Let not the strong man glory in his strength
Let not the strong man glory in his strength
Let not the strong man glory in his strength. The Lord “delights not in the strength of the horse: he takes not pleasure in the legs of a man.” And let us not make our boast concerning these things. Say, you that are in good health, “My God, bless me indeed. Give me the healthy soul. Heal me of my spiritual diseases. Jehovah Rophi come, and purge out the leprosy that is in my heart by nature: make me healthy in the heavenly sense, that I may not be put aside among the unclean, but allowed to stand among the congregation of your saints. Bless my bodily health to me that I may use it rightly, spending the strength I have in your service and to your glory; otherwise, though blessed with health, I may not be blessed indeed.”
Some of you, dear friends, do not possess the great treasure of health. Wearisome days and nights are appointed you. Your bones are become an almanac, in which you note the changes of the weather. There is much about you that is fitted to excite pity. But I pray that you may have the blessing indeed, and I know what that is. I can heartily sympathize with a sister who said to me the other day, “I had such nearness to God when I was sick, such full assurance, and such joy in the Lord, and I regret to say I have lost it now; that I could almost wish to be ill again, if thereby I might have a renewal of communion with God.”
I have oftentimes looked gratefully back to my sick chamber. I am certain that I never did grow in grace one half so much anywhere as I have upon the bed of pain. It ought not to be so. Our joyous mercies ought to be great fertilizers to our spirit; but frequently our griefs are more salutary than our joys. The pruning knife is best for some of us. Well, after all, whatever you have to suffer, of weakness, of debility, of pain, and anguish, may it be so attended with the divine presence, that this light affliction may work out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, and so you may be blessed indeed.
I will only dwell upon one more temporal mercy, which is very precious; I mean the blessing of home. I do not think any one can ever prize it too highly, or speak too well of it. What a blessing it is to have the fireside, and the dear relationships that gather round the word “Home” -wife, children, father, brother, sister! Why, there are no songs in any language that are more full of music than those dedicated to “Mother.” We hear a great deal about the German “Fatherland”; we like the sound. But the word, “Father,” is the whole of it. The “land” is nothing: the “Father” is key to the music.
There are many of us, I hope, blessed with a great many of these relationships. Do not let us be content to solace our souls with ties that must before long be sundered. Let us ask that over and above them may come the blessing indeed. I thank you, my God, for my earthly father; but oh, you be my Father, then am I blessed indeed. I thank you, my God, for a mother’s love; but comfort my soul as one whom a mother comforts, then am I blessed indeed. I thank you, Savior, for the marriage bond; but you be the bridegroom of my soul. I thank you for the tie of brotherhood; but you be my brother born for adversity, bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. The home you have given me I prize, and thank you for it; but I would dwell in the house of the Lord forever, and be a child that never wanders, wherever my feet may travel, from my Father’s house with its many mansions. You can thus be blessed indeed. If not domiciled under the paternal care of the Almighty, even the blessing of home, with all its sweet familiar comforts, does not reach to the benediction which Jabez desired for himself.
But do I speak to any here that are separated from kith and kin? I know some of you have left behind you in the bivouac of life graves where parts of your heart are buried, and that which remains is bleeding with just so many wounds. Ah, well! the Lord bless you indeed! Widow, your maker is your husband. Fatherless one, he has said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” Oh, to find all your relationships made up in him, then you will be blessed indeed!
I have perhaps taken too long a time in mentioning these temporary blessings, so let me set the text in another light. I trust we have had human blessings and temporary blessings, to fill our hearts with gladness, but not to foul our hearts with worldliness, or to distract our attention from the things that belong to our everlasting welfare.
Let us proceed, thirdly, to speak of imaginary blessings. There are such in the world. From them may God deliver us. “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” Take the Pharisee. He stood in the Lord’s house, and he thought he had the Lord’s blessing, and it made him very bold, and he spoke with unctuous self-complacency, “God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are,” and so on. He had the blessing, and well indeed he supposed himself to have merited it. He had fasted twice in the week, paid tithes of all that he possessed, even to the odd farthing on the mint, and the extra halfpenny on the cummin he had used.
He felt he had done everything. His the blessing of a quiet or a quiescent conscience; good, easy man. He was a pattern to the parish. It was a pity everybody did not live as he did; if they had, they would not have needed any police. Pilate might have dismissed his guards, and Herod his soldiers. He was just one of the most excellent people that ever breathed. He adored the city of which he was a burgess!
Ay; but he was not blessed indeed. This was all his own overweening conceit. He was a mere wind-bag, nothing more and the blessing which he fancied had fallen upon him, had never come. The poor publican whom he thought accursed, went to his home justified rather than he. The blessing had not fallen on the man who thought he had it. Oh, let every one of us here feel the sting of this rebuke, and pray: “Great God, save us from imputing to ourselves a righteousness which we do not possess. Save us from wrapping ourselves up in our own rags, and fancying we have put on the wedding garments. Bless me indeed. Let me have the true righteousness. Let me have the true worthiness which you can accept, even that which is of faith in Jesus Christ.”
Another form of this imaginary blessing is found in people who would scorn to be thought self-righteous. Their delusion, however, is near akin. I hear them singing; “I do believe, I will believe That Jesus died for me, And on his cross he shed his blood, From sin to set me free.” You believe it, you say. Well, but how do you know? Upon what authority do you make so sure? Who told you? “Oh, I believe it.” Yes, but we must mind what we believe. Have you any clear evidence of a special interest in the blood of Jesus?
Can you give any spiritual reasons for believing that Christ has set you free from sin? I am afraid that some have got a hope that has not got any ground, like an anchor without any fluke; nothing to grasp, nothing to lay hold upon. They say they are saved, and they stick to it they are, and think it wicked to doubt it; but yet they have no reason to warrant their confidence. When the sons of Kohath carried the ark, and touched it with their hands, they did rightly; but when Uzzah touched it he died. There are those who are ready to be fully assured; there are others to whom it will be death to talk of it.
There is a great difference between presumption and full assurance. Full assurance is reasonable: it is based on solid ground. Presumption takes for granted, and with brazen face pronounces that to be its own to which it has no right whatever. Beware, I pray you, of presuming that you are saved. If with your heart you do trust in Jesus, then are you saved; but if you merely say, “I trust in Jesus,” it does not save you. If your heart is renewed, if you shall hate the things that you did once love, and love the things that you did once hate; if you have really repented; if there is a thorough change of mind in you; if you be born again, then have you reason to rejoice. But if there is no vital change, no inward godliness; if there is no love to God, no prayer, no work of the Holy Spirit, then your saying, “I am saved,” is but your own assertion, and it may delude, but it will not deliver you.
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