My strength is made perfect in weakness. — 2 Cor. xii. 9. MY strength is made perfect in weakness. " Another of the precious utterances of the ascended Lord to the Apostle Paul, Paul's treasure first, and then a rich inheritance for all believers. Weakness of body is generally considered a condition cutting off truly the possibility of lively pleasure, but happy in its freedom from positive pain. This is in many cases a true description. There can, however, be weakness to such an extent that soul and body seem to have lost the powers of organized life. There is no tension anywhere. All is relaxed. The mind is incapable of consecutive thought. The body shrinks from the slightest exertion. There is a weariness, an exhaustion, that is positively and painfully felt through the whole frame. An overwhelming sense of helplessness fills the eyes

254 OUR ELDER BROTHER. with tears, and drops the jaw in a powerlessness that is almost imbecility. The slightest interest in anything is so great an exertion that it beads the forehead with a cold perspiration that creeps like a chilly mist over the whole body and wraps the sufferer round, perhaps when he is alone in the dark night, with what seems like the very atmosphere of the cold, damp grave. Even at this climax there can come to the soul the

comforting thought of the sympathy of the crucified Saviour. Human friends may talk lightly of this kind of suffering, or bid the patient be thankful it is not actual pain. The stricken invalid silently remembers Him whose sweat in the solemn garden was as great drops of blood, and who endured the long-drawn death of sacred Calvary. Our Lord feels for the weak as well as the tortured, and He can give a strength that is made perfect in weakness, a victory over nature that He best can understand. The patient, loving smile of many a weak, wasted sufferer has been registered in heaven as a triumph as great as that which is courageously won on a bloody battle-field or in some strong man's struggle with a besetting sin. There is, too, a spiritual weakness that is hard to bear, humiliating as it is, when the victim comes to a full consciousness of his condition. He sees himself overcome by the slightest temp-

ASCE DED. 255 tation, now tossed by doubt, now harassed by a vacillating, unsteady purpose, — beginnings of good ending in a return to old habits of evil, — prayers begun in earnestness, but dispersed into wandering, unconnected thoughts of pleasure or care or sin. How many such a weak penitent has cried out in despair, "Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Here, also, the strength of the Lord may be made perfect in weakness. Let such a one remember the words of the great apostle, " When I am weak, then am I strong. " Strong he was as the child is who lets himself

be tenderly led by a wise and loving hand. He clasps that hand closely, takes one step at a time, without anxiously looking forward, fearing to fall. Conscious of weakness, the tottering, unstable Christian leans on Him who is mighty to save, leans trustfully, leans ever, goes forward, and is safe ! As it is with the weak Christian, so is it with the weak invalid. The sufferer from debility must cherish no fears for the future, must not think even of the endurance of the next hour. The present is sufficient. For the present, strength will be given. The hand may hang down feebly, the soul may seem unable to seek courage or help, but " underneath are the Everlasting Arms." He who is like the shepherd who

256 OUR ELDER BROTHER. u bears the lambs in his bosom and gently leads them that are with young " can carry you home, poor trembling one, unable even to lean on the Strong Stay. He who could speak so graciously to His ancient people, He who " bore and carried them all the days of old," will gently support you, as the eagle taketh her young on her wings and soars with them from mountain-top to mountain-top. "In quietness and confidence is your strength!" Your strength will be made perfect in weakness, and all the glory will be to Him who has loved us and has given Himself for us with an everlasting love.

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