Paul did not mean to say that he had no religion, but none in himself. ‘What! could not Paul stand against temptation?’ Not more than you or I, unassisted by the grace of God. ‘Could not Paul pray more than I can?’ No, not at all, except so far as the spirit of grace and supplication was given to him. ‘Could not Paul love more than I do?’ Not a bit more, nor think a spiritual thought more, as far as self was concerned. I do not mean to say that Paul did not pray, believe, and love more than any of us do; but he did not perform these actions in himself one whit more than we can. He says, expressly, “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing;” and therefore not the good thing of faith, or love, or divine communion.
Now when the Lord has brought a soul down to be nothing, he then makes his strength perfect in that nothingness; he communicates strength to pray, strength to believe, strength to hope, to love, to receive the gospel. Just like the poor man with the withered hand, to whom Jesus said, “Stretch forth your hand.” It was withered, he could not do it of himself. But Christ’s strength was made perfect in weakness, when he spoke the word, the withered hand was stretched forth, and became as whole as the other. So with the dead Lazarus, he was asleep in death; but when the voice of love and power penetrated into the tomb~ “Lazarus, come forth,” life was made perfect in the dead corpse. So with the Old Testament worthies, who “out of weakness were made strong” (Heb. 11:34). And so, each in our measure, it is with us; our weakness, helplessness, and inability are the very things which draw forth the power, the strength, and the grace of Jesus.