Section 2 The Cross Leads Us to Perfect Trust in God’s Power
We may add that the only thing that made it necessary for our Lord to undertake to bear the cross was to testify and prove His obedience to the Father. There are many reasons that make it necessary for us to live constantly under the cross. Feeble as we are by nature and prone to ascribe all perfection to our flesh—unless we receive as it were ocular demonstration of our weakness—we readily estimate our virtue above its proper worth and doubt not that whatever happens it will stand unimpaired and invincible against all difficulties. Hence, we indulge a stupid and empty confidence in the flesh, and then, trusting to it, wax proud against the Lord Himself as if our own faculties were sufficient without His grace.
This arrogance cannot be better repressed than when He proves to us by experience, not only how great our weakness, but also our frailty, is. Therefore, He visits us with disgrace, poverty, bereavement, disease, or other afflictions. Feeling altogether unable to support them, we forthwith, as far as regards ourselves, give way, and thus humbled learn to invoke His strength, which alone can enable us to bear up under a weight of affliction. Nay, even the holiest of men, however well aware that they stand not in their own strength but by the grace of God, would feel too secure in their own fortitude and constancy, were they not brought to a more thorough knowledge of themselves by the trial of the cross. This feeling gained even upon David: “In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. Lord, by thy favor thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled” (Psa 30:6-7). He confesses that in prosperity his feelings were dulled and blunted, so that, neglecting the grace of God on which alone he ought to have depended, he leant to himself and promised himself perpetuity. If it so happened to this great prophet, who of us should not fear and study caution?
Though in tranquility they flatter themselves with the idea of greater constancy and patience, yet, humbled by adversity, they learn the deception. Believers, I say, warned by such proofs of their diseases, make progress in humility and, divesting themselves of a depraved confidence in the flesh, betake themselves to the grace of God. When they have so betaken themselves, [they] experience the presence of the divine power in which is ample protection.
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