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the same as in Paul, but we share with him the privilege of communion with God.
There are two very different prayers in the Epistle to the Ephesians (comp. i. 17, 18; and iii. 16–19). The first calls for a knowledge of the glory of Christ, the grand hope of the Church : the second seeks for communion with God for our souls, and that we may be strengthened by the Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, that, being rooted and grounded in love, we may be filled with the knowledge of God even to all the fulness of God. If we grieve the Spirit by seeking things below, the inner man is immediately weakened.
Paul could glory in his infirmities, because he had . felt that his strength was in God. Weak as he was, many were converted by him, for God was acting with him. He rejoices in persecutions and infirmities, and in all that is contrary to the flesh. As soon as ever he becomes again conscious of the presence of the flesh, the latter seeks to rise, and the thorn is sent.
The flesh seeks its own ease, and shrinks from struggles and difficulties, but God will not ease the flesh at the
One may earnestly seek relief from infirmities, or deliverance from painful circumstances; but God does not always grant the request. Our dependance upon God is thereby increased. Not only ought we to expect infirmities, but also desire to find pleasure in them, in order that we may see the strength of Christ manifested in us.
The thorn in the flesh was given to Paul that he might not be puffed up. It was some infirmity which rendered him despicable in preaching (Gal. iv. 13, 14); it was a counterpoise to the glory he had tasted. Ít does not follow that we should necessarily have the same thorn, for God gives to each of us the very thorn which is suitable for us.
It is Satan whom God uses against the flesh; the flesh is seen in four different circumstances.
1. Before conversion, it is under Satan's power, the conscience being hardened. As Judas, who loved money, and was a thief. When he had taken the sop, Satan entered into him to lead him on to unbridled
iniquity, and to give him over to despair when he saw the result of his crime.
2. Before conversion, the flesh acts, and Satan presents the temptation.
3. After conversion, the flesh is still there; the Holy Ghost (who is the seal of redemption), has not yet fully accomplished his work in us; we are weak like. Peter. Peter is contrasted with Christ in almost every circumstance, even the most amiable. Before the transfiguration, when Jesus tells of His approaching sufferings, Peter answers with love, but yet according to the flesh, and Jesus reproaches him thus, “Get thee behind me, Satan" (Matt. xvi. 20, 23). In the Apostle Peter, the flesh was still under the dominion of Satan.
4. Satan desires to sift us like wheat, by means of the flesh. Jesus warns his disciples of this, and prays especially for Peter, in whom the flesh was strong, for he put himself forward on all occasions. The flesh is, in everything opposed to Christ. Jesus says to the disciples, “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation." He does not say sin. The Spirit leads Christ to prayer, and when temptation comes, it finds him perfectly calm; but the three disciples are heavy with grief, and when temptation comes they are taken by surprise.
All that could break the heart of Jesus was brought at once against Him; but even when Judas betrayed Him with a kiss, Jesus remained calm; He submitted, allowed Himself to be taken, and went through the depths of humiliation. While Jesus submitted Himself to everything, Peter drew his sword and did contrariwise. The flesh will urge a person on into temptation, but can sustain no one in the midst of it. It was the flesh which led Peter to the hall of the high priest—there, Jesus witnessed a glorious confession of His own character as Son of God, but Peter, hurried on by Satan, denied him. The flesh is in everything opposed to Christ. Peter, however, truly loved Christ, yet we see him still acting according to the flesh, even after having received the Holy Ghost (Gal. ii. 11).
Whenever a Christian acts in the flesh, all the weight of his piety goes to sanction and authorise his conduct
before others: and therefore the effects of the working of the flesh in a believer are far worse than in an unconverted person. Peter, for instance, had carried away all the Jews, including Barnabas, in his dissimulation.
Being caught up to the third heaven, does not change the flesh; and the flesh in Paul was ready to say, “You are the only man who has been in the third 'heaven.' But then the messenger of Satan was permitted to buffet him, and became thus the instrument of God's goodness in correcting his child. God does not do it Himself, but Satan, who loves to torment God's children, is used as an instrument to humble the flesh when it seeks to rise.
It is the circumstances that are painful to the flesh, which are those that are most profitable to our souls. What would be the use of a father giving his child as a punishment a thing which would not be one to the child? And thus it is with God and us. The power of God in us manifests itself, as well as our weakness, in times of difficulty. When we see before us something painful, God says, “ My grace is sufficient for thee." He would bring us into His presence by means of a joy unmarred by the flesh: and everything which can make the flesh a burden is especially profitable for us.
THOUGHTS. There is this difference-If I deal much with duties, and urge them on the conscience, I shall, if that be all, insensibly reduce the standard. If I present Christ to the soul, and plead His claims with the heart, I shall raise the standard.
The first of these different methods will, I believe, be made apparent in lower and higher measures of devotedness and
Besides, the mind, generated by the first, will be an inferior material to that produced by the second; it will not be the seat of the same light, freedom, and affection.
God will stand justified in the conscience of every single individual on the face of the earth, just as He did in the conscience of Adam in Gen. iii. AT
may charge and accuse Him, and lay the fault and the blame at His door, as Adam did ; but not one, any more than Adam, can have courage in the conscience to come out and boldly without hesitation, to Xis face, tell Him so. All these bear witness, against themselves, and for God; for this cowardice in the conscience bespeaks the common universal guilt.
Taken from a Letter from a French Christian, in connexion
with "Revivals" and "Alliances."
That which is given for his guidance to the Christian is, not God's blessings, but His will, as revealed in the Word. Precious blessings will, doubtless, be found in the path of faith ; God is there, with all His riches and all His grace: the enjoyment of these is most precious: but it is not our guide ; it may at times help us to discern what is pleasing to God; but that which is the spring and controller of our actions is not the joy we find by the way, but the express will of God, and it alone.
There is a disposition which is but too natural to us, to seek our own, to have respect for that which is pleasant to us, and to take our own comfort or feelings for guides. But obedience to the will of God is a very different thing: the two principles of action are diametrically opposed one to the other. In the first case, self is the object sought; in the second, that which is suitable to God. It is only in the second case that there is obedience.
I feel alarmed when I think of the number (greater than might be supposed) of those who pursue their course, without clearly seeing what they are doing, without principles, and without the knowledge of the will of God; and, it may be, simply because Christians whom they respect have chosen the same path before them; or because they have found at times more life, joy, or light where they are, than elsewhere. Better
motives or convictions they have none. What will become of such in the hour of trial ? What perplexity, anxiety, await them! and perhaps even temptations to return to some other path which they have left! God can indeed give more strength after a fall; but it were far better not to have to pass through such experience.
Besides, enjoyment is not always a sure guide: it may be wanting even when things are, as a whole, according to God's mind, where there still remain things to be judged. The very presence of God is the cause of many a discomfort which God's children feel within themselves and among them, because there is sin: their discomfort would not be felt if God were absent. For this reason, souls that have followed the blessing, instead of understanding the will and truth of God, are so shaken when blessing fails, and God comes in to judge; whilst he who understands and obeys the will of God is on a sure foundation-the day may be dark, but he has confidence, and in this there is much peace.
It is always in a faithful walk that most trials are to be met with. Satan lets alone those who do not walk by faith ; but he harasses in a thousand ways those whose hearts, are right, and whose eye is single before God. Christian assemblies which are faithful, will likewise know most of trial.
They who follow a path simply on account of the blessing and comfort they have found in it, are, in a sense, like those to whom the Lord once said, “ Ye seek ine, not because ye saw the miracles, but because
did eat of the loaves" (John vi. 26). If they had given heed to these miracles, they alone would have proved Jesus to have been sent from the Father, and then they would have clung to Him as the One who had "the words of eternal life," and as being “Christ, the Son of the living God” (ver. 68, 69). In this case, their attachment to Jesus would have been unvarying, in spite of all trials. Instead of this, they had followed Jesus, not for His own sake, but for the sake of the loaves with which He had fed them: the loaves--their own comforts and enjoyments—and not the truth, had been sought for. When the soul is in this state, it may soon leave VOL.V.PT.IY.