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S ER MON XVII.
2 CORINTHIANS xii. 9.
He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for
IN the foregoing verses of this chapter, 1 the Apostle relates an extraordinary revelation he had been favoured with, above fourteen years before the date of this epistle. He informs us, that “ he was caught up into “ paradise,” or “ the third heaven, (whether “ in the body, or out of the body, he could
not tell), where he heard unspeakable *“ words, which it is not lawful,” or possible, “ for a man to utter.” This probably happened foon after his conversion ; and was
graciously intended, either to remove those : doubts and fears which the remembrance
of his former conduct might naturally occasion, or rather to fortify his mind against the trials and sufferings he was afterwards
to meet with in the course of his ministry. -One fhould imagine, that such a glorious manifestation could not be liable to any abuse. When Satan would have tempted oạr Lord to worship hím, it was by giving him a fight and offer of all the kingdoms of this world; and we readily admit, that such a temptation might prove very fatal to us, Earthly objects have indeed too powerful a tendency to inflame our sensual'appetites, and to alienate our hearts from God; but lurely no danger can be apprehended from a view of heaven. The glories of the upper world, a display of those things above, upon which God himself hath commanded us to set our affection, cannot be supposed to have any bad effect,
And no doubt this will be the case, when · we shall be perfectly freed from all remain
ders of corruption. But we learn, from what follows, that in our present state of weakness and depravity, even a view of heaven might prove a snare to our souls. Holy Paul, as we read verse 7. was in danger of being “ exalted above measure through the “ abundance of the revelations ;” for which
cause, cause “ there was given to him a thorn is - the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buitet “ him." What this particular exercise was, is not material for us to know. The words plainly import, that it was both violent and painful; and the effects it produced as eridenty show, that it was appointed in mercy, and wisely calculated for his spiritual advantage. This eminent faint, who but a little before was caught up into paradise, now tumbles himself as low as the dust. He falls down upon his knees, and earnestly implores deliverance from this trial. Once and again he repeats his supplication, but gets to answer. This could not fail to heighten his diftrefz. A meslenger of Satan is sent to buffet him ; and God, by his filence, seems deaf to his intreaties. But ftill this is made to work for his good: He becomes more and more sensible of his own weakness; he draws nearer to a throne of grace, and renews his fuit with increafing fervour and importunity. “ For this thing," says he, verse 8. “ I befought the Lord " thrice, that it might depart from me." At length the answer comes in the words of
iny text: And be faid unto me, My grace is fufficient for thee.
You will observe, that, after all his intreaties, the Lord did not grant him the precise thing he had asked; but he gave him what was better, and more suited to his condition. Paul needed an antidote against fpiritual pride; and as the thorn in the flesh was necessary for that end, it would have been no act of kindness to have taken it · away; and therefore our Lord, who knew his servant better than he knew himself, prolongs the trial, but at the same time assures him of grace to support him under it.—This messenger of Satan must not be sent away, left thou shouldst forget thy dependence upon me: but I will stand by thee, and strengthen thee to bear his assaults and bufferings; that, feeling thine own weakness, and the power of my grace, thy soul may be kept at an equal distance from prefumption on the one hand, and from distrujt on the other; both which extremes are utterly inconsistent with the duties of my fera vice, and the happiness of my people.
Vol. II. Ee. According
According to this view of the words, I propose, in dependence upon divine aid,
I. To guard you against pride and selfconfidence, by giving you a true reprefentation of that weak and impotent state into which we are fallen' by our apoftasy from God; and, | II. For your encouragement, I shall lead your thoughts to that all - Jufficient grace which is treasured up in Christ, whereby the weakest of his people are enabled to . endure the buffetings of Satan, and shall finally prevail against all their spiritual enemies.
I. That I may guard you againtt pride and self-confidence, I shall lay before you à plain and scriptural account of that weak and impotent state into which we are fallen by our apostasy from God.
It were easy to quote a variety of passages which expressly assert the corruption of human nature, and man's utter inability to do any thing that can be effectual for his own recovery : þut' I need only appeal to every man who reads the facred oracles