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S E R M ON
2 CORINTHIANS xii. 9.
He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for
N the foregoing verses of this chapter,
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, 66 for a man to utter.' This probably happened soon 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 should imagine, that such a glorious manifestation could not be liable to any abuse. When Satan would have tempted oạr Lord to worship him, 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 surely 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
bad effect. And no doubt this will be the case, when we shall be perfectly freed from all remainders 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 fouls. Holy Paul, as we read verse 7. was in danger of being “ exalted above measure through the “ abundance of the revelations ;" for which
cause “ there was given to him a thorn in " the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet “ 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 saint, who but a little before was caught up into paradise, now tumbles himself as low as the dust. He falls down apon his knees, and earnestly implores deliverance from this trial Once and again he repeats his fupplication, but gets no answer.
This could not fail to heighten his distress. A messenger 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 fenfible 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. “ Í besought the Lord " thrice, that it might depart from me." A: length the answer comes in the words of
my text: And he said 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 i 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, buc 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 distrust on the other; both which extremes are utterly inconsistent with the duties of
fervice, and the happiness of my people. VOL. II.
According to this view of the words, I propose, in dependence upon divine aid,
1. To guard you against pride and selfconfidence, by giving you a true representation of that weak and impotent state into which we are fallen' by our apostasy from God; and,
II. For your encouragement, I shall lead your thoughts to that all - fufficient grace which is treasured up in Chrift, whereby the weakest of his people are enabled to endure the buffetings of Satan, and shall finally prevail against all their spiritual em nemies.
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 sacred oracles