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Jesus, as he is our High Priest, our Head, our Husband, our Mediator, to blow up that heavenly fire that he' has kindled in any of our souls. His honour, his faithfulness, and his goodness, are engaged in it, and therefore he cannot but do it; else he would lose much love, and many prayers and praises, did he not cherish, preserve, and strengthen his own work in his own people. The faith of the disciples was generally weak, as I have formerly shewn you, and yet how sweetly does the Lord Jesus carry it towards them? He was still breathing out light, life, and love upon them; he was still turning their water into wine, their bitter into sweet, and their discouragements into encouragements; and all to raise-and keep up their spirits. His heart was much in this thing, therefore, says he, ' It is necessary that I leave you, that I may send the Comforter, to be a comfort and guide unto you.' I will pour out my spirit upon you, that a little one may become a thousand; and a small one a strong nation, and that the feeble may be as David, and the house of David as God, as the angel of the Lord. That is a sweet text in Isaiah lxv. 8; Thus saith the Lord, As the new wine is found in the clusters, and one saith, Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it, so will I do for my servant's sake. 'Oh,' says Christ to the Father, 'here are a company of weak saints, that have some buddings of grace. O do not destroy it Father; there is a blessing in it, though it be but weak.' The genuine sense of the similitude, I think, is this—when a vine, being blasted or otherwise decayed, is grown so bad and so barren, that scarcely any good clusters of grapes can be discerned on it, whereby it may be deemed to have any life or of ever becoming fruitful again, and the husbandman is about to grub it up or cut it down to the ground; one standing by sees here a cluster and there a little cluster, and cries out, ' O do not grub up the vine; do not cut down the vine; it has a little life, and by good husbandry it may be made fruitful.' We may look upon the Lord Jesus as thus pleading with his Father's justice; 'Father, I know thou seest that these souls are dry and barren, and that there is little or no good in them, and therefore thou mightest justly cut them down; but, O my Father, I see here a bunch and there a bunch ; here a little grace and there a little grace; surely there is a blessing in it, O spare it, let it not be grubbed up, let it not be destroyed.'
A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. Matt. xii. 20. A btuised reed shall he not break. The Jewish commentators carry it thus, He shall not tyrannize over, but nourish and cherish the poor, weak, feeble ones, that are wont to be oppressed by great ones. But men more spiritual carry it thus, Christ will not carry it roughly and rigorously towards poor weak tender souls, whose graces are as a bruised reed, and as smoking flax. A reed is a contemptible thing, a tender thing, it will break sometimes before a man is aware: a bruised reed is more tender; it will be broken with a touch: yet Christ will not break such a bruised reed, that is, a soul weak in grace. Nor quench the smoking flax. The wick of a candle is little worth, and yet less when it smokes, yielding neither light nor heat, but rather offends with an ill smell, which men cannot bear, but will tread it out. But the Lord Jesus Christ will not do so. Souls whose knowledge, love, faith, and zeal, do but smoke out, the Lord Jesus will not trample under-foot; nay, he will cherish, nourish, and strengthen such to life eternal. Look what oil is to the lamp, that will the Lord Jesus be to the graces of weak Christians. Till he shall bring forth judgment unto victory; that is, until the sanctified frame of grace begun in their hearts be brought to that perfection, that it prevails over all opposite corruption.
Thus you see how sweetly the Lord Jesus carries it to souls weak in grace. Therefore let not those that bring forth a hundred fold, despise those that? bring forth but thirty; nor those that have five talents, despise those that have but two.
5. The fifth support is this—weak saints may be very useful to the strong, and sometimes may do more than strong saints can; as you may see in 1 Cor. xii. 14—28. The apostle in this scripture discovers the singular use of the weakest saint in the body of Christ, by the usefulness of the weakest and meanest member in the natural body to the strongest. The eye cannot say the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the foot, I have no need of thee. By the head and by the eye he means such saints as are eminent in gifts and graces, that are adorned more richly, and that shine more gloriously in grace and gracious abilities than others. O these should not despise those that are not so eminent and excellent as themselves; for God has so tempered the inequality of the members in the natural body, that the more excellent and beautiful members can in no wise lack the more abject and weak members; therefore slight not the weakest saints, for certainly at first or last the weakest will be serviceable to the strongest. A dwarf may be useful to a giant, a child to a man. Sometimes a little finger shall do that which a limb in the body cannot do. It is so often in Christ's spiritual body. I will give you a very famous instance of this. At the council of Nice there were three hundred and eighteen bishops, and by the subtlety of a philosopher, disputing against the marriage of ministers, they generally voted against it, that those who were single should not marry. At length up starts Papheutius, a plain Christian, and in the name of Christ, with the naked word of God, he pleaded against them all in that case; and God so wrought by his arguments, that he convinced the three hundred and eighteen bishops, and carried the cause against them; yea, and so convinced the philosopher of his error, that before all he freely confessed it. 'As long,' said he, ' as men's words were only pressed, I could repel words with words; but what is weak man to withstand the word of God? I yield; I am conquered.' Weak Christians may be of singular use to the strongest; those that know most may learn more even from the weakest saints. Junius was converted by discoursing with a ploughman; and Apollos, though an eloquent man and mighty in the scriptures, yet was furthered and bettered in the knowledge of Christ's kingdom, by Aquila and Priscilla; a poor tent-maker and his wife were instrumental to acquaint him with those things that he knew but weakly. He had not ascended above John's baptism, but they had, and so communicated their light and knowledge to him.
6. The sixth support is this—where there is but a little grace, there God expects less, and will accept less, though it be accompanied'with many failings.
Thou sayest, ' O I have but a little grace, a little faith, a little love, a little zeal.' O know, where there is but a little grace there God expects less obedience, and will accept of less service; For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that which a man hath, and not according to that which he hath not, 2 Cor. viii. 12. The two mites cast into the treasury by the poor widow, her heart being in the action, were more acceptable than two talents cast in by others. Noah's sacrifice could not be great, and yet it was greatly accepted by God. In the time of the law God accepted a handful of meal for a sacrifice, and a gripe of goat's hair for an oblation; and certainly God has lost none of his affection to poor souls in the time of the gospel. Let me hear thy voice, for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely, Cant. ii. 14. The Hebrew word signifies any sound, such as birds or brutes make; their chattering is like lovely songs in the ear of God; their mite is a sweet oblation. Parents who have but some drops of that love and tender affection which is in God to his people, yet accept of a very little service from their weak children; and will not God? In time of strength God looks for much, but in the time of weakness God will bear much, and overlook much, and accept of a little, yea, of a very little. It is very observable, that the eagle and the lion, those brave creatures, were not offered in sacrifice unto God, but the poor lamb and dove; to denote that your brave, high, and lofty spirits, God regards not; but your poor, meek, contemptible spirits God accepts. One writing of the tree of knowledge, says, that it bears many leaves, but little fruit. Though weak saints have a great many leaves, and but little fruit, little grace, yet that little the Lord will kindly accept of. Artaxerxes, the Persian monarch, was famous for accepting a little water from the hand of a loving subject. God makes himself famous, and his grace glorious, by his kind acceptation of the weakest endeavours of his people. .
7. The seventh support is this—the least measure of grace is as true an earnest, and all good and sure a pledge of greater measures of grace that the soul shall have here, and of glory that the soul shall have hereafter, as the greatest measure of grace is.
He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Christ is called not only the Author, but also the Finisher of our faith, Heb. xii. 2. Unto you that fear my name, shall the Sun of righteousness arise, with healing in his wings, and ye shall go forth and grow up as calves of the stall, Malachi iv. 2. The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger, Job xvii. 9. In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them, Zech. xii. 8. So in Hoseaxiv. 5—7; I will be as the dew unto Israel, he shall grow as the lily, aud cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine; the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
The tree in Alcinous' garden, had always blossoms, buds, and ripe fruits, one under another. Such a tree will God make every Christian to be. The righteous, though never so weak, shall flourish like the palm tree, Psalm xcii. 12. Now the palm tree never loses its leaf or fruit, says Pliny.
An old man being asked if he grew in goodness, answered, ' Yea doubtless I believe I do, because the Lord hath said, They shall still bring forth fruit in old age, they shall be fat and flourishing,' or green, as the Hebrew has it.
In the Island of St. Thomas, on the back of Africa, in the midst of it is a hill, over that a continual cloud, wherewith the whole island is watered. Such a cloud is Christ to weak saints. Though our hearts naturally are like the isle of Patmos, which is so barren of any good, that nothing will grow but in earth that is brought from other places, yet Christ will make them like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not.
8. The eighth support is this, that the least good that is done by the weakest saint, shall not be despised by Christ, but highly esteemed and rewarded; as you may see in Mat.