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I do not say they shall at length be accepted, but they shall see they have been so. Many cannot think those prayers are accepted, that do not come soon back with an answer. But that is a mistake; for the petitions of those that hang on and faint not, proceeding from that disposition, are accepted instantly, though many years should run ere the answer come back, 1 John v. 14, “ And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.” God doth with his wrestling children's petitions, as a father with letters sometimes from his son in a far country, he reads them with pleasure and affection always as they come to his hand, and lays them bypast to be all answered at the most convenient time : Matth. xv. 28, " Then Jesus answered and said unto her, 0 woman, great is thy faith : be it unto thee even as thou wilt."
2. They shall get an answer of their petitions to their heart's satisfaction, Matth. xv. 28, forecited. Psal. ix. 18, “The needy shall not always be forgotten : the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever." God will tell out to them according to the promise in answer to their prayers; so that they shall change their wrestling note, and say, “ I love the Lord because he hath heard my voice, and my supplications, Psal. cxvi. 1, and look on what they have met with as bearing the signature of the hand of a prayer-hearing God. Their burden shall be taken off, and they shall have their petitions in kind, or equivalent to their heart's content, 2 Cor. xii. 9, “ And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee : for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
3. They shall be fully satisfied as to the long delay, and the whole steps of the procedure, however perplexing they were before, Rev. xv. 3," And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints." Standing on the shore, and looking back to what they have passed through, they will be made to say, He hath done all things well; and they will see that there could have none of it been wanting.
4. They shall get it with increase according to the time they waited on, and the hardships they sustained during the dependence of the process. The fruit of the promise, the longer it is a-ripening, the more bulky it is. Abraham and Sarah waited for the promised child till they were coming into extreme old age, the very next step to death, Gen. xviii. 11; but they got with it an addition of the renewing of their ages, Gen. xxi. 7; and xxv. 1.
5. Lastly, Their spiritual enemies that flew thick and strong about them in the time of the darkness, shall be scattered at the appearance of this light, 1 Sam. ii. 5, “They that were full, have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry, ceased : so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children, is waxed feeble.” Formidable was Pharaoli's host while the Israelites had the Red Sea before them: but when they were through the sea, they saw the Egyptians dead upon the shore, Exod. xiv. 30. Such a heart-sight shall they that hang on and faint not get of Satan and all his black bands. I proceed to shew,
VII. Seventhly, How it shall be speedily, notwithstanding the long delay.
1. It shall he speedily in respect of the weight and value of it when it comes : so that the believer looking on the return of his petition, with an eye of faith perceiving the worth of it, may wonder it is come upon so short on-waiting. This view of it the apostle takes, 2 Cor. iv. 17, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” And so says Zophar, Job xi. 16, “Thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away.”
2. It shall come in the most seasonable nick of time it can come in, Gal. vi. 9. when it may come to the best advantage for the honour of God and their good : and that which comes in the best season, comes speedily. To every thing there is a season; so fools' haste is no speed. Times and seasons are in the Lord's hand, and all his works are best-timed, Deut. xxxii. 4. and will abide the strictest examination, Eccles. iii. 14.
3. It shall come as soon as they are prepared for it, Psal. x. 17. “ Thou will prepare their heart;" and if it should come sooner, it would be over soon. And it may take long time to prepare for it; there may be many a lesson to learn, much working on their will may be necessary, ere they be prepared for it.
4. It shall not tarry one moment beyond the due and appointed time, Hab. ii. 3, “Though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry;" it will not linger, postpone, or put off beyond that due time. Whatever way the wheel of providence be driving, it is a wheel within a wheel, and so needs spend no time in turning about.
5. Lastly, It will be surprising, as a glaring light to one brought out of a dungeon, though he was expecting it. No doubt the church was expecting the end of their captivity in Babylon toward the end of the seventy years: yet such was the change, it was surprising, they “were like men that dreamed,” Psal. cxxvi. 1.
USE 1. Let all know that it is not in vain to seek the Lord. VOL. VI.
God's trust is better than the world's hand-payment. Though waiting on at the court of heaven may be longsome, yet it is a sure way to get our wants supplied.
2. All ye that have now set your faces heavenward, professing your resolution to forsake sin and the world, and to hang on about the Lord's hand for all; do not look back, turn not away from him, Heb. x. 38, “ If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. Remember it is “he that endures to the end shall be saved.”
3. Think it not strange if yo meet with treatment at the hand of the Lord, whereby ye may be in hazard of fainting. He loves to try his followers. But be resolute to hang on about his hand, come what will, and ye will be sure to speed at length.
4. Ye that are going away mourning from this communion because of a hiding God, and a hungry meal ye have got; do not despond; but inquire into the causes, mourn over them, and renew your addresses to the throne vigorously; and what ye missed in public, ye may get in secret.
5. Lastly, Ye that are under any pressure, who have been long tossed with tempests and not comforted, nor have any appearancə of comfort shewing itself; comfort yourselves with the words of the text, believing it; while ye can have no comfort from the appearance of providence; and be resolute in hanging on, and faint not. And ye have Christ's word for it, your case shall have a happy issue, though never so desperate like.
And whoever would be kept from fainting, and animated to hang on about the Lord's hand, believe, that hanging on ye shall certainly be beard at length to your heart's content. For so hath our Lord said, “ I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.”
THE STRENGTH OF CHRIST ILLUSTRATED IN THE WEAKNESS OF
Two Sermons preached on a Sacramental occasion at Galasbiels, July 31, and
August 1, 1731.
2 Cor. xii. 9.
For my strength is made perfect in weakness.
In the Lord's leading his people through the wilderness of this world, there are many mysteries of provideuce which are too high for them to comprehend; so that, after the narrowest scrutiny into them, they must conclude as Psal. lxxvii. 19. “Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.” But the light of glory hereafter will satisfy their sense as to all the particular steps therein; and till that time come, there is a light of the word that may satisfy faith as the general design of them; and the text has a beam of such light in it. In the words,
First, Observe the connexion pointing to the mystery this beam of light was sent to clear; “ For," &c. That we may see what this aims at, we must look back to the preceding account; where we find, (1.) Paul wrapt up into the third heavens, while yet alive, ver. 2. (2.) the same Paul quickly after in a kind of hell upon the earth; where instead of the pleasurable glance and taste of the happiness of the heavenly society he had got, he finds himself yoked in close combat with the devil, ver. 7; whom if he did not see with his eyes, he certainly felt the weight of his hands upon his body and spirit; for I think there is no reason to recede from the literal sense of the text. (3.) Paul praying again and again in this humble situation, to be brought out of it, ver. 8. “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” (4.) The answer given to his prayer, whereof the text is a part. And here is, 1st, The precise answer to his petition, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Wherein there is, (1.) Something implied, viz. that the Lord was not minded to give the riding stroke as yet, but the combat behoved to continue longer, and how long he was not to know. (2.) Something expressed, viz. That he had such a second, that there should be no fear of the issue, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Now, 2dly, Our text is the justifying reason of this answer; not of the expressed part of it, the sufficiency of the Lord's grace ; but the implied part, the divine conduct in letting the battle go on, though by this time it was with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood. Q. d. Paul, be not stumbled at this; I have a becoming design in suffering it to go on, and not giving the decisive stroke as yet.
Secondly, The beam of light clearing this mystery in the general to faith : “my strength is made perfect in weakness." Wherein is set forth,
1st, An amicable yoking of divine strength and creature-weakness. There was indeed here a most powerful evil spirit, yoked in a hostile manner with weak flesh and blood; so that had they two, without any interposition from heaven, been left to dispute it, the former had torn the latter in a thousand pieces. But there was an invisible divine hand with the weak party, that supported against the strong.
2dly, The illustration of the glory of the divine strength by this conjunction with creature-weakness; “My strength is made perfect in weakness." Where,
1. Consider whose is this strength. It is the Lord's to whom Paul prayed vers. 8, 9: and that was the Lord Christ, ver. 9. To him Paul prayed, in this combat with Satan, it being he who by his office was to bruise the serpent. Whereby it appears, that he is true God, God, by nature, as being the object of divine worship, and the subject of sovereign divine power, Col. ii. 9. “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
2. What his strength is. It certainly comprehends the strength of his grace lodged in him as Mediator, but is not confined to his moral perfections, but takes in the whole divine power, whereby he is able to do all things for the weak creature, whatever its weakness be: for the words are general.
3. One of those fields wherein it exerts itself, viz. weakness. It exerts itself in the strong, both in heaven and earth; and without it the strongest would be weak as water. But on this earth there is occasion for exerting itself in the weak, in their weakness; working in, by, and with the real weakness and felt weakness of the creature.
4. With what advantage it exerts itself in the creature's weakness: it is "made perfect” there. There is a twofold perfecting of a thing; one real, by adding to it something that it wanted to complete it, and the power of Christ being infinite, is not capable of that: another manifestation, whereby that which was vailed before comes to be discovered, like the sun getting forth from under a cloud. Thus Christ's “strength is made perfect in weaknsss :" it