filled with Christ as the Christ of his pains and sorrows, and thus he had the victory, not only over physical misery, but over all pride and vanity that might have sprung up "through the abundance of the revelations." Glorious words are these: "When I am weak, then am I strong." Notice the clear view St. Paul has of the Divine hand in his thorn in the flesh. If he is perfectly assured of the abundance of the revelations, if he can locate the scene in Paradise, if he realizes the sanctity of these disclosures in the "unspeakable words," he is just as certain that the thorn "was given" him. He knew it was a "thorn," and he knew whence it came. He acknowledged God in it, and, in this feeling, prayed thrice for its removal. Christians often fail at this point. They doubt at times whether their afflictions come from God. Some Christians cannot be induced to believe that their sufferings are sent from above, and they see in them nothing more than evil casualties. But if they fail to recognize God in the sorrow, they will not find him in the joy of his blessed promise, "My grace is sufficient for thee." It was not merely the "them" that St. Paul had to endure. This was a source of pain, and it aggravated, doubtless, his other physical infirmities, and, in turn, was augmented by them. But we must not forget the state of mind such an affliction naturally produced - the surprise that it should follow such wonderful signs of God's favour as had been vouchsafed in the "abundance of the revelations," the temptation to a rebellious spirit and the occasion for unbelief it would furnish. A literal answer to his prayer was refused; a spiritual answer was granted. The "grace" bestowed was "sufficient," not only to bear the pain as a peculiar addition to his "infirmities" already existing, but to enable him to "glory" in it; and the providence of it was specially manifested in the power it had given him to be patient, forbearing, humble, in the late trouble with the Corinthians. O Christians, who are called to a lifelong discipline in the school of suffering, think of the measure implied in the sufficient grace! Sufficient for what? Sufficient, not only to glory in pain and infirmity, but to glory "most gladly." - L.







For this thing I besought the Lord thrice.
If it is useful to consider prayers granted for encouragement, it is also desirable to reflect on prayers not granted for instruction. We delight to pass in review Abraham, Hezekiah, etc. But it must not be forgotten there are opposite cases that represent in shade, as the others in light, the will and mercy of God. Was it not so with Moses, beseeching the Lord to cancel His prohibition; with David, as he pleaded for the life of his child; with Jeremiah, as he says, "When I cry He shutteth out my prayer"?

I. GOD, WHILE BLESSING HIS SERVANTS, OFTEN DOES NOT WITHHOLD FROM THEM PAINFUL SUFFERINGS. A very striking account of special favour is related. Heaven seemed unveiled. But now, in connection with this experience, "a thorn in the flesh" was appointed, to be a memorial, as the halting on the thigh to Jacob, of what he had passed through. This shadows forth the frequent dealings of God with His people. To some strong assurance, peculiar intimacy, are allowed. Exceptional experiences are related by Mr. Flavel and Mr. Tennant. But the cup of trial has often been put into the hands of such. Remember R. Baxter, through fifty long years, worn with a painful malady, writing his books often in agony lying on the ground; R. Hall, a martyr through his life to torturing pain; Dr. Payson, a sufferer from habitual weakness; the eminent Jay grieving over godlessness in his family. So in the rank and file of Christian life. In all sunshine there are shadows, and, like Job, men ask, under the mystery of Providence, Why. Always feel, however, "It is the Lord," not in anger, but love.

II. PRAYER IS THE RESOURCE OF THE SOUL IN TRIAL. The apostle did not submit without an effort to obtain the removal of his suffering. Christianity is not stoicism. Ours is to be —

1. The prayer of faith. A real, not imaginary, audience with God.

2. The prayer of earnestness. The little child often a pattern, and in this earnestness not soon baffled, but expecting, hoping, desiring, waiting.

3. The prayer of submission, not of presumption. Paul besought, did not dictate.

III. PRAYER, THOUGH NOT GRANTED IN OUR, IS ANSWERED IN GOD'S WAY.

1. Often by revealing the purpose of the trial. "Lest I should be exalted." If we could see what would develop in our character apart from trial we should better understand. An artist, standing on scaffold, was painting the dome of a cathedral; stepped back to see the effect, unconsciously was going too far — in a moment would have fallen, but a friend dashed a brush with colour against his work. He darted forward and was saved. To save us from backward and perilous steps God often appears to deal severely.

2. By giving ability to bear our trial — My grace sufficient. What a conscious rest we have in God when with all griefs and cares we commit ourselves to Him. Like S. Rutherford we can say, "I rest myself on the bosom of Omnipotence."

3. By sanctifying the experience of the trial and making it a means of advantage. The apostle found the bane a blessing.Conclusion:

1. It is important sometimes to record even our failures. Some may be kept from despondency.

2. God, by His Divine alchemy, can always bring good out of evil.

3. God glorifies Himself in His people when He comforts them.

(G. McMichael, B. A.)

This page in the autobiography of the apostle shows us that he, too, belonged to the great army of martyrs. The original word seems to mean, not a tiny bit of thorn, but one of those hideous stakes on which the cruel punishment of impalement used to be inflicted. Note —

I. THE INSTINCTIVE SHRINKING FROM THAT WHICH TORTURED THE FLESH, WHICH TAKES REFUGE IN PRAYER.

1. Paul's petitions are the echo of Gethsemane; but He that prayed in Gethsemane was He to whom Paul addressed his prayer.

2. Notice how this thought of prayer helps to lead us deep into its most blessed characteristics. It is only the telling Christ what is in our hearts. If we realised this — questions as to what it was permissible or not to pray for would be irrelevant. If anything is big enough to interest me it is not too small to be spoken about to Him. If I am to talk to Christ about everything that concerns me, am I to keep my thumb upon that great department and be silent about it? That is why our prayers are often so unreal. Our hearts are full of some small matter of daily interest, and when we kneel down not a word about it comes to our lips. Can that be right? The difference between the different objects of prayer is to be found in remembering that there are two sets of things to be prayed about, and over one set must ever be written, "If it be Thy will," and over the other it need not be written. We know about the latter that "if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us." But about the former we can only say, "Not my will, but Thine be done." With that deep in our hearts, let us take everything into His presence, thorns and stakes, pin-pricks and wounds out of which the life-blood is ebbing, and be sure that we take none of them in vain.

II. THE INSIGHT INTO THE SOURCE OF STRENGTH FOR, AND THE PURPOSE OF, THE THORN THAT COULD NOT BE TAKEN AWAY.

1. The answer is, in form and in substance, a gentle refusal of the form of the petition, but it is more than a granting of its essence. There are two ways of lightening a burden, one is diminishing, its weight, the other is increasing the strength of the shoulder that bears it. And the latter is God's way of dealing with us.

2. The answer is no communication of anything fresh, but it is the opening of the man's eyes to see that already he has all that he needs. "My grace" (which thou hast now) "is sufficient for thee." If troubled Christian men would learn and use what they have they would less often beseech Him with vain petitions to take away their blessings which are the thorns in the flesh.

3. How modestly the Master speaks about what He gives! "Sufficient"? Yes; but the overplus is "exceeding abundant." "Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient that every one may take a little," says Sense. Omnipotence says, "Bring the few small loaves and fishes unto Me"; and Faith dispensed them amongst the crowd; and Experience "gathered up of the fragments that remained" more than there had been when the multiplication began. So the grace utilised increases; the gift grows as it is employed. "Unto him that hath shall be given."

4. The other part of this great answer unveiled the purpose of the sorrow, even as the former part had disclosed the strength to bear it. "My strength is made perfect" — that is, of course, "perfect in its manifestation or operations, for it is perfect in itself already" — "in weakness." God works with broken reeds. If a man conceits himself to be an iron pillar, God can do nothing with or by him. His strength loves to work in weakness, only the weakness must be conscious, and the conscious weakness must have passed into conscious dependence. There, then, you get the law for the Church and individual lives. Strength that conceits itself to be such is weakness; weakness that knows itself to be such is strength. So when we know ourselves weak, we have taken the first step to strength; just as, when we know ourselves sinners, we have taken the first step to righteousness. All our hollownesses are met with His fulness that fits into them.

III. THE CALM, FINAL ACQUIESCENCE IN THE LOVING NECESSITY OF CONTINUED SORROW. "Most gladly, therefore," etc. (ver. 9). The will is entirely harmonised with Christ's. He is more than submissive, he gladly glories in his infirmity in order that the power of Christ may "spread a tabernacle over" him. "It is good for me that I have been afflicted," said the old prophet. Paul sounds a higher note. Far better is it that the sting of our sorrow should be taken away, by our having learned what it is for, and having bowed to it, than that it should be taken away by the external removal which we sometimes long for. And if we would only interpret events in the spirit of this great text, we should less frequently wonder and weep over the so-called insoluble mysteries of the sorrows of ourselves or of other men. They are all intended to make it more easy for us to realise our utter hanging upon Him, and so to open our hearts to receive more fully the quickening influences of His all-sufficing grace. Here, then, is a lesson for those who have to carry some cross, knowing they must carry it throughout life. It will be wreathed with flowers if you accept it.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee
We may take this comforting promise to ourselves and apply it —

I. TO SUCH OF OUR TRIALS AS, LIKE ST. PAUL'S, ARE SECRET. You may be called to endure chastenings from God's hand which no one but yourselves can know or appreciate. Perhaps your affliction also exposes you to misconception from your fellow-men, who condemn your conduct as eccentric and unchristian, when if they knew the reason of it they would compassionate rather than censure. Eli condemned Hannah as a drunkard, when he afterwards discovered that she was praying in a sorrowful spirit. Christ can understand your case, and His "grace is sufficient for thee."

II. TO THOSE TRIALS WHICH ARE MORE OPEN. Take, e.g., one of the most common of our earthly troubles, that caused by the voice of calumny. You may be conscious that you are innocent, and it is all very well to talk of superiority to calumny. When Christ was called a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a Samaritan and a devil, and crucified as a malefactor, He did not wrap Himself up in His conscious innocence and look with perfect indifference upon the malignant assaults of His enemies. It was one of the severest parts of His earthly trials. And here is our hope, viz., that the Saviour, who has Himself known the trial, will make His "grace sufficient for us." There is one Friend whom the slanderer cannot alienate. No falsehood breathed against any man ever injured him in the estimation of Jesus, but, on the contrary, made him more peculiarly the object of the Saviour's care.

III. FOR THE DUTIES OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, How arduous those duties are! And many have drawn back from them. "My grace is sufficient for thee," is not a promise for those who neglect duty, but for those who engage in it. The fullest stream cannot move the wheel till the water gate is raised, but then when that is done, it comes down steadily upon it, and as each turn makes place for more, another gushing flood comes down and turns it again, and keeps it ever moving. So is it in our duties. Let us engage in them, let us remove the obstacles, let us draw up the gate, and then it is Christ's part to send down grace to keep the machinery of the spiritual life in constant motion. It is the absurdest thing to shrink from duties because of our weakness, when the almighty power of Jesus is pledged to be present with us.

IV. TO ALL THAT YET LIES BEFORE US, OF TRIAL AND OBEDIENCE. We can fancy many dreadful evils in the coming future. We have, at least, one great trial to endure, the severing of friends from us by death, and our own last conflict with the great enemy.

(W. H. Lewis, D. D.)

A human life is a problem of forces. Powers from all worlds are met on this earth and contend for the mastery over us. Influences from all the ages flow in the veins of humanity and beat in the heart of each new-born child. It is a question of forces — physical, moral, spiritual — what shall become of every one of us. Our whole scientific conception of things is formed now in equations of force. The earth quivers to its centre to the influences of the stars. Elemental forces hold each other in firm embrace in the great mountains and in the ancient order of the heavens. It is with the primal and eternal forces that we have to do even in the quietest of things. Human history, no less than the physical processes of nature, is a ceaseless transformation and conservation of energy. Human destiny is a problem of forces. This dynamical conception of history, this view of every human life as a drama of supernal powers, presents a most fascinating study of events and characters and destinies. Not only in the few great lives, but in the passion and action of every soul, universal powers contend for the supremacy, and the issues of eternal life or death are the results of the conflict. When we think thus of each life from earliest childhood as a problem of forces, powers from everywhither contending for the mastery in it, and eternal life or death being its moral victory or defeat, nothing that touches and influences, nothing that may help or hurt the soul in this great conflict of its destiny, can seem indifferent to us. The question of its triumph or its shame, its virtue or its loss, will become a question of motive and of motive-power: in the power of what motives can the victory of spirit be gained? What motive-power is sufficient to reduce all the conflicting forces that work upon us and in us to one harmonious, happy, and everlasting life? Now, our Christian faith has a clear answer to give to this question concerning the sufficient motive-power of a life. When the Apostle Paul preached at Athens or Rome there was one question which he might have asked the philosophers, to which he would have received evasive and very unsatisfactory replies, viz., How can a bad man become a good man? How can a virtuous man overcome all evil? Some one at Athens or Rome might have quoted Aristotle to him, and answered, The good can become better by the practice of virtue; and as for the bad, the State must look after them by the exercise of force. Or some one might have quoted Plato to the apostle, and said, The way of virtue is the way of contemplation; lift your eyes to the eternal ideas, behold their beauty — an answer which might be serviceable to the few wise souls, but which would have no meaning for those born blind, without spiritual eyes clarified for the vision of supernal truths. But St. Paul carried with him in his new Christian experience an answer concerning the moral motive-power of a true life, such as all the books of the ancients did not contain. Let us consider how he had reached that answer, and what his Christian solution of life as a problem of forces was. He had reached it through two courses of experience. First, he had tried the best method which he knew of making himself a master of all virtue, and he felt that he had miserably failed. He had succeeded well enough according to the moral standards of his neighbours and friends, but in his own sober judgment of himself he had failed to reach the one object of his moral ambition, and to become a perfect master of righteousness. He had tried to live by rule, and he had found that to be a very unsatisfactory method of virtue. Then, having failed to live perfectly by rule, he had been taught by a vision of the Lord another method of life — the method of faith and love. The new Christian motive lifts him up and leads him on. And his Epistles ring with a consciousness of power. Among the most frequently-repeated words in these Epistles of the great apostle is this word "power." St. John has three characteristic words, denoting his pure, fair, Christian conception of what we shall be — the words light, life, love. St. Paul also has three words, oft-recurring, which disclose his new Christian consciousness of redemption — grace, faith, power — in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, the power of the resurrection, the power of Christ. Who is this one man to claim discovery of the secret of a supernal power for life and over death? Who is this man who claims to succeed where all our philosophies fail? What impossible motive-power of life is this of which the converted Jew boasts? St. Paul's answer, however, concerning the sufficient motive-power for life, others around him began to try, and they succeeded by it. It has been verified in men's experience thousands of times, and under most widely differing conditions of life. A modern unbeliever, who thinks that the only hope for making men better is through good breeding scientifically carried out, admits that the Christian motive has power over certain high and rare spirits, but it does not much influence, he thinks, the generality of people. But an unbeliever in the second century raised precisely the opposite objection against the new Christian faith, and complained that the Christian converts were made from the wool-dressers, and the cobblers, and the ignorant masses. If we put the two objections together, the ancient and the modern, they render this just tribute to the power of the gospel, that it appeals to the humblest and the worst, while it also has a nobler inspiration for the rarest spirits. Such being the incontestable fact, we may proceed next to consider what this moral motive-power is which St. Paul carried within him to Rome. Our text puts the whole matter in the simplest form — the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ, His power resting on the disciple. We are not, perhaps, accustomed to think of the life of Jesus as the strong life; yet it was the life of strength. We think of Him as the merciful One, who went about doing good; we think of Him as the Man of Sorrows. Gentleness, patience, self-denying, suffering, submission — these are the pre-eminent Christian virtues; and Christ-likeness means self-forgetfulness. Yet the brave, great-hearted apostle seems to have been wonderfully impressed with the strength of the Christ. The power of Jesus commanded him. The despised Nazarene, he discovers, was Lord. The Crucified One, he sees, is Emperor of all worlds. St. Paul receives the Spirit of Christ as the Spirit of power. From beginning to end Jesus' life was characterised by these three distinguishing moral marks of the highest human power — perfect self-poise, instantaneous decision, sure and unbroken purpose. Estimated by such tests of power, the life of the Son of man was the strongest life ever commissioned of the Eternal upon this earth. First, it is as the personal influence of Jesus. That is to-day the strongest thing in the world. There is no greater force under the stars than the personal influence of the Christ. The generations cannot pass from the spell of it. There is no type of virtue which has not been strengthened by it, no grace of character that has not been enhanced by it. The personal example of the Christ is the kingly and commanding power of modern history. Secondly, in this power of Jesus, of which St. Paul was profoundly conscious, is contained great material of truth for character and conduct. The truths which the gospel presents are truths which are directly convertible into character; they easily break into the pure flame of consecrated spirit. All truths have some relations, direct or indirect, to conduct; but these Christian truths are pre-eminently truths to be done; they are rich in material for motive. This is the value of the Christian doctrines; they are materials for life. The doctrines of the Epistles branch at once into the practical precepts of the Epistles: the truths of the gospel bear the fruits of righteousness. If in our trials, temptations, anxieties, responsibilities, or bereavements, we wish to find truths that shall keep our hearts always young, and impart to us an exhaustless spiritual strength, we must open our Bibles, and let these words of inspiration renew our courage, calm our spirits, set our daily duties to celestial music, impart to us in the midst of the conflicts of the world something of the strength of Jesus and the peace of the Eternal. Thirdly, the power of Jesus, which an apostle prayed might rest upon him, was not only the influence of the remembered life of the Lord, nor was it wholly the strength to be gained by assimilating the truths of the gospel; it was also the living power of the Spirit of Christ. The motive to all goodness in the lives of believers, and the power of the perseverance of the saints, is to be the influences with the soul of the ascended Lord and the working of the Holy Spirit, who uses all the Christian revelation of God as the means and channel of the redemptive power of God's love on earth. What, then, do we see? What do we find? Everywhere around us — yes, and within us — a conflict of forces, good and evil; and the eternal destinies waiting the issues of this combat of our mortality.

(Newman Smyth.)

The close connection between a sincere recognition of all that is implied in the sin of the world and an appreciation of the reality of grace, has been clearly shown in the history of error. It held together the two denials which characterised the Pelagian heresy of the fifth century. For it has been truly said that "it was only by ignoring the great overthrow that Pelagius could dispense with the great restorative force." He had to say "we have no inborn sin" in order that he might say "we need no inward grace." And at all times there is no more certain way to drain the life out of our religion, and to quench all brightness in the things of faith, than to trifle with the idea of sin — to mitigate the verdict of conscience in regard to it, to try to explain it away, or to make ourselves easy in its presence. We disguise from ourselves the gravity of the disease, and then the remedy seems disproportionate and unnecessary. But when the conscience is unsophisticated and outspoken; when we do justice in our thoughts to the power and tyranny of sin; then we feel that nothing save a real and living energy could cope with such a misery; that grace must be a reality if it is to deal with the sin of the world. And grace is indeed most real. It is an energy at least as true, as traceable in the large course of human history as any influence that we can find there. But before we try to see its work it is necessary that we should know what grace means in Christian thought and teaching. "Grace," writes Dr. Mozley, "is power. That power whereby God works in nature is called power. That power whereby He works in the wills of His reasonable creatures is called grace." Again, in Dr. Bright's words, "Grace is a force in the spiritual order, not simply God's unmerited kindness in the abstract, but such kindness in action as a movement of His Spirit within the soul, resulting from the Incarnation, and imparting to the will and the affections a new capacity of obedience and of love." And yet once more, Dr. Liddon writes, "Grace is not simply kindly feeling on the part of God, but a positive boon conferred on man. Grace is a real and active force: it is the power that worketh in us, illuminating the intellect, warming the heart, strengthening the will of redeemed humanity. It is the might of the everlasting Spirit, renovating man by uniting him, whether immediately or through the sacraments, to the sacred Manhood of the Word Incarnate." Such is grace as a Christian thinks of it and lives by it. It is the work, the presence of God the Holy Ghost in us, bringing to us all that our Saviour died and rose again to win for us. But here we are moving upon ground which may be resolutely denied to us. The doctrine of grace is as little congenial to natural reason, or to a superficial view of human life, as is the doctrine of the Fall. But here too, I believe, a deeper and more appreciative study of the facts betrays the working of some power, for which it is very difficult to account by any merely natural estimate. As the truth of original sin is at once the most obscure and the most illuminating of mysteries; as all the phenomenon of sinful history forces us back to that imperceptible point, where by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin: so may grace be said to be at once the most inscrutable and the most certain of all the forces that enter into the course of life. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; but as the great trees sway like reeds, as the clouds scud across the sky, as the ship leaps forward over the waves and strains towards the haven, you do not doubt the reality of the force that is astir. And grace, the great energy in the spiritual order; grace, the Almighty Power of God in the wills of its reasonable creatures, has its phenomena, its effects, at least as real, as difficult to deny or to explain away — though not so difficult to ignore — as such tokens of the viewless wind. Alciphron, the minute philosopher of Bishop Berkeley's dialogue, the witty and freethinking gentleman of his day, assails Christianity from this very ground. Grace, he truly says is the main point in the Christian dispensation; but then he complains thus: "At the request of a philosophical friend, I did cast an eye on the writings he showed me of some divines, and talked with others on this subject, but after all I had read or heard could make nothing of it, having always found whenever I laid aside the word grace and looked into my own mind a perfect vacuity or privation of all ideas." And he adds with ingenuous self-confidence: "As I am apt to think men's minds and faculties are made much alike, I suspect that other men, if they examine what they call grace with exactness and indifference, would agree with me that there was nothing in it but an empty name." Alciphron is opposed by Euphanor with an argument which is quite sufficient for its purpose. He is invited to contemplate force as he had contemplated grace, "itself in its own precise idea," excluding the consideration of its subject and effects; and here, too, he is compelled to discover the same mental vacuity and privation; he closes his eyes and muses a few minutes, and declares that he can make nothing of it: — and so his contention, if it has any value, would involve the denial of force as well as grace; and for this he is not prepared. But what strange narrowness of horizon; what failure of sympathy and imagination; what readiness to be soon contented with one's own account of one's own fragment of the world — is shown when Alciphron or any one else can think that there is nothing to be found or studied where Christians speak of grace; that "a perfect vacuity and privation of ideas" is a philosophic state of mind in regard to it; that it can be dismissed with scorn or compassion as a mere empty name. For grace is not offered for attention and consideration as a mere subjective phenomenon, simply an experience of the inner life, supported by a bare assertion, incapable of tests and evidence; no, it has its facts to point to, its results written in the history of men and patent in their daily life; its achievements, accredited to it by those who were certainly nearest to the occurrences, achievements hardly to be explained away, and never to be ignored by any mind that claims the temper of philosophy. The effects assigned to grace in life and history are as serious and distinct, as necessarily to be recognised and dealt with, as the effects of force, or sin, or passion. Take but one great instance out of history. When the power, the dignity, the character of Rome was breaking up; when poets and historians had seen and spoken out the plain truth that society was sinking down and down, from bad to worse; when all the principles of national or individual greatness seemed discredited and confused, when vice in naked shamelessness was seizing upon tract after tract of human life — then suddenly the whole drift of moral history, the whole aspect of the fight was changed. A new force appeared upon the scene. "It seems to me," says the Dean of St. Paul's, that the exultation apparent in early Christian literature, beginning with the Apostolic Epistles, at the prospect now at length disclosed, within the bounds of a sober hope, of a great moral revolution in human life, that the rapturous confidence which pervades these Christian ages, that at last the routine of vice and sin has met its match, that a new and astonishing possibility has come within view, that men, not here and there, but on a large scale, might attain to that hitherto hopeless thing to the multitudes, — goodness, — is one of the most singular and solemn things in history." "The monotony of deepening debasement," "the spell and custom of evil" was broken now, and "an awful rejoicing transport filled the souls of men as they saw that there was the chance, more than the chance, the plain fore-running signs, of human nature becoming here, what none had ever dared it would become, morally better." That was a real achievement, if anything in history is real. Such is the unanimous witness of all those through whose lives and labour God wrought that mighty work, and renewed the face of the earth. That rallying of all hope, that surprising reassertion of goodness against the confident tyranny of evil, was the work of grace. Grace was the power that came in and turned the issue of the fight, the tide of human history. His grace is sufficient for us; His grace which day by day does change the hearts and lives of man; His grace which gives the poor their wondrous patience and simplicity and trust; His grace which can uphold a patient, self-distrustful woman through the dreariest and most revolting tasks of charity and compassion; His grace which holds His servants' wills resolute and unflagging through the utmost stress of overwork and suffering, on in the very hours of sickness, on into the very face of depth; His grace which changes pride to penitence and humility, which wins the sensual to chastity, the intemperate to self-control, the hard and thankless to the brightness of a gentle life. His grace which everywhere, in the stillness where He loves to work, is disentangling the souls of men from the clinging hindrances of sin, repairing, bit by bit, the ruin of our fall, renewing to all and more than all its primal beauty, that image and likeness of Almighty God, in which at the first He fashioned man to be the lord, the priest, the prophet of the world. So is His grace ever working, striving round about us: so is it ever ready to work and strive and win, be sure, in each of us. No aim is too high, no task too great, no sin too strong, no trial too hard for those who patiently and humbly rest upon God's grace: who wait on Him that He may renew their strength.

(Dean Paget, D. D.)

I. There is grace always promised to the people of God in their necessities, BUT NOT GRACE MORE THAN IS NEEDED FOR THE OCCASION THAT CALLS IT FORTH. God does not fling the gifts of His grace carelessly from His throne without reference to the special circumstances or need of His people. Strength is imparted accurately meted out to the emergency. Were grace imparted more than sufficient for the present need it would be positively injurious. If, after overcoming the trial of to-day, the Christian had still a store in hand that might suffice for to-morrow, he would feel as if absolved from the necessity of prayer and watchfulness for the future. God knows too well our proneness to self-righteousness to give the temptation to independence; He knows too well how inclined men are to security and sloth, to lay in their way this inducement to inactivity. Yet how many are there, even of the children of God, who murmur against such an arrangement, and passionately long for such a store of grace as shall exempt them from the feeling of present weakness, and set them at ease on the score of coming danger! There is a striking analogy in this respect between the dealings of God in His providence and the dealings of God in His grace. The petition in the Lord's prayer, "Give us day by day our daily bread" (Luke 11:3), sufficiently points out the limits of a Christian's duty and expectations in regard to his worldly portion. And just as the man who gathers perishable wealth is often seen striving to be rich, that he may at last say to himself, "Soul, take thine ease: thou hast much goods laid up for many years"; so, in like manner, the Christian, in the midst of his weakness and fears, is often seen eager for such a measure of grace and strength as may not only meet the present difficulty, but set his soul at ease as regards future trouble or temptation. But it may not be. Your life in this world must be a life of constant, childlike, entire dependence on God.

II. There is grace promised to the believer in every season of trial, BUT NOT GRACE BEFORE IT IS NEEDED. Both in regard to the measure of grace communicated to His people, and in regard to the time when it is imparted, God would distinctly teach us that He keeps the matter in His own hand. God gives grace to His people in their necessities, but not until the necessity occurs. And why is the grace thus delayed until the hour when it is required, and not imparted beforehand to sustain the soul in the prospect, as well as in the experience, of the conflict? Just because "it is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of his God" (Lamentations 3:26). What shall we say to such a burdened and trembling disciple? We would say, It is not right to compare your present spiritual state with your future or possible trials in the months or years that are to come. The grace that God has given you to-day is intended for the duties of to-day; and it is sufficient for them. If the duties that are allotted for you in the future, or the temptations that shall assail you, are harder to meet than the present, then you may rest assured that a larger measure of strength than you now enjoy will be imparted. And yet, how many are there of the children of God, weak in faith and faint in hope, who disquiet themselves in vain, and draw their souls into trouble by such unwise anticipations of the future as these!

III. There is grace promised to the people of God in their necessities, and GRACE NOT LESS THAN IS NEEDED. The dying man, though weak and worn, has found in that hour provision against all its trials. Like the patriarch of old, he has gathered up his feet into the bed, ready, yea eager, to be away.

(James Bannerman, D. D.)

I. Observe that the text GUARDS US AGAINST AN OVER-ANXIOUS ANTICIPATION OF THE FUTURE.

II. But again, the text OFFERS US GRACE IN PROPORTION TO OUR NEED. This most precious promise is extended to all who are willing to receive it. There are many aspects in which this offer claims our attention.

1. It is universal in its range. There is no case which it does not meet. However varied men's circumstances, there is something here quite adequate to all their variety. One dreads poverty; another fears the temptations of prosperity.

2. And it is judicious in its purport. It is intended not to gratify our wishes, which are often foolish, but to meet the real exigencies of our case. We should like to choose blessings for ourselves, or at least to know what they are to be. Yet we are never so likely to err as when we are surest of ourselves. How often we see men behaving differently in changed conditions of life from their intended conduct!

3. This is an offer, further, very tender in its compassion. It is rich in mercy of the most considerate kind.

4. Then how rich are the blessings which are thus secured! No day, however dreaded, is without its gracious promise to the ear of faith.

III. If, then, these things are true, WE MUST USE GOD'S GRACE IN THE DOING OF OUR DAILY WORK. Only in so far as we are strong in the Lord now, are we at liberty to expect His strength for the future. On the other hand, there is far more in this text to encourage than to reprove. It bids us not be disheartened with the vastness of the soul's salvation. We must not think that all that is implied in that expression can be at once accomplished. The story of the discontented pendulum cannot be too often repeated even to grown-up people. The pendulum began to reflect how often it had swung in the hour, and then, multiplying its strokes by the hours of the day, and these again by the days in the week, and these finally by the weeks in the year, it came to see how very often it would have to move backwards and forwards in one year; and overwhelmed with the thought, it suddenly stopped. It began to swing again, only when reminded that, after all, it was never required to move oftener than once a second, and that it had nothing to do with the future. Theft assurance we all need to lay to heart. It is to our present duty, and to it only, that such a text as this summons us. The Divine plan of strengthening us is by degrees. It forms habits of trustfulness and submission and activity. Put away from you all unreasonable expectations of getting more from God's grace than is sufficient for you, and do not wonder if you get it only as you need it. Were a youth to reckon up the number of mental efforts he must put forth to master any branch of knowledge, would he not despair? Had the Israelites known of all their wanderings, would they have come out of Egypt? God's grace does its work in every Christian from day to day.

(A. MacEwen, D. D.)

I. WHAT A NEED THERE IS FOR ANY TRUE LIFE THAT IT SHOULD HAVE SOME CONCEPTION OF ITSELF WITHIN WHICH ALL ITS SPECIAL ACTIVITIES SHOULD MOVE AND DO THEIR WORK. What the skin is to the human body, holding all the parts of the inner machinery compactly to their work; what the simple constitution is to a highly-elaborated state, enveloping all its functions — such to the manifold actions of a man is some great simple conception of life, surrounding all details, giving them unity, simplicity, effectiveness. The degree in which the life is immediately and consciously aware of its enveloping conception may vary very much indeed. Some would have to stop and re-collect their consciousness before they could give you a clear statement of it. Nevertheless the dignity, beauty, usefulness of human lives seem to depend on it. Here is a man all scintillating with brightness: every act he does, every word he says, is a single, separate point of electricity, shining the more brilliantly just because of its isolation. Here is another man of far less brilliancy; his electricity does not sparkle-at brilliant points, but it lives unseen and powerful through everything he does and is. Now it is to the second man, not to the first, the world must look for good and constant power.

II. NOTE THE SPECIAL CONCEPTION OF LIFE WHICH IS IN THE TEXT. That man's life is to have abundant supply for all it needs, and yet all this abundance is not to come by or in itself, because the human life itself is part and parcel of the Divine life.

1. This conception excludes two ideas — the first, that there is no sufficiency for man; the second, that man carries his sufficiency within himself. How these two ideas divide among themselves the hearts of men! The timid, tired, discouraged men say, "Human life a predestined failure: full of wants for which there is no supply, of questions for which there is no answer." The self-confident, self-trustful say, "Man is satisfied in himself. Let him but put forth all his powers and he shall supply all his own needs and answer all his own questions." And then God says, "Nay, both are wrong; you must be satisfied, but you must be satisfied in Me; you must have sufficiency, but My grace must be sufficient for you."

2. Now man cannot rest in the settled conviction of insufficiency. He has a deep and true conviction that he has no power or need for which there is not a correspondent supply somewhere within reach, e.g., his power of adoring love brings him assurance that there is a being worthy of such love. Then, on the other hand, that man shall find humanity sufficient for his powers and needs is made everlastingly impossible by the strange fact to which all the history of man bears witness, that man, though himself finite, demands infinity to deal with and to rest upon. That fact is the perpetual witness that man is the child of God. The child may be reminded of his limitations, and yet he always mounts up to claim the largeness of his father's life for himself. You never can rule lines around the realm of knowledge and say to man, "That is the limit of what you possibly can know." He will rub out your lines, and choose those very things to exercise his knowing faculty upon. What man ever truly loves and sets a limit to the loveliness of that which he is loving? Who that with the best human ambition is seeking after character can fix himself a goal and say, "That is as good as it is possible for me, a man, to be"? There comes no real content until, behind all the patterns which hold themselves up to him, at last he hears the voice far out beyond them all calling to him, "Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." Then the finite has heard the voice of the infinite to which it belongs, to which it always will respond, and straightway it settles down to its endless journey and goes on content.

III. IT IS IN VIEWS LIKE THESE THAT I FIND MY ASSURANCE IN THESE DAYS OF DOUBT ABOUT THE NATURE AND DESTINY OF MAN. If man is God's child, then man cannot permanently be atheistic. This poor man or that may be an atheist, perhaps; this child or that may disown or deny his father; but the world-child, man, to him the sense that he was not made for insufficiency, and the sense that he is not sufficient for himself, will always bring him back from his darkest and remotest wanderings, and set him where he will hear the voice which alone can completely and finally satisfy him, saying, "My grace is sufficient for thee."

IV. AND NOW, IF THIS IS WHERE THE SOUL OF MAN MUST REST, LET US SEE WHAT IS THE REST WHICH MAN'S SOUL WILL FIND HERE; what will it be for a man when the secret and power of his life is that he is resting on the sufficiency of the grace of God?

1. This grace of God must be a perpetual element in which our life abides, and not an occasional assistant called in to meet special emergencies. I say to one man, "Who is your sufficiency? On whom do you rely for help?" and his reply is, "God"; and it sounds exactly as if he thought that God was a man in the next house, some one at hand when wanted. I ask another man the same questions, and be answers, "God"; and it sounds as if the sunlight talked about the sun, as if the stream talked of the spring, as if the blood talked of the heart, as if the plant talked of the ground, as if the mountain talked of the gravitation that lived in every particle of it and held it in its everlasting seat; nay, as if the child talked of his father "in whom he lived and moved and had his being."

2. Take special instances.(1) Here is our bewilderment about truth. One doubter, when his hard question comes, says with a ready confidence, "I wilt go and ask God," and carries off his problem to the Bible, to the closet, as if he went to consult an oracle, and as if, when he had got, or failed to get, an answer, he would leave the oracle and come back and live on his own resources until another hard question should come up. I do not say that that is wholly bad; but surely there is something better. Another doubter meets his puzzling question with, "God knows the explanation and the answer. I do not know that God will tell me what the answer is. Perhaps He will, perhaps He will not; but He knows."(2) And so it is with regard to activity and efficiency. One man says, "Here is a great work to be done; God will give me the strength to do it"; and so when it is done he is most apt to call it his work. Another man says, "Here is this work to be done; God shall do it, and if He will use me for any part of it, here I am. I shall rejoice as the tool rejoices in the artist's hand." When that work is finished, the workman looks with wonder at his own achievement, and cries, "What hath God wrought!"(3) Again, one sufferer cries, "Lord, make me strong"; another sufferer cries, "Lord, let me rest upon Thy strength."

3. Always there are these two kinds of men. The scene in the valley of Elah is always finding its repetition. David and Goliath are perpetual: proud, self-reliant, self-sufficient strength on the one side; and on the other the slight Judean youth, with nothing but a sling and stone, with his memories of struggles in which he has had no strength but the strength of God, and has conquered, with no boast, nothing but a prayer upon his lips. Goliath may thank his gods for his great muscles; but it is a strength which has been so completely handed over to him that he now thinks of it, boasts of it, uses it as his. David's strength lies back of him in God, and only flows down from God through him as his hand needs it for the twisting of the sling that is to hurl the stone.

4. It is sad to see even Christian men and times fall into the old delusion. The Christian Church seems to have been far too often asking of God that He should put its power and His wisdom into her, and make it hers; far too seldom that He should draw her life so close to His that His wisdom and power, kept still in Himself, should be hers because it is His.

V. I FIND IN ALL THE LIFE OF JESUS THE PERFECT ILLUSTRATION AND ELUCIDATION OF ALL I HAVE BEEN SAYING.

1. He never treated His life as if it were a temporary deposit of the Divine life on the earth, cut off and independent of its source; he always treated it as if it lived by its association with the Father's life, on which it rested. Jesus was always full of the child-consciousness; He always kept His life open that the Father's life might flow through it. "Not My will, but Thy will, O My Father"; that was the triumph of the Garden. "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" that was the agony of the Cross.

2. What Jesus wanted for Himself He wants for His disciples. Not self-completeness. When He calls us to be His, He sees no day in which, having trained our characters and developed our strength, He shall send us out as you dismiss in the morning from your door the traveller whom you have kept all night, and fed and strengthened and rescued from fatigue, and filled with self-respect. No such day is to come for ever. And with that in our minds how much that seemed mysterious grows plain to us! If He is moving our life up close to His, henceforth to be a part of His, what wonder is it it, in order that that union may be most complete, He has to break down the walls which would be separations between Him and us. The going down of the walls between our house and our friend's house would be music to us, for it would be making the two houses one. The going down of the walls between our life and our Lord's life, though it consisted of the failure of our dearest theories and the disappointment of our dearest plans, that too would be music to us if through the breach we saw the hope that henceforth our life was to be one with His life, and all His was to be ours too.

3. And how clear, with this truth before us, would appear the duty that we had to do, the help that we had to give to any brother's soul. Not to make him believe our doctrine; but to bring him to our God. Not to answer all his hard questions; but to put him where he could see that the answer to them all is in God. Not to make him my convert, my disciple; but to persuade him to let Christ make him God's child.

(Bp. Phillips Brooks.)

I. THE GRACE OF CHRIST IS INDISPENSABLY NECESSARY TO SALVATION.

II. The grace of Christ, as necessary to salvation, is PLACED WITHIN THE REACH OF EVERY MAN.

III. THE MEANS, BY WHICH THE GRACE OF GOD IS TO BE OBTAINED, ARE DISTINCTLY REVEALED TO US.

IV. I propose to set before you THE TESTS AND PROOFS BY WHICH THE EFFECTUAL ACQUISITION OF DIVINE GRACE IS ASCERTAINED. A tree is known by its fruits.

V. The grace of Christ is ALL-SUFFICIENT.

1. Divine grace is sufficient to supply strength to withstand temptation.

2. The grace of Christ is sufficient to enable His servants to perform efficaciously unto His glory the undertakings with which He entrusts them.

3. The grace of Christ is sufficient to give comfort under afflictions, and to convert them into means of improvement in faith and holiness.

4. The grace of Christ is sufficient for salvation.

1. I would in the first place address myself to those persons who have hitherto neglected or despised the grace of God.

2. To those among you who have laboured to obtain the grace of Christ, and to apply to its proper object the strength which is granted from above, meditations on the nature and the efficacy of the promised gift of the Spirit of God are perhaps not less important than to the careless or the hardened sinner. Grieve not then the Holy Spirit of God.

(T. Gisborne, M. A.)

"And He said." The Greek tense, here, by a beautiful delicacy of the language, signifies "He has said! He is saying it now! "That one assurance was vocal for every day of Paul's life, and over every step of his heavenward road. So that by the very principle of the text it becomes ours. Let us describe some of our necessities, showing how they may all be met and fully supplied by the Saviour's all-sufficient grace.

I. SOMETIMES THERE IS A GREAT CONSCIOUS NEED JUST AT THE BEGINNING OF A CHRISTIAN CAREER. "The Lord knoweth," not only "them that are His," but also those who are becoming His. And amid all the changes and uncertainties of such a time, He holds in nearness, and offers sufficient grace.

II. THINK OF THE TRANSITION AS MADE. After the fervours of the first love are somewhat abated, and after the sweet freshness has passed from the actings of the newborn soul — then comes a coldness and a pause. The young soul, new to the ways of grace, is in danger of falling into a practical unbelief. "Is it so soon thus with me, while I have yet so far to travel, and so much to do? Ah, what must I do in such a strait as this? Were it not better to return as best I may with the burden of this disappointment into the world again? Better profess nothing than profess and fail." And that feeling would not be at all unreasonable on the naturalistic view of human life. Israel in the wilderness reasoned well from their own point of view. Egypt was far better than the wilderness as a place to live in; and if they had been out in that wilderness on some chance journey, the murmurers would have been the wise men, and Moses and Aaron the foolish ones. But what is that small white thing on the ground every morning? How comes that hard rock to yield the gushing stream? Who is lighting up that pillar of fire for the night? Whence comes that rich glory which shines above the door of the tabernacle? Ah, how do these things change the wilderness state! Even so, we say to every young discouraged soul, if the Lord has brought you out of Egypt, and left you in the wilderness; if He has just come down to convert you and then gone up again to heaven, leaving you to plod earth's weary way alone — why, then you may as well go back to Egypt. But how is the whole case changed, when you hear the text sounding over your present life! "The Lord is saying now, My grace is sufficient for thee." The reference is not to a dead grace which was sufficient, but to a living grace which is. "As thy day, so shall thy strength be."

III. A LITTLE FARTHER ON WE MEET WITH ONE ON WHOM WHEN HE OUGHT TO BE FEELING THE FULL POWERS OF SPIRITUAL MANHOOD, THERE HAS COME A CHILLING AND WEAKENING CHANGE. Like Job, he takes up his parable and says, "Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me!" etc. And this change has come he knows not how. Not by any known declensions. Not by any wilful sins. You are omitting no social duty; you are still bowing the knee in prayer; but the sweet experiences are gone. Now there may be many ways of recovery. You might, for example, search out that secret sin which has been working at the roots of your life. Or, conscious that you have been too ready to yield your whole nature to the mood of the moment, you might lift yourself by a purely intellectual effort above too much dependence on your own ever-varying feelings. Or, you might, under the conviction that all has gone wrong, seek for a second conversion — a thing which many Christian men greatly need. But quicker and better way is the way of the text. Take fast hold of that, and the roots of your faith will grip the soil again; and through all the inner channels of your life the nourishing stream will flow; and your "leaf" will grow green; and your fruit will colour and ripen to its "season."

IV. ANOTHER STANDS OUT STRONG AND DARK TO OUR VIEW, AS IF THE SHADOW OF A COMING CALAMITY LAY OVER HIS LIFE. He has run well, and is not without hope that he may run again. Meantime he can hardly stir. Within him are the strugglings of a tempted soul. He would flee, but he cannot. He must go through or fall, unless God shall make a way of escape. And you hear him ask, "What shall I do? How shall safety and deliverance come to me here?" They will come out of the text. Otherwise God's providence would be stronger than His grace. He would be leading men into states and perils from which He would know there could be no deliverance. When a temptation comes purely in God's providence, it will very often be found that "with the temptation" comes the way of escape. God is faithful. Call upon Him, and He will deliver thee.

V. SEE HOW THE SOFTENING SHADOW OF THE TEXT WILL COME OVER THE SOUL THAT IS IN TROUBLE. But what picture shall we take from among the children and the scenes of sorrow? Shall we take the man with the sunny face, the helpful hand, who yet at times has a sorrow like death weighing on his heart; or the physical sufferer; or the widow? We had better not select. Let every sufferer hear for himself; then let him apply the sure word of promise; then let him carry it home to all whom it may concern, as the word of a God who cannot lie. Conclusion:

1. "For thee." If you lose the personal application, you lose all. This text is not for a world, but for a man. "Sufficient for thee," young pilgrim, wearied runner, tempted spirit, etc.

2. "For thee." It is for thee now to change the pronoun and say, with a wondering grateful heart, "To-day, and every day, from this time forth, and even for evermore, His grace is sufficient for me."

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Whenever the Lord sets His servants to do extraordinary work He always gives them extraordinary strength; or if He puts them to unusual suffering He gives them unusual patience. When we enter upon war with some petty New Zealand chief, our troops expect to have their charges defrayed, and accordingly we pay them gold by thousands, as their expenses may require; but when an army marches against a grim monarch, in an unknown country, who has insulted the British flag, we pay, as we know to our cost, not by thousands but by millions. And thus if God calls us to common and ordinary trials, He will defray the charges of our warfare by thousands; but if He commands us to an unusual struggle with some tremendous foe, He will discharge the liabilities of our war by millions, according to the riches of His grace which He has abounded to us through Christ Jesus.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Some living creatures maintain their hold by foot or body on flat surfaces by a method that seems like magic, and with a tenacity that amazes the observer, A fly marching at ease with feet uppermost on a plastered ceiling, and a mollusc sticking to the smooth water-worn surface of a basaltic rock, while the long swell of the Atlantic at every pulse sends a huge white billow roaring and hissing and cracking and crunching over it, are objects of wonder to the onlooker. That apparently supernatural solidity is the most natural thing in the world. It is emptiness that imparts so much strength to these feeble creatures. A vacuum, on the one side within a web-foot, and on the other within the shell, is the secret of their power. By dint of that emptiness in itself the creature quietly and easily clings to the wall or the rock, so making all the strength of the wall or rock its own. By its emptiness it is held fast; the moment it becomes full it drops off. Ah! it is the self-emptiness of a humble, trustful soul that makes the Redeemer's strength his own, and so keeps him safe in an evil world.

(W. Arnot, D. D.)

1. Paul, when buffeted by the messenger of Satan, addressed his prayer to Christ, which is a proof of our Lord's divinity; and Christ was a fit object for such a prayer, because He has endured the like temptation, and knows how to succour them that are tempted. Moreover, He has come to earth to destroy the works of the devil, and it was by His name that devils were expelled after He had risen.

2. This prayer was not only addressed to, but was like the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane. I see the Lord Jesus reflected in Paul, and hear the threetimes repeated prayer, mark the cup standing unremoved, and see the strength imparted in the midst of weakness.

3. Our text fell from the lips of Christ Himself, and when Jesus speaks a special charm surrounds each syllable.

4. The exact sense of the Greek it is not easy to translate. The apostle does not merely tell us that his Lord said these words to him fourteen years ago. Their echoes were still sounding through his soul. "He has been saying to me, 'My strength is sufficient for thee.'" The words, not merely for the time reconciled him to his particular trouble, but cheered him for all the rest of his life. In the next we notice —

I. GRACE ALL-SUFFICIENT.

1. Taking the word grace to mean favour, the passage runs — Do not ask to be rid of your trouble, My favour is enough for thee; or, as Hodge reads it, "My love." If thou hast little else that thou desirest, yet surely this is enough.

2. Throw the stress on the first word, "My," i.e., Jesus. Therefore it is mediatorial grace, the grace given to Christ as the covenant Head of His people. It is the head speaking to the member, and declaring that its grace is enough for the whole body. "It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell," and of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

3. Put the stress in the centre. "Is sufficient."(1) It is now sufficient. It is easy to believe in grace for the past and the future, but to rest in it for the immediate necessity is true faith.(2) This sufficiency is declared without any limiting words, and therefore Christ's grace is sufficient to uphold, strengthen, comfort thee, sufficient to make thy trouble useful to thee, to enable thee to triumph over it, to bring thee out of ten thousand like it, and to bring thee home to heaven. Whatever would be good for thee, Christ's grace is sufficient to bestow; whatever would harm thee, His grace is sufficient to avert; whatever thou desirest, His grace is sufficient to give thee if it be good for thee; whatever thou wouldst avoid, His grace can shield thee from it if so His wisdom shall dictate.

4. Lay the emphasis upon the first and the last words: "My... thee." Surely the grace of such a one as my Lord Jesus is sufficient for so insignificant a being as I am. Put one mouse down in all the granaries of Egypt when they were fullest after seven years of plenty, and imagine that one mouse complaining that it might die of famine. Imagine a man standing on a mountain, and saying, "I breathe so many cubic feet of air in a year; I am afraid that I shall ultimately inhale all the oxygen which surrounds the globe." Does it not make unbelief ridiculous?

II. STRENGTH PERFECTED. Remember that it was so with Christ. He was strong as to His Deity; but His strength as Mediator was made perfect through suffering. His strength to save His people would never have been perfected if He had not taken upon Himself the weakness of human nature. This is the strength which is made perfect in weakness.

1. The power of Jesus can only be perfectly revealed in His people by keeping them, and sustaining them when they are in trouble. Who knows the perfection of the strength of God till he sees how God can make poor puny creatures strong? When you see a man of God brought into poverty, and yet never repining; when you hear his character assailed by slander, and yet he stands unmoved like a rock — then the strength of God is made perfect in the midst of weakness. It was when tiny creatures made Pharaoh tremble that his magicians said, "This is the finger of God."

2. God's strength is made perfect to the saint's own apprehension when he is weak. If you have prospered in business, and enjoyed good health all your lives, you do not know much about the strength of God. You may have read about it in books; you may have seen it in others; but a grain of experience is worth a pound of observation, and you can only get knowledge of the power of God by an experimental acquaintance with your own weakness, and you will not be likely to get that except as you are led along the thorny way which most of God's saints have to travel. Great tribulation brings out the great strength of God.

3. The term "made perfect" also means achieves its purpose. God has not done for us what He means to do except we have felt our own strengthlessness. The strength of God is never perfected till our weakness is perfected. When our weakness is thoroughly felt, then the strength of God has done its work in us.

4. The strength of God is most perfected or most glorified by its using our strengthlessness. Imagine that Christianity had been forced upon men with the stern arguments which Mahomet placed in the hands of his first disciples, the glory would have redounded to human courage and not to the love of God. But when we know that twelve humble fishermen overthrew colossal systems of error and set up the Cross of Christ in their place, we adoringly exclaim, "This is the finger of God." And so when the Lord took a consecrated cobbler and sent him to Hindostan, whatever work was done by William Carey was evidently seen to be of the Lord.

5. All history shows that the great strength of God has always been displayed and perpetuated in human weakness. What made Christ so strong? Was it not that He condescended to be so weak? And how did He win His victory? By His patience, by His suffering. How has the Church ever been strong? What has brought forth the strength of God so that it has been undeniably manifest, and consequently operative upon mankind? Has it been the strength of the Church? No, but its weakness, for when men have seen believers suffer and die, it is then that they have beheld the strength of God in His people. The weakness of the martyr as he suffered revealed the strength of God in him, which held him fast to his principles while he was gradually consumed by the cruel flames. Quentin Matsys had to make a well-cover in iron one morning. His fellow-workmen were jealous, and therefore they took from him the proper tools, and yet with his hammer he produced a matchless work of art. So the Lord with instruments which lend Him no aid, but rather hinder Him, doeth greater works of grace to His own glory and honour.

III. POWER INDWELLING. The word "dwell" means to tabernacle. "Just as the Shekinah light dwelt in the tent in the wilderness, so I glory to be a poor frail tent, that the Shekinah of Jesus may dwell in my soul."

1. Paul puts the power of Christ in opposition to his own, because if he is not weak, then he has strength of his own; if then what he does is done by his own strength, there is no room for Christ's; but if his own power be gone there is space for the power of Christ.

2. But what is the power of Christ?(1) The power of grace.(2) Christly power: the kind of power which is conspicuous in the life of Jesus. The power of Alexander was a power to command men, and inspire them with courage for great enterprises. The power of Demosthenes was the power of eloquence, the power to stir the patriotic Greeks. Love and patience were Christ's power, and even now these subdue the hearts of men, and make Jesus the sufferer to be Jesus the King.(3) It was a part of the "all power "which our Lord declared was given unto Him in heaven and in earth; "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations." Paul desired to have that power tabernacling in himself, for he knew that if he had to "go and teach all nations" he would have to suffer in so doing, and so he takes the suffering cheerfully, that he might have the power.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

This saying has a paradoxical sound, but many paradoxes hide a deep and true meaning. Let us see what meaning is latent in this declaration of Paul. There are two theories of moral force; one we will call the Pagan theory, the other the Christian theory. Paganism says: "The secret of power is in self-confidence, self-esteem, self-reliance. Believe in yourself, then others will believe in you. Speak boldly, confidently, with assurance, and you will convince and persuade. Assume that you know, and you will have the credit of knowing. The race is to the swift, and the battle to the strong. God is on the side of the heaviest battalions. The men who have self-confidence carry everything before them. He who claims the most will get the most. Confidence carries everything before it; it gives success to the lawyer, merchant, physician, clergyman, politician. It is an element in all popularity." Thus speaks the Pagan theory of force, and there is much truth in it; for if there had not been some truth in Paganism, it would not have lasted as long as it has. This Pagan doctrine still rules, and passes for wisdom. The Christian theory of moral force is opposite to this. It says; "The kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit. He who exalteth himself shall be abased; he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Jesus, on all occasions, emphasised this law. Even in so small a matter as the point of precedence at a feast, He called the disciples' attention to the fact that those who pushed forward to the best places were requested to retire, and that those who took the lowest places were invited to go up higher. I suppose all will admit that the Christian theory is the most sound as regards knowledge. The first condition of learning anything is to confess our ignorance. In seeking truth, said Socrates, we must begin by admitting our ignorance. In seeking goodness, said Jesus, we must begin by admitting our sinfulness. The work of Socrates, as he himself describes it, was to make men understand how little they knew. By his keen questions he brought one after another of the young men of Athens to admit that he really was totally ignorant of what he professed to understand. And, in fact, one of the chief obstacles to knowledge is our fear of being thought ignorant. Weakness is often strength, and strength only weakness. A human infant is the weakest of living creatures. It is unable to help itself, and therefore it is strong in the help of others. Its cry calls to its aid the tenderest and most watchful care. The same principle is often seen in national affairs. Consider the case of the Ottoman Empire. At one time it was so strong that it seriously threatened the safety of all Europe. It brought together vast armies of the bravest soldiers from Egypt, Persia, Hungary, and Asia Minor. Proud and defiant, they prepared to march through Vienna to Rome. But their pride went before destruction. Their terrible strength gave them such arrogant confidence that they were destroyed. Now Turkey is weak; weaker than any of the great nations of Europe. But because she is so weak that no one fears her, the nations of Europe protect her. They prevent Russia, whose strength they fear, from taking Constantinople from the Turks, whose weakness they know. In like manner the weakness of Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, have given them safety amid the revolutions of Europe. In all practical matters, only he who sees the difficulties of his task is prepared to overcome them. The merchant knows how hard it is to acquire a great estate; the scholar knows what long and laborious days must be spent in the pursuit of knowledge. No man is fitted to be a reformer who has not infinite resources of patience and inexhaustible supplies of hope. Then he will trust, not in himself, but in the principle he advocates, and out of weakness he will be made strong. There is a power in the silent appeal of weakness to strength. When Alexander, in his amazing conquests, had overcome Persia, he came to the tomb of Cyrus, which to-day is still to be seen. On that tomb he read the inscription, "O man! whosoever thou art, and whencesoever thou comest (for come thou wilt), I am Cyrus, the founder of the Persian empire. Envy me not the little earth that covers my body." Alexander was much moved by these words, and gave orders that this tomb should be respected. The weakness of the grave was stronger than the armies of the Persian king to prevent the desecration of the tomb of Cyrus. But though the knowledge of evil is necessary to make us cautious and prudent, it is the sight of the good which gives us courage and energy to attack the evil. The inspiration which gives us power does not come from that habit of mind which dwells on evil, but on the opposite habit which loves to look at good. Everything great, noble, generous, and brave comes from keeping in sight this heavenly ideal, this supreme glory and beauty which descends from God into all hearts that trust Him. The great danger, therefore, is of being discouraged by dwelling exclusively or mainly on the dark side of the world; for this ends in despondency, apathy, and moral indifference. To work without hope is discouraging. We need the sense of progress to cheer and sustain us. To go round and round in a treadmill of mere drudgery takes our spirit out of us. Therefore we need a deeper and larger hope. We need to have faith in mental, moral, and spiritual progress; in the growth of the soul; in the unfolding of its higher powers, its larger faculties. When we have this sense of spiritual progress, we can bear outward disappointments more easily, sure that pain and sorrow may work for our highest good. But suppose we have no such sense of spiritual progress; that we do not seem to be growing wiser or better as the years pass by; that we often find ourselves, in some respects, worse than we were; that our conscience is not as sensitive, our purpose to do right not as fixed, our aim not as high. This is the most discouraging fact of all. I suppose that this is the very time when faith in Christ comes to our help. When we find nothing in ourselves on which to lean, Christ teaches us to lean more entirely on the pardoning grace of God and God's spiritual help. The meaning of the gospel of Jesus is this: that He does not come as a physician to those who are whole, but to those who are sick. He comes to the poor in spirit; to the spiritually poor; to those who find little in themselves in which to trust. Jesus comes to us all to say, "Do not be discouraged. Never be discouraged." Though evil may abound, and the love of many grow cold, though we see no way out of surrounding difficulties, though even our brethren discourage our heart by their gloomy forebodings, and abandon the good cause, leaving us alone, still, let us never be discouraged. The Lord reigns. Chance does not reign. Bad men do not reign. He reigns who for ever educes lasting good out of transient evil. It is this perfect trust in a Divine Providence that gives us new power, and prevents us from being discouraged. Do not be discouraged about public affairs. In this country we have the least reason to fear; for experience here shows us that, in the long run, things come right. Courage can here overcome the worst dangers. Do not be discouraged because there seems so much to be done. If there is a great deal given us to do, there is plenty of time given us wherein to do it. Do not be discouraged in doing good. It may often seem as if you accomplished very little, as if, with all your efforts, you cannot effectually help those whom you wish to serve. When you lift them up, they fall again. But I believe we have, not merely to help ourselves, but to help each other. We may often make mistakes. We may sometimes do harm. But the greatest mistake of all would be to stand aloof from human sorrow. Best of all blessings is that human love, that generous sympathy which puts itself in the place of the sufferer, and gives him the comfort of knowing that he is not alone in the world, not forgotten by his fellow-men. The good of this is never lost. And let us not be discouraged by the amount of suffering, sin, and crime which we see around us. If the vast majority of men did not tell the truth, keep their promises, hold fast to honesty, society would dissolve and become a heap of sand. Be not discouraged, then, because you see and hear so much of what is evil in the world, but be sure that the good is much more widespread and more powerful. Thus we see that we cannot live without courage, and that courage comes to us from faith in things unseen and eternal. Courage comes to us from faith in an infinite Providence guiding all things aright, and making all things work together for good. Courage comes from knowing that when we stand by what is true and right, all the great powers of the universe are working with us.

(J. F Clarke.)

I. IT IS CHRIST WHO SAYS THESE WORDS. It is the "strength," therefore, of a man — of One who knows weakness, and has been through weakness. This at once gives a reality to the promise, and makes it practical. Jesus, who had "strength" given to Him, says it. There is the same propriety and adaptation as when He says, "My peace" — the peace you see Me have — the peace I carry — "I give unto you." Then think of what "strength" Jesus had upon this earth to resist sin — to labour in those mighty works — to endure the reproaches, the unkindnesses, the treachery, the Cross, and then read these words.

II. WHAT IS IT TO "MAKE PERFECT"?

1. It means, "My strength finds its occasion and opportunity to work itself out, to consummate itself in weakness." Man's impotence invites and gives scope for the opportunity to display God's omnipotence. So God is strong for us just in proportion as we are helpless. He cannot and will not act where there is self-sufficiency. The ground is pre-occupied. You have only to be "weak" enough, to put out self enough, and give God range enough, then, if you will only believe it, as necessarily as nature always fills up her vacuums, God will come in to supply all your lack, and "His strength will be made perfect in your weakness."

2. All history and all experience bear their testimony to this truth. The "weak" ones have done all the work, and "the lame take the prey." What arm slew the greatest giant on record? A stripling's. Who changed the moral character of the whole world, and established a system which has outlived and outgrown all the empires of earth? A few ordinary unlettered fishermen. Or, say, when have you done your best works? In what frame of mind were you when you performed the things on which you now look back with the greatest satisfaction? The lowliest.

3. Here is the comfort to our ministry. God does His own work in the way in which He may best magnify Himself. Therefore He does not employ "the angels," which "excel in strength," but the most unlikely of sinful men (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). There is much ministerial work in the Church which seems to do great things; but that of which the effect is deep and abiding is almost always that of which, at the time, there was little praise, and no celebrity.

III. INFERENCES.

1. Every one ought to have in hand something which they feel to be quite beyond them, and therefore compels them to cast themselves on the broad undertaking of God.

2. Whatever is strong in you, whatever you may call your talent, always recognise it as something in you, but not of you.

3. Never be afraid of any work which is clearly duty. Your capital may be nothing; but your resources are infinite.

4. Wherever you find yourself fail in anything, you have nothing to do but to go down a little lower, and make yourself less. Think more of emptying than of filling. To fill, is God's part; to empty, yours.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me
Men are often deceived about power. Sometimes the man who appears strong is delicate, because his heart is weak. The bravado is generally a coward. We are tempted to admire power, after the type of Caesar and Napoleon. But the gospel gives us a new revelation of what power is. It elevates our idea of the power of God, to begin with. Jove came down with his thunder from the old Olympian Hills, and departed. Christ gave a manifestation of God's power in gentleness. Quiet power is —

I. CONSTRUCTIVE POWER. There is the power of the cannon and the power of the trowel; the sculptor's power and the mitrailleuse power! So it is in life! There is destructive power; you can blast the reputation; you can inflame the passions of the mob. Yes, and there is an iconoclasm that destroys the temples of lust. John the Baptist did a great work in blasting the citadel of evil; but Christ came and took the living stones, and built a temple. But then it is quiet, slow! There is no sound of hammer; and the true power of the gospel is in that quiet influence which, day by day, comes upon your heart and life, and so distils as the dew.

II. A WISE POWER. Everything depends upon adaptation. A sentence may save a soul; a word fitly spoken may never be forgotten. How many people are strong, but wrong! How much more would they have done if they had been quiet! "Christ the power of God"; let me add, "Christ the wisdom of God." Take His parables. The humblest peasant in Judaea could understand them. Take His warnings. How quiet they are! Take His tender, delicate, refined way of handling guilt. There is no rude touch there.

III. A BEAUTIFUL POWER. Such a power is that which we exercise at home. The sceptre is full of jewels that are rich in loveliness, held in a mother's hands. Oh, how beautiful is the power of God! It is the power of grace. Quietness is power, and we admire it in every sphere. There is no power in dress that is loud and full of glaring colours. When all the young guests have gone into the room, the one in the muslin dress with a summer rose wins the supremacy of glory. So it is in speech. It is only over very uneducated minds that language full of coarse colour has a charm. The beauty of truth needs no adornment! So in highest things we see power always allied with beauty in religion.

IV. CHRIST-LIKE POWER. All power is given to Christ. Yet it seems as if it broke upon the world without men knowing it! There was no earthquake, no storm! So it is now with the Christian man coming into a house; there is nothing startling about it! So it is where Christian woman wields her might of influence. It is not the notes of exclamation which make a powerful writing or a powerful life! "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." The lives that have exercised the most potent influence have been the "silent rivers" that never broke over the boulders and the rocks! Not the Mississippi or Missouri, the Niger or the Nile! not Abana or Pharpar have exercised the most influence in history — but the little Jordan!

V. LASTING. The noisy little decanter bubbles and chokes in its throat, makes a noise, and is empty; the stream flows on and on. I have been at Dolgelly, and have gone out a few miles, after a storm, to see the majesty of the waters; and I remember how grand appeared the torrent, and how beautiful the colour in the waterfall. Other guests, however, went two days afterwards, and found it just a little trickle. All its power was spent. So it often is in life. There is your very fast and furious friend, the man boiling over with adjectives; and there is the less demonstrative, quiet, steady friendship.

VI. TERRIBLE POWER. The Word of God is quick and powerful. I preach the retribution of conscience and memory, an absent God, and an avenger within; and that is a punishment greater than you can bear. VII. THE SPIRIT'S POWER. "Ye shall receive power after the Holy Ghost is come upon you."

(W. M. Statham.)

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