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SERMON III.

On the Nature and Efficacy of Divine Grace.

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And He said unto me, " My Grace is sufficient "for thee: for my Strength is made serf eel "in Weakness"

T^OR the accomplishment of any useful design, it appears necessary that all inferior instruments should be subjected to one superintending power. In the structures of human mechanism, however numerous, however complicated may be the contrivances by which the ultimate object is pursued; some main-spring, some master-wheel, some ruling force, some preponderating weight, actuates and controls all the subordinate parts, and gives motion and efficacy to the whole, It is thus, if we may presume to connect together by any semblance of comparison the la-: bours of terrestrial feebleness and ignorance with the operations of infinite perfection; that the divine wisdom conducts its plans to their appointed success. Earth and air, cold, and heat, clouds and sunshine, the interchange of day and night, the gradual vicissitudes of seasons, and all the principles of vegetation by which food is produced and ripened for mankind; these are all but means governed and directed by the providence of God. Youth and age, health and sickness, affluence and poverty, prosperity and distress: these and all other secondary causes through which salvation isvouchsafed to man, are all but instruments in the hands of the First Cause: these are all but ministering agents subservient to the sway of the grace of Christ.

Never perhaps was the power of divine grace more gloriously displayed than in its effects wrought through the instrumentality of St Paul! Never perhaps among all the children of Adam did it form to itself a morq able, or a more willing minister! This great instructor of the Gentiles, in vindicating his character and his apostolical authority against the insinuations of false teachers among the Corinthians, was led to specify, among other

evidences

evidences of his divine commission, the visions and revelations with which he had been favoured in a very uncommon measure by his Lord. He describes himself as having been caught up into Paradise; into the third Heaven, whether in the body or out of the body he knew not; and as having heard Unspeakable words, words not to be uttered by human lips. The Saviour of the world, however, shewed himself not unmindfui that his holy apostle was but man. According to the wisdom displayed in all the dispensations of his providence, he tempered his extraordinary mercies with such a portion of humiliation and fatherly chastisement, as might guard his beloved servant against spiritual pride, and extravagant ideas of his superiority over his fellow Christians. There was given to St. Paul, to use his owrt words, a thorn in the fe/h, the messenger of Satan tQ buffet him, left he foould be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations. This thorn in the flesh, the precise nature of which, as being well known to the Corinthians, among whom he had resided eighteen months, it was not necessary to particularise; evidently appears to have been some personal infirmity, which St. Paul regarded as likely to impair hi6 ability and lessen his usefulness

as a preacher of religion. In the verse from which {he text is taken, he stiles it an infirmity. In his epistle to the Galatians, he alludes to it in similar expressions. Ye know bow through infirmity of the flejh I preached the gospel unto you at the first And my temptation which -was in my flesh, ye despised not nor rcjecled. From the tenth and eleventh chapters of his secondepistle to the church at Corinth, we learn that the enemies of the apostle represented him as rude in speech, contemptible in speech, and weak in bodily presence- Here perhaps we obtain some insight into the nature of the infirmity with which he was visited. But whatever the thorn in the flesh might be, the'apostle, grieved at the prospect of its interference with the efficaciousness of his miT nistry, with earnest and repeated supplication besought the Lord Jesus that it might depart from him. The prayer Christ did not fee fit to grant. The motive which prompted it. he beheld with complacence. He beheld the heart of his apostle glowing with zeal for his glory. But he knew, what the apostle could pot know, the methods by which his glory might best be promoted. He knew that the feebleness of the servant would conduce to the glory of his Lord; that the imperfection pf the instrument would magnify the strength

of

of him by whom it was wielded; that the successful labours of the apostle, in the face of circumstances which might in some degree have a tendency to excite scorn or disgust, would prove that the faith of his converts food not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. He replied unto the petitions of St. Paul; My grace is sufficient for thee: for' my strength is made perfect in ''weaknef. "Be not afraid; be not dispirited. I the "Lord am able to complete my own work. "My grace, without which thou canst "do nothing, shall be with thee: and that "grace can accomplish every thing."

In this reply of our Saviour to the request of his apostle, we read a distinct intimation of the nature and the importance of divine grace. The instruction thus conveyed to St. Paul is applicable to every man. In the farther consideration therefore of the subject, I propose, in the present and in two subsequent discourses, to explain the necessity of the grace of Christ to salvation; to prove that every man is enabled to obtain this grace; to indicate the means by which k is to be acquired; to point out the tests and proofs by which the possession of it is to be ascertained; and to evince its complete and unalterable sufficiency. Some observations will afterwards

be

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