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1 CORINTHIANS iv. 7.
Preached before the Managers of the Orphan Hospital of Edinburgh, August 7. 1775.
Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?
IT is not to be supposed, that any person endowed with reason can be in suspense for a moment about an answer to these questions. I am confident that there is not one in this assembly who is not ready to reply, It is God alone who maketh me to differ from any other; and I have nothing which I did not receive from his bountiful hand. No man who believes that God is, will hesitate to confess, with the apostle James, "that every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." Yet so little attention is paid by the bulk of mankind to the consequences of this commonly acknowledged truth, that I shall make no
apology for employing the first part of my discourse, in reminding you of the evidence by which it is supported:-I shall then lay before you some of those practical lessons, equally obvious and important, which with ease and certainty may be deduced from it:-And conclude with that improvement of the subject which hath a more immediate reference to the occasion of our meeting together at this time.
First, I begin with reminding you, that every blessing we possess is the gift of God, and that we have nothing which we did not receive from him.
That this is the case with respect to natural endowments, will readily be admitted. Men are apt enough to boast of the improvement of their faculties; but the faculties themselves are universally acknowledged to be the gifts of God. "There is a spirit in man," said Elihu in the book of Job," and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding." A quick apprehension, a retentive memory, a lively imagination, and other mental powers, these are favours which the great Author of our being dispenseth to whom, and in what measure it pleaseth him; and never was any man so arrogant as to pretend, that he bestowed these qualities upon himself.
It is no less evident, that the light of divine revelation is an additional blessing, which flows
immediately from the same fountain of beneficence; according to that grateful acknowledgement of the psalmist, " He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel: He hath not dealt so with any nation." And we must be sensible, that it is purely owing to" the tender mercy of our God, that the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to us, whose fathers sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."
Nay, we are taught, that the virtue and efficacy of this external light must be wholly attributed to the blessing of God. This is plainly and strongly asserted at the 6th and 7th verses of the preceding chapter: "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then, neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase."-" It pleased God," saith our apostle, speaking of himself, Gal. i. 15. " who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me." And in another part of his writings, "By the grace of God I am what I am." Nor did these expressions of humility take their rise from the peculiar circumstances of his own conversion; for he applies the same principle to the Christians at Corinth, and urgeth it as an argument against every degree of boasting or selfattribution, 1 Cor. i. 26. &c. "For ye see your
calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence." And then adds, "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
Were it necessary to descend to other particulars that might be named, it would be easy to show, that all our advantages, of what kind soever, whether they belong to the body or outward estate, are equally derived from God, and dependant upon him. Hear what God said to Moses, Exod. iv. 11. "Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or blind? have not I the Lord?" How sublime, and how just were the sentiments which Hannah expressed! 1 Sam. ii. 3. &c. " Talk no more so exceeding proudly, and let not arrogancy proceed out of your mouth for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth
down to the grave, and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich; he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory; for the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them." And with what humble, but elevated devotion did David, in the height of his prosperity, ascribe all that he possessed to the free bounty of God, when he blessed the Lord, and said before all the congregation of the children of Israel, "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heaven, and in the earth, is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand it is power and might, and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. O Lord our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thy name, cometh of thine own hand, and is all thine own."