- For as the surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves, so the only haven of safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever He leads.
- For he who has learned to look to God in everything he does is at the same time diverted from all vain thoughts. This is that self-denial that Christ so strongly enforces on His disciples from the very outset (Mat 16:24), which, as soon as it takes hold of the mind, leaves no place either, first, for pride, show, and ostentation; or, secondly, for avarice, lust, luxury, effeminacy, or other vices which are engendered by self love (2Ti 3:2-5).
- For this there is no other remedy than to pluck up by the roots those most noxious pests, self-love and love of victory. This the doctrine of Scripture does, for it teaches us to remember that the endowments that God has bestowed upon us are not our own but His free gifts; those who plume themselves upon them betray their ingratitude. 'Who maketh thee to differ,' says Paul, 'and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?' (1Co 4:7).
- Then by a diligent examination of our faults let us keep ourselves humble. Thus, while nothing will remain to swell our pride, there will be much to subdue it. Again, we are enjoined, whenever we behold the gifts of God in others, so to reverence and respect the gifts, as also to honor those in whom they reside. God having been pleased to bestow honor upon them, it would ill become us to deprive them of it. Then we are told to overlook their faults, not indeed to encourage by flattering them, but not because of them to insult those whom we ought to regard with honor and good will. In this way, with regard to all with whom we [deal], our behavior will be not only moderate and modest, but also courteous and friendly. The only way by which you can ever attain to true meekness is to have your heart imbued with a humble opinion of yourself and respect for others.
- The Lord enjoins us 'to do good' (Heb 13:16) to all without exception, though the greater part, if estimated by their own merit, are most unworthy of it. But Scripture subjoins a most excellent reason, when it tells us that we are not to look to what men in themselves deserve, but to attend to the image of God, which exists in all and to which we owe all honor and love. But in those who are of the household of faith (Gal 6:10), the same rule is to be more carefully observed, inasmuch as that image is renewed and restored in them by the Spirit of Christ. Therefore, whoever be the man that is presented to you as needing your assistance, you have no ground for declining to give it to him. Say, 'He is a stranger'; the Lord has given him a mark that ought to be familiar to you: for which reason he forbids you to despise your own flesh (Isa 58:7). Say, 'He is mean and of no consideration'; the Lord points him out as one whom He has distinguished by the luster of His own image. Say that you are bound to him by no ties of duty; the Lord has substituted him as it were into His own place that in him you may recognize the many great obligations under which the Lord has [bound] you to Himself. Say that he is unworthy of your least exertion on his account; the image of God, by which he is recommended to you, is worthy of yourself and all your exertions. But if he not only merits no good, but has provoked you by injury and mischief, still this is no good reason why you should not embrace him in love and visit him with offices of love (Mat 6:14; 18:35; Luk 17:3). 'He has deserved very differently from me,' you will say. But what has the Lord deserved? Whatever injury he has done you, when he enjoins you to forgive him, he certainly means that it should be imputed to himself. In this way only, we attain to what is not to say difficult but altogether against nature: to love those that hate us, render good for evil, and blessing for cursing (Mat 5:44), remembering that we are not to reflect on the wickedness of men, but look to the image of God in them, an image that, covering and obliterating their faults, should by its beauty and dignity allure us to love and embrace them.
- He alone, therefore, has properly denied himself who has resigned himself entirely to the Lord, placing all the course of his life entirely at His disposal. Happen what may, he whose mind is thus composed will neither deem himself wretched nor murmur against God because of his lot.
- Those whom the Lord has chosen and honored with His [fellowship] must prepare for a hard, laborious, troubled life, a life full of many and various kinds of evils—it being the will of our heavenly Father to exercise His people in this way while putting them to the proof. Having begun this course with Christ the first-born, He continues it towards all His children. For though that Son was dear to Him above others, the Son in Whom He was 'well pleased' (Mat 3:17; 17:5), yet we see that far from being treated gently and indulgently, we may say that not only was He subjected to a perpetual cross while He dwelt on earth, but His whole life was nothing else than a kind of perpetual cross. The Apostle assigns the reason: 'Though he was a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered' (Heb 5:8).
Why then should we exempt ourselves from that condition to which Christ our Head behooved to submit—especially since He submitted on our account that He might in His own person exhibit a model of patience? Wherefore, the Apostle declares that all the children of God are destined to be conformed to Him (Rom 8:29). Hence, it affords us great consolation in hard and difficult circumstances, which men deem evil and adverse, to think that we are holding fellowship with the sufferings of Christ: as He passed to celestial glory through a labyrinth of many woes, so we too are conducted thither through various tribulations. For in another passage, Paul himself thus speaks, 'We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God' (Act 14:22). Again, 'That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death' (Phi 3:10). How powerfully should it soften the bitterness of the cross to think that the more we are afflicted with adversity, the surer we are made of our fellowship with Christ, by communion with Whom our sufferings are not only blessed to us, but tend greatly to the furtherance of our salvation.
- It is of no little importance to be rid of your self-love and made fully conscious of your weakness; so impressed with a sense of your weakness as to learn to distrust yourself; to distrust yourself so as to transfer your confidence to God, reclining on Him with such heartfelt confidence as to trust in His aid and continue invincible to the end, standing by His grace so as to perceive that He is true to His promises and so assured of the certainty of His promises as to be strong in hope.
- Scripture gives saints the praise of endurance when, though afflicted by the hardships they endure, they are not crushed. Though they feel bitterly, they are at the same time filled with spiritual joy. Though pressed with anxiety, [they] breathe exhilarated by the consolation of God. Still there is a certain degree of repugnance in their hearts because natural sense shuns and dreads what is adverse to it, while pious affection, even through these difficulties, tries to obey the divine will. In bearing them patiently, we are not submitting to necessity, but resting satisfied with our own good. The effect of these thoughts is that to whatever extent our minds are contracted by the bitterness that we naturally feel under the cross, to the same extent will they be expanded with spiritual joy. Hence arises thanksgiving, which cannot exist unless joy be felt. But if the praise of the Lord and thanksgiving can emanate only from a cheerful and gladdened breast—and there is nothing that ought to interrupt these feelings in us—it is clear how necessary it is to temper the bitterness of the cross with spiritual joy.