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ing influences. As a signal part of his communication of strength, he maintains on the souls of believers a deep sense of their own weakness and absolute need of Christ; and thus leads them habitually to improve the Saviour, in whom alone is lodged their strength for duty and difficulty. The Holy Spirit actually imparts strength, though often imperceptibly. He comes down as the rain and dew, and communicates his strengthening influences, here a little, and there a little.
4. This strength is set before us in the Divine promise, and actually received by faith. It is a blessing of the covenant of grace, and is contained in the promises. In many places it is promised, for instance, Zechariah x. 12, “ And I will strengthen them in the Lord, and they shall walk up and down in his name, saith the Lord,” and in Isai. xli. 10, 6 Fear thou not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right-hand of my righteousness.” Every promise of strength is equal security to the believer that he shall not fail, as if he were almighty. He may feel his own weakness, and apprehend that he is ready to faint; but he shall be strong in the Lord. Duty and trial may appear above his ability, but turning his eye to God and his promise, he will understand experimentally the meaning of these beautiful words, “ All things are possible to him that believeth.”
It is actually received by faith. This grace itself is the strength of the soul, and especially as it leads from all dependance on ourselves or any creature.
It improves the strength of God set before us in his word. The language of the believing soul, is - The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation.” The more the saint feels his own inability, he looks the more to the promise; and being strengthened one time after another, he adopts as his own that language, Isai. xxv. 4, " For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when a blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.”. Thus led on gradually he says with the apostle, “ When I am weak, then I am strong.” Faith engages God and his all-sufficiency for the believer's support, and makes him say, “ Our sure and all-sufficient help is in Jehovah's name. There is real strength in the promises, and faith actually improves it. With great propriety is it called resting and leaning upon God, and a taking hold of his strength. We know what it is for a strong man to help a weaker to perform a journey: the Lord strengthens all his people in their journey to the land of promise.
5. This strength is eminently obtained in prayer. Every saint, like Jacob, prevails as he weeps and makes supplication. It has been the universal experience of them all, that, when they cried, then their enemies turned back. Great is the influence of prayer. It engages Divine wisdom and strength. Difficulted and at his wits' end, the believer bends the knee and pours out his heart to God, and often comes away no more sad, but strong in the Lord. As his needs recur he applies to the same quarter,
and his strength is renewed. The most frequent application to God, and the greatest communications of Divine strength, never make him stronger in himself or give him any stock of his own. He will always be found the strongest believer who is most sensible of his own weakness, makes the most fervent application to the throne of grace, and has all his dependence on the Divine promise.
After all, the believer's strength to perform duty, and bear trials, though a great reality, is a great mystery ; perhaps the greatest in experimental religion. He does not understand it fully himself; and far less can he explain it to another. The most he can say is, “ 1 find myself unable for every thing ; I am often at the point of giving up, and am near to halt; a thousand times I have thought I would fall before mine enemies; all refuge failed me, and like Peter, I was about to sink; my needs were many and great, and my pressures very heavy: in this weak and forlorn situation I thought about the promises, and cried to the Lord, I cannot tell how, but somehow I was helped and got over that trial : in like cases I followed the same course, and with the same success; and to the praise of Divine grace I have ground to say, Ebenezer, hitherto hath the Lord helped me: from this I would fain conclude that in time coming the Lord will be to me Jehovah-jireh; and I resolve that I will constantly go on in the strength of God the Lord.” Leaving a more full application till afterward, we shall conclude with these reflections,
1. This subject points out to every believer what his lot and situation in the world are likely to be. He may lay his account with trials. Tribulation, as well as peace and a kingdom, is an article in Christ's legacy. Respecting trials, we would call the believer not to decline them. There is a selfishness natural to men which disposes them to put the cup of affliction by them if they can. We might ask the saint, If you had it at your will, would you desire to be wholly free of troubles, or at any rate of great troubles? Would you take that way which infinite wisdom does not judge best? Would you choose a way opposite to, and different from, what Christ himself walked in, and which is not marked with the footsteps of the flock? Upon serious thought, would you not rather take up the cross which God gives you, and follow Christ? Determine with yourselves and be decided. While we would call the believer not to decline his trials, we would also call him to put no harsh constructions on them. If trials were evidences of God's hatred and anger, his dearest saints would be the most hated. On the contrary, they are tokens of adoption and sonship, “ For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons: for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not. But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” The Lord intends them all for good. He has gracious ends to accomplish by every trial; and if the believer is in heaviness through manifold temptations, there is a need be.
2. As this subject warns us of trials, it also points out provision and comfort. The Christian's strength will be equal to all his trials, and superior to all opposition. He shall not be tried above what he is able. He shall hold on his way conquering every enemy, performing every duty, and bearing every trial, till he come to Zion. He shall never fall away totally or finally. Grace and strength proportioned to his duties and trials, secure his
perseverance. 3. From this subject we may infer, that believers have need of faith and patience. They need faith to enable them to believe that God does all things well, all in holiness and wisdom: that he does all well even when he permits the church and themselves to groan under the greatest pressures and tribulations. It is not enough to believe that he did well to former saints when he tried them; but we must believe well of our own trials, even before we see the issue. Every saint reads with pleasure Abraham's trial about his son, and Mordecai's, when he and his people were likely to fall before Haman-because they turned out so well. Do you believe as well about your own trial which is not yet ended ? These two believed before the issue. Are your trials greater than theirs ? Is deliverance more unlikely? Is the Lord's arm shortened?
They have need of patience-to submit to what the Lord measures out-as good as best; and neither murmur nor repine. Without faith the saints would stumble at their cross, and without patience they would faint, and weary under it.