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love God, and are the called according to his purpose." Under the heaviest pressures the saints have no reason to faint, for "though their outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day: for this light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
Among the many passages suited to the tried saint, the text holds a distinguished place. It is replete with consolation; and though many waters should overflow him; yet faith cannot fail to derive support and encouragement from such a precious declaration. Eyeing his affliction and this text at the same time, his language will be at the lowest, "I am troubled on every side, but not distressed; I am perplexed, but not in despair; cast down, but not destroyed.” This text, like a powerful potion, pervades and invigorates the whole man; or, like a well-fitted plaster, covers all the sore, eases the smart, and promotes the
Many things prey on the heart of the Christian labouring under hard distress, to which persons at ease are entire strangers. One while, the believer poring on his calamitous situation, concludes that his case is singular; that never any sorrow, was like his, and that the Lord hath "shaken him to pieces, and set him up for his mark." When downcast, and ready to faint, this text occurs to his mind, discovers his mistake, and, at least, yields him this comfort, that many others have been equally tried, and that his condition is by no means singular. It affords some ease to one labouring under a dangerous, disease, to
see another who has been afflicted with the same trouble perfectly cured. If the same means can be procured, they may have the same effects, and he may be delivered. The text assures the believer that "there hath no temptation taken him but such as is common to man."
Again, the distressed believer poring on his condition, says, Though a thousand should have been as ill as I am, and are now delivered, I fear I never will: if their temptation has been the same with mine, their strength has been superior, for if they have borne theirs, I cannot bear mine. The text administers comfort in this case also, while it assures him that "God will not suffer him to be tempted above that he is able." He thinks if he could only be assured that he would not be tried above what he is able to bear, he would struggle with all his difficulties; but every thing seems to be against him, and unbelief insists that he has no reason for such assurance, and that all his hopes are vain. In direct opposition to unbelief, the text assures him, that he has the best ground for strong faith and consolation, for God pledges his faithfulness and veracity that he shall not fail, and while "God is faithful, he will not suffer the saint to be tempted above what he is able."
Further, the believer, still passing through fire and water, is ready to conclude that he can neither do more, nor bear longer, and that he must one day fall under the weight of temptations. Though God has mercifully supported him hitherto, he is now at his wits' end. He concludes that the Lord will be favourable no more, that his mercy appears to be clean
gone, that he has forgotten to be gracious, and that he hath in his anger shut up his tender mercies. In this situation the saint refuses comfort, and in the anguish of his heart says, My hope is lost, and I am cut off for my part: I scarcely have worse to be, and God seems almost to have done his worst: I am close shut up in depths and darksome caves, and I see no evasion for me. Like Hagar, when all her water was spent, he looks at his comforts as gone, he sits down, lifts up his voice, and weeps, and lays his account to die.
In this trying situation, God opens the eyes of the poor believer, as he did Hagar's, and shows him that the well of consolation is at hand, and points him to this text as an unfailing source of comfort, and assures him that he will with the temptation also make way to escape." God pledges his word that, when the trial is come to the height, and would be more than the saint could bear, he will make a way to escape. He also satisfies the tried saint that even grace in his heart shall not fail," that he "that he may be able to bear" till the deliverance come. Often the saint was apt to think that grace in his heart, like God's mercy, was clean gone; but he shall find that it, though at the best like a small rivulet, and in the awful crisis of trial, almost quite dry, was fed with an everlasting spring.
Viewing all these parts of this text, his languishing hope begins to revive, and he encourages his heart with the pleasing thought that there may be hope in Israel concerning his condition, and that perhaps he may come off victorious. He recollects these gra
cious words respecting Christ, "A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory."
In discoursing farther from these words, we shall
I. Make some observations to explain the text.
II. We shall speak of the believer's strength and ability to bear trials and temptations.
III. Illustrate that proportion which the believer's strength has to his trials, and his trials to his strength.
IV. Speak of God's with the temptation making a way to escape; after which we shall apply the subject.
I. It is first proposed to explain the text by some observations; and we observe,
1. That all believers are engaged in the same common warfare, and employed in seeking the same common salvation.
They are engaged in the same common warfare. As they were all under the first federal head, so they joined Satan's rebellion against God. Their hearts were filled with enmity; and they breathed it forth in their words and practice. The saints have got an affecting sight of their course in its wicked nature and dreadful consequences. Pardon for the past is their great desire, and the opposite conduct, through grace, their firm resolution. They have changed
sides. They have rejected their former lords, and have chosen their rightful one. In a day of Divine power, they have enlisted under Christ's banner, and his enemies are theirs, whether within or without them. These they are determined to oppose without partiality or hypocrisy, however formidable or whatever it may cost. When they entered upon the service of Christ, and resolved to follow him, they counted the cost, and still they are determined to abide by their first resolution. Though it should cost their lives, they will not yield. Through grace they are determined to be faithful to the death, animated with the hope of receiving the crown of life.
All believers are engaged in seeking the same common salvation. Jude calls it the common salvation. It is common to all Gospel hearers in respect of offer. Christ, in calling and inviting to receive it, makes no distinction, and proposes no condition. It is common to all who possess it. As their lost state by nature is the same, only the same salvation can suit them, namely, salvation from sin in all its extent. As all who enjoy it, possess it in common, they seek it from God in the use of the same means. If any thing whatever can be laid down as essential to real Christians, the things already mentioned are doubtless peculiar to them, and enter into their character. This warfare is at once the continued exercise and daily work of every believer. Much hard labour he has, especially as the work is arduous, and the opposition great and unremitted. The severity of the service is impressed in the various names by which it is designed: it is called the heat of the day, run