TUESDAY AFTER THE SECOND SUNDAY
ON JOINING A DISTRUST IN OURSELVES WITH CONFIDENCE IN GOD
Consider first, that in order to succeed in the spiritual warfare, an entire distrust in ourselves must go hand-in-hand with our confidence in God. For if we build in the least upon our own strength we build upon a sandy bottom, and our house will certainly fall at the first shock of trial or temptation. The wise man builds his house upon a rock, (Matt. vii. 24,) and it is proof against all storms and floods; but the foolish man builds his house upon the sand, without a foundation, and when the rains fall, and the floods rise, and the winds blow, and beat against that house, it presently falls, and great is the fall thereof. He that entirely trusts in God, and not in himself, is a wise man, and builds upon a rock, which can never fail him. But he that puts the least confidence in himself; is a foolish man, because the bottom he builds upon is mere sand, that cannot support the least weight. ‘Cursed is the man,’ saith the prophet, (Jerem. xvii. 5,) ‘that trusteth in man, and whose heart departeth from the Lord:’ which curse falls upon all such as trust in the strength of their own resolutions, or in any power or ability of their own. They perfectly drive away from them the grace of God, by their pride and presumption.
Consider 2ndly, that as God’s honour is engaged to stand by them that put their whole trust in him, and to assist them with his most powerful and effectual graces, so he is in a manner obliged to oppose and resist all such sacrilegious wretches as would rob him of his glory by ascribing any good to themselves, or expecting any good from themselves, or from their own strength. And are not all they guilty of this sacrilegious presumption, who, in their undertakings or resolutions, build upon themselves instead of building upon God or at least divide their confidence between themselves and God, and so would make themselves partners at least in his glory? See, my soul, thou never be guilty of any such extravagance and madness. For what greater madness can there be than for mere weakness and nothing, a miserable sinful nothing, to presume of itself and of its own strength! what greater extravagance than for a man to put himself in the place of God, or to attribute to himself what can only be the work of God! Good God, deliver us from any such extravagant madness!
Consider 3rdly, that one of the principal reasons why many Christians, that otherwise seem to be men of good will, make little or no progress in the way of God, and why numbers of others, after repeated confessions, and as (they imagine) strong purposes of renouncing their sinful habits, still return like dogs to the vomit, by relapsing into the same sins, and too often die in their sins, is because they trust too much to themselves, and to their own resolutions, and are not sufficiently divested of all self-confidence. Alas! this evil is a mortal poison, which is apt to creep in imperceptibly, and to lie lurking in the midst of the soul, and to corrupt its very vitals. It makes it barren, with regard to the bringing forth any true fruit to God, either in itself or in others; and fruitful in nothing but in weeds, that are only fit for the fire. My soul, examine well thyself, and see if this unhappy self-confidence has no share in thy enterprise? Are thy resolutions wholly built upon God’s grace to be sued for and obtained by humble prayer? Art thou practically and sensibly convinced of thy own nothing ness, misery, and sinfulness; and that thou canst not make one step towards God, but inasmuch as he shall help thee! Does no secret opinion of the strength of thy resolutions make thee rashly expose thyself to temptation? O remember thou hast not half that virtue and love of God, which St. Peter had! and yet, alas! a secret confidence in his own resolutions, betrayed him into that grievous crime of denying his Lord.
Conclude to hope for all good from God, to be ever mistrustful of thyself; and therefore, as the Apostle admonishes, to ‘work out thy salvation with fear and trembling,’ Philip. ii. 12.