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DIS COURSE XXXIV.
The EPistle for the Twelfth Sunday after
2 Cor. iii. 4-10. Such Trust have we through Christ to God-ward :
not that we are sufficient of our selves to think any thing as of our felves; but our Sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able Ministers of the New Testament, &c.
HE Service for this Day puts us in mind of God
and to give more than we can defire or deserve; and from thence teaches us to implore the Abundance of his Mercy, for the Pardon of our Sins, and the pouring out of his Graces upon us. To which end,
The Epistle for the Day speaks of putting our Trust in God thro Jesus Christ : Such Truft (faith the Apostle) have we thro Christ to God-ward; which words relate chiefly to the Fidelity of the Apostles in the Work of the Ministry, and the Success they had thereby, which they look'd upon as their greatest Glory, and needed no other Conimendation; not arrogating any thing of it to themselves, but ascribing all to the Power and Grace of God: for in the next words he acknowledges their utter Insufficiency to think or do any good thing of themselves; saying, Not that we are sufficient of our selves to think any thing as of our selves : To which he adds God Almighty's All-fufficiency to help them ; But our Sufficiency is of God. Which they found in the Exercise of a Ministration far beyond that of Mo. fes, as the Sequel of this
Epistle will make plainly appear. The first and great Leffon here taught us is our utter Insufficiency to think or do any good thing of our selves, in these words, Not that we are sufficient of our selves to think any thing as of our selves; and if not to think, sure
not to do any good thing by our own Power: which made the Apostle ask the Question, Who is sufficient for these things implying our natural Impotence and Inability to every good Word or Work. This is evident from many Passages in Holy Scripture, and likewise from many Ex-' amples of human Frailty recorded therein : to which we may add our own woful Experience for a Proof and Confirmation of this fad Truth.
The Holy Scriptures abound with Expressions that set forth this our great Impotence and Inability. Without me (faith our Saviour) ye can do nothing ; John 15.5. I can do nothing of my self, faith the great Apostle St. Paul: And if that great Champion of the Faith were so sensible of his own Weakness, how much more ought we to own and lament our greater Impotence? We can call nothing our own, but our Infirmities and Imperfections: all the rest is freely given us of God, in whom we live, moue, and have our Being; and who worketh in us both tó will and to do, ac. cording to his good Pleasure.
Moreover, The many Instances of human Frailty recorded in Scripture may abundantly convince us of this Insufficiency. David, when left to himself, fell into great Enormities, even to the committing the crying Sins of Mur. der and Adultery, which cost him a fore and fad Repen, tance, St. Peter shamefully deny'd his Master after many Promises and Protestations to the contrary, which made him weep very bitterly; and may be a warning to all, that think of standing, to take heed left they fall. St. Paul confess'd that in him, that is, in his Flesh, there dwelt no good thing. And if we consult our own fad Experience, we shall find, that we are not sufficient of our felves so much as to think a good Thought, and much less to perform any good Action.
But whence comes this utter Impotence and Inability to all Good? Why, this proceeds partly from the original Corruption and Depravedness of our Nature, contracted by the Fall of our first Parents; and partly from the evil Suggestions and Temptations of our ghostly Enemies.
First, I say, this proceeds from the original Corruption and Depravedness of our Nature, contracted by the Fall of our first parents. This is the first and great Cause of all the Impiety and Imbecility of Mankind; How weak is thine Heart (faith God) seeing thou hast done these things? Ezek. J6.30. Indeed God made Man at firft upright, and endow'd him with Faculties sufficient to enable him to do his Will; but he hath perverted bis Way, and sought out many Inventions : Eccles. 7:29. Our first Parents, by difobeying their Maker, loft both their Strength and their Innocence together, and have deriv'd down Weakness and Misery to their Pofterity ever since. This brought Darkness into our Minds, Crookedness into our Wills, Disorder into our Affections, and thereby an Impotence upon the whole Man: And hence it comes to pass, that we are not sufficient of our felves to think any thing that is good; the Imaginations of the Heart, in this degenerate State; being evil, only evil, and that continually. Again,
Secondly, This proceeds partly from the evil Suggeftions and Temptations of our spiritual Enemies; who, working upon the Corruption of our Nature, encrease our Weak. ness, and render us both unwilling and unable to do any thing as we ought: These daily assault and follicit us to Sin, plying us with their Temptations, whereby they im. pair our Strength, and create this Impotence. Satan, the great Enemy of Mankind, hath his Wiles, his Devices, and his fiery Darts to wound and weaken us. The World' hath Baits and Snares to allure and entrap us; both which are too apt to prevail upon us, and render us too feeble to refist or conquer them. Beside which, we have an Enemy in our Borom that is still ready to join issue with the two former; the Flesh lufting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the Flemi by which our Strength is mightily weaken'd and impair'd in the Combat; insomuch that we may all say with St. Paul, The Good that we would do, we do not, and the Evil that we would not, that we do : which is sufficient to convince us of our utter Inability to think or do any thing that is good of our felves.
But what Remedy have we in this case, or how may we be reliev'd under this Impotence? Why, that the next words tell us, Our Sufficiency is of God. We are not left helpless, to sink under the Burden of our Infirmities, but we have a Door of Hope open'd for us, and are fuccour'd by a Divine Hand : for tho we are insufficient of our felves, yet our Sufficiency is of God; and we are allisted by him whó is all-sufficient, and can do more than we can ask or think. Of this Sufficiency we have abundant Proof from Scripture, from Example, and from our own Experience. The
Lord himself told St. Paul, that his Grace was sufficient for him, and that his Strength was made perfect in Weakness; 2 Cor. 12. 9. This made him tell the Corinthians, that God was able fo to make all Grace abound towards them that they always having all Sufficiency in all things, might abound to 'evea ry good Work; 2 Cor.9. 8. Hence we find the Apostle des claring, that tho he could do nothing of himself, yet he could do all things through Christ that Arengthned him; Phil. 4. 13. And though he could do nothing against the Truth, yet he could do or suffer any thing for it; 2 Cor. 13. 8. His Weakness was turn'd into Strength; and he who was not sufficient to think or do a good thing, was able to perform the hardest Task, and nothing was impossible to him. And to this the Experience of good Christians can set their Seals, wbó have found greatest Assistance in times of greatest Exia gence, and have been thereby enabled to act not only above their Hopes, but beyond their Strength.
But whence is this Sufficiency? Why, the Text tell us, 'tis of God; 'tis not of our felves, who have nothing but Impotence and Infirmities to boast of: but 'tis of God,
who hath All-fufficiency in himself, and is willing to impart what is sufficient for us. All our natural Powers, whereby we perform any natural Action, are wholly from him ; for he giveth us Life, and Breath, and all things. And all the supernatural Aids and Amistances of Divine Grace, whereby we do any spiritual and acceptable Service to him, are more especially and entirely his, which is the Sufficiency here principally intended, whereby our natural Parts and Powers are rais'd to higher degrees of spiritual Strength in God's Service, than of themselves they could arrive to.
And to this the Apostle here chiefly refers, in fayingy Our Sufficiency is of God, who hath made us abte Ministers of the New Teftament : meaning, that by the Power of Divine Grace they were affifted in the Work of the Ministry, and enabled to do greater things for the Conversion of Souls, than could be done without it. 'Tis this that makes the Man of God perfect, and thorowly furnish'd for every good Word and Work: by which we likewise are made able Ministers of the New Testament; that is, of the New Covenant made with us in Christ, in contradistinction to the Legal Covenant deliver'd by Moses: of which New Covenant we are, by the Ability that God hath given us, the Preachers and Dispensers; not of the Letter, which confists only in the Words or Writing, without any inward Vol. IV. Part 2
Virtue or Efficacy upon the Soul; but of the Spirit, which is attended with the Influence of the Holy Ghost, in:printing it upon the Heart, and working in the Soul all the Grace and Vertue propounded and promised in it. For the Letter killeth (faith he) that is, the first Covenant, that was written on Tables of Stone, cannot save a Sinner, but rather denounces Wrath, and serves to aggravate his Condemnation. The Law worketh Death (faith St. Paul) and by it no Flesh living can be justified. But the Spirit giveth Life; that is, the New Covenant, by the Aids and Alliftances of God's Holy Spirit, giveth Life, and not only fo, but preserves and maintains it by the continual Comfort and Communication of Divine Grace.
From hence the Apostle takes occasion to thew the difference between the Legal and Evangelical Dispensation, together with the Glory and Excellency of the latter above the former ; calling the one, The Miniftration of Death and Condemnation; the other, The Ministration of the Spirit and Righteousness: advancing the Glory of the one above the other as far as Life exceeds Death, and the Consolations of the Spirit the Miseries of Condemnation. If the Ministration of Death (faith he) that was written and engraven in Stones, was glorious, so that the Children of Israel could not Stedfastly behold the Face of Moses, for the Glory of his Countenance, which Glory was to be done away; how shall not the Ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious ? Where he allows some sort of Glory, and that in no small degree, to the Delivery of the Law, which brought nothing but Death with it: for its being engraven on Tables of Stone by the Finger of God himself, and adorn'd with the Ape pearance of Angels at the Delivery of it, and likewise with such a bright shining Light, which cast such a Splendor on Moses's Face, that dazzled the Eyes of the Beholders, could not but add a Glory to it; tho that Glory was but tranfient, and to be done away. From whence the Apostle justlý infers, that if that lower Dispensation, which was only written on Stone, and externally represented good things, without affording any inward Grace or Strength to attain to them, had yet such a Glory attending the publishing of it ; how much more glorious and illustrious must the Dispensation of the Gospel be, which is establish'd upon better Promises, with an additional Strength to perform the Conditions, and to obtain the Mercy granted in them? For, as he goes on,