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able to explain it; but beyond that point it is enveloped in deep mystery. The life of the Christian is a hidden life; and we cannot say but that the mysteries which are bound up in it may engage his admiring scrutiny through eternity. Still there is much connected with it that is capable of being explained ; and, if I mistake not, an attentive consideration of the passage which I have just read to you, will bring before us the substance of all that has been revealed on this wonderful subject. “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me."
The Christian's strength—the source from which, and the medium through which, it is communicated—this will form the subject of our discourse.
1. The Christian's strength.--Paul expresses it in the phrase, “I can do all things." The expression is limited by the subject to which it relates; for to understand it literally, would be nothing less than to impute to the Apostle the impiety of claiming one of the Divine attributes. He is speaking of the peculiar difficulties and trials to which he was subjected in the cause of Christ, and his meaning is that he is able to meet them successfully, victoriously; he is adequate to anything to which his duty, as a follower and an ambassador of Christ
, might call him. And in its application to Christians in general, it is to be understood as implying their ability to obey Christ's commands in all things; their resolution not to yield to any obstacle which they may find in their path, provided they are sure it is the path which the Master has marked out for them.
1. More particularly, I remark that the Christian is mighty to labor. It is at once the sin and the shame of a large part of the world, that they fritter away their lives in indolent inaction; and of a still larger part of it, that, though they exercise their faculties vigorously, it is for mere worldly objects. They labor hard enough for the meat that perisheth, but not at all for that which endureth to everlasting life. But the true Christian differs widely from both these classes;—from the former, as he is awake to earnest and diligent effort; from the latter, as his efforts are directed to beneficent and spiritual ends. Let him occupy whatever part of the great field he may, he will find enough to do, and if he have the Christian spirit
, he will be in earnest to do it. See how inventive he is in devising plaus for sustaining the great interests of truth and piety; for sending abroad the glorious Gospel; for bringing all within his reach under the benign influence of a pure Christianity! See how ready he is to keep on laboring in spite of difficulties; how he takes advantage of everything that can, in any way, be rendered tributary to his work; how he even sometimes presses into his cause the most adverse circumstances, causing that to
become the minister of good which was designed to be the minister of evil. I think I hear some one ask, “Where are we to look for such Christians as these?”—and I know it is a cutting question; I know what multitudes there are who bear the Christian name, who have no better character than that of drones in the church; and I know, too, how wretchedly most of us fall short of our Christian vows and obligations; but I also know that there are Christians, and not a few, to whom we may point triumphantly for an illustration of our position; men and women, whose desire to live in the world is identified with their desire to labor for Christ. A nobler example there never was, than the man from whom caine the declaration in our text. Every faculty of his great mind was kept in intense exercise; his ruling passion was to honor Christ as a follower, in proportion as he had dishonored him as a persecutor. In the act of his conversion, he breathed forth the prayer, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" and the whole record of his subsequent life shows the sincerity of that prayer; for it shows him always engaged about his Master's business. Do you say that the world has never seen but one Paul; that his conversion was an extraordinary conversion, and his character an extraordinary character, and that therefore he is not to be taken as a sample of what Christianity, acting by its more ordinary influences, can accomplish? Look, then, at Brainard, with his heart beating so high for the salvation of the poor Indians, that neither the persuasion of his friends, nor his own manifest approach to the grave, could keep him out of the wilderness ; labor he would, labor he did, till his physical energies were so nearly gone, that he felt that nothing remained for him but to go away and die. Look at Henry Martyn, nothing wearied by the keen and sagacious opposition of his enemies; nothing discouraged by finding barrenness where he had hoped for a harvest ; nothing intimidated by the progress of a disease which was gradually wearing out his constitution, he kept on laboring to the extent of his ability, till death took him away to occupy a more glorious field. Do you say that even these are extraordinary cases, and that I am still lingering among the greatest names that adorn the Christian record? Then let me ask you to look at the lives of most of our modern missionaries; notice the selfdenial and heroic spirit that breathes in their communications ; see how evident it is that they do not count even their lives dear to them ; see them adventuring upon great and hazardous enterprises, evincing an intrepidity that no obstacle is powerful enough to overcome; and finally see them holding on in their course of diligent and earnest effort, till they go to render up their account with joy. Nay, you need not look across the ocean to find these glorious examples-you may find persons, I doubt
not, of both sexes, in your own community, who have learned the secret of not living to themselves; who, without neglecting their worldly business, find no little time to give to the spiritual interests of their fellow-creatures, and some who make it a part of the economy of their life to go around at regular intervals among the habitations of wretchedness, as ministers of peace and consolation. No, brethren, notwithstanding the general apathy that prevails in the church, and the multitude of cases in which its members openly and flagrantly dishonor a Christian profession, I have no fear of not being able to illustrate my position, if I should be called to do it, by living examples. There are in the bosom of the church now, even now, when the love of many waxes cold, some at least, who are not weary of welldoing
2. The Christian is mighty to resist. The spiritual life, so long as the natural life lasts, is an uninterrupted scene of conflict. The Christian would fain be at peace; but his enemies will not let him alone. He may be in the world engaged in his lawful business; he may be at home in the bosom of domestic quiet and comfort; he may be in the church a devout and earnest worshipper; he may be in the closet, where no eye sees him
, but that of his Father in Heaven; and yet in any or all of these conditions he is accessible by his spiritual foes. The world is one of these foes, in every attractive form into which it can throw itself: the prince of the power of the air is another; and he associates with himself we know not how many kindred agents: and last, though not least, that set of enemies which he harbors in his own bosom, his own inward corruptions, sometimes act upon his comfort with most terrible effect. But be his enemies what they may, and be they where they may, the true Christian, with his armor on, dares to encounter them. With the sword of the Spirit, with the breastplate of righteousness, with the guide of truth, with the helmet of salvation, he enters the conflict with confidence, and he retires from it with triumph. I do not say that he always triumphs; but it is his own fault if he does not; and in general the life of the true Christian is made up, in a great measure, of a succession of victorious conflicts.
3., The Christian is mighty to endure. What else is the whole record of Christian martyrdom, but a record of glorious triumphs in connection with the dying agony ? See that man dressed for a conflict with the fire. The terrible arrangement for the last scene is now fully made. The stake to which he is to be bound, the faggots which are to take hold of his flesh, and the fire which is to set them at their work, are all in his view. And now he is asked for the last time, whether he is willing to abjure Christ; and he answers, as if he spoke from the depths of a lion's heart, "No," and that “No,” is gratefully responded
to by a voice from the crowd, the voice of one who stands ready to die with bim, the voice of his own beloved wife, bidding him be courageous, and play the man in his martyrdom. And there
, he stands, calmly, triumphantly, perhaps even praising God in the fire; and there she stands, with her eyes lifted to Heaven, and suffused with tears of thankfulness, that her husband is enabled to die so glorious a death.
And this is only a specimen of a multitude of cases that show what strength there is in the heart of a martyr. But we need not go to the history of martyrs to illustrate our position: in the more ordinary scenes of suffering we are often surprised by an exhibition of fortitude that would seem adequate to the endurance of anything. I have seen the naturally timid female, so courageous in the passage through the dark valley, that I have said to myself: "There is a spirit of noble daring there that death in any form is too feeble to vanquish; that heart would keep on beating courageously even amidst the tortures of the rack.” I have seen a mother dying with a cluster of little children at her bedside; and their father was there too in the wretchedness of a vagabond and a sot: and her eyes had not seen the light for many years before the darkness of death came over her; and yet her dying hour was like an hour of jubilee; she lay upon that bed of straw, and clasped her withered hands, and moved her sightless eyeballs, and the last expressions that escaped her lips were expressions of thankfulness, of triumph, of transport. You must keep away from such scenes as these if
you would doubt the Christian's power to endure; but scenes at least similar to these in their general character are occurring everywhere: and each of them is a witness to the truth which I am endeavoring to present to you.
II. Thus much may suffice to illustrate the Christian's strength; we will now, secondly, contemplate the source from which, and the medium through which, it is communicated. The apostle, in our text, refers it immediately to Christ—“I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me."
Christ is here, no doubt, to be contemplated in the character of mediator. In this character he has all power in heaven and on earth committed to him. Hereby he is qualified to be the head of the church, and to guard all its interests, to manage all its concerns, to supply all its wants. Hereby especially he becomes, not only to the church at large, but to every individual member, the fountain of all strength. It is through the working of his mighty power that each becomes a subject of his kingdom on earth, and ultimately reaches such a spiritual stature as to be admitted to his kingdom in heaven. The administering of strength to the saints, then, belongs peculiarly to the Saviour: it is part of the reward which crowns his mediatorial sufferings. I remark, then,
1. In the first place, that Christianity, by which I here mean the system of truth revealed in the Gospel, appeals to our sense of obligation by the authority which it claims. If an individual should require any service at your hands, which you knew he had no authority to require, you would of course deny his right, and would feel no obligation to yield to the requirement; but if the command, besides being reasonable in itself, should come to you clothed with a legitimate authority; if, for instance, it should be a command from a parent to a child, or from a magistrate to a subject, you could not fail to recognize the obligation to obey; and while this sense of obligation would embarrass you in the purpose to disobey, the spirit of obedience would as certainly find in it an important auxiliary. Let a man feel that what he is about to do is right, that it is in full accordance with his inmost convictions of duty, and it will nerve him with a resolution and energy which he could scarcely look for under other influences. Now remember that Christianity claims a Divine authority-all that it commands, God commands—the God who is our Creator and Preserver and sovereign Proprietor, and whom therefore we are bound to obey by the strongest possible obligations. In doing what he requires of us, we know, beyond a peradventure, that we are acting right; that we are acting in accordance with the dignity of our nature; acting in a manner that will abide the strictest inward test, either now or
future period of our existence. And who needs be told that in the consciousness of being governed by such high motives, must be bound up the elements of mighty power? What made Daniel so fearless to encounter the lions' den? What made the three young men so fearless to be cast into the furnace? What made the martyrs so fearless when they sung upon the rack? What makes many a man at this day so undaunted, so persevering, in following the Master through evil report? Ah, the secret of it all is, the inward consciousness that they are doing right; the voice from within, witnessing for them that that dark path, as the case may be, that bloody path, is the path of God's commandments.
2. Christianity appeals to our fears by the terrors which it announces. Fear is one of the most active of all the passions; it was designed by the Creater to put us on our guard against evil; and no small part of our safety in the present world depends upon its operation. Of the powerful influence which this passion exerts, there are practical illustrations passing before our eyes every day. Yonder is an individual who is afraid of losing his property. See how intensely and continually it keeps his faculties in operation ; how readily he deprives himself of rest, and even of food, in order to neutralize the influences which are at work to render him a poor man. Yonder