February 14: Bowed Down To Dust

For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on those who are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. Hebrews 5:1-2

OVERLOOK not the fitness of the Lord Jesus to meet all the infirmities of His people. There are two touching and expressive passages bearing on this point. “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” Wondrous view of the Incarnate God! That very infirmity, Christian reader, which now bogs you to the earth, by reason of which you can in no wise lift up yourself— your Savior bore.

Is it sin? is it sorrow? is it sickness? is it want? It bowed Him to the dust, and brought the crimson drops to His brow. And is this no consolation? Does it not make your infirmity even pleasant, to remember that Jesus once bore it, and in sympathy bears it still?

The other passage is—”We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Touched with my infirmity! What a thought! I reveal my grief to my friend, I discern the emotions of his soul. I mark the trembling lip, the sympathizing look, the moistened eye—my friend is touched with my sorrow. But what is this sympathy—tender, soothing, grateful as it is—to the sympathy with which the great High Priest in heaven enters into my case, is moved with my grief, is touched with the feeling of my infirmity?

Let us learn more tenderly to sympathize with the infirmities of our brethren. “We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Oh for more of this primitive Christianity! The infirmity of a Christian brother should by a heartfelt sympathy become in a measure our own. We ought to bear it. The rule of our conduct towards him should be the rule of our conduct towards our own selves.

Who would feel bound or disposed to travel from house to house, proclaiming with trumpet tongue, and with evident satisfaction, his own weaknesses, failings, and infirmities? To God we may confess them, but no divine precept enjoins their confession to man. We unveil them to His eye, and He kindly and graciously veils them from all human eyes. Be this our spirit, and our conduct, towards a weak and erring brother. Let us rather part with our right hand than publish his infirmity to others, and thus wound the Head by an unkind and unholy exposure of the faults and frailties of a member of His body; and by so doing cause the enemies of Christ to blaspheme that worthy name by which we are called.

Honor and glorify the Spirit, who thus so graciously and so kindly sympathizes with our infirmities. Pay to Him divine worship, yield to Him divine homage; and let your unreserved obedience to His commands, your jealous regard for His honor, and your faithful hearkening to the gentle accents of His “still, small voice,” manifest how deeply sensible you are of His love, His grace, and His faithfulness, in sympathizing with your sorrows, in supplying your need, and in making your burdens and infirmities all and entirely His own.

Nor let us forget that, so condescending is Jesus, He regards Himself as honored by the confidence which reposes our sorrows upon His heart. The infirmity which we bring to His grace, and the sin which we bring to His atonement, and the trials which we bring to His sympathy, unfold Jesus as He is—and so He is glorified. Consequently, the oftener we come, the more welcome we are, and the more precious does Jesus become.

September 19: Strengthening In The Lord’s Vineyard

“And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.” 1 Samuel 23:16

THE Lord’s vineyard is a large one, and the departments of labor are many and varied. And if, in this world of activity—where so many agencies, evil and good, are at work, where so many influences, for weal and for woe, are in constant and untiring operation—there is one class which demands our warmest interest, our most fervent prayers, and our most affectionate sympathy and support, it is those who are actively and devotedly employed in the kingdom and service of Jesus.

It is needless to enumerate or specify them: those who are preaching Christ’s gospel; those who are teaching the little ones; those who are instructing and training the young about to enter upon life; those who disseminate God’s holy word, and promote religious literature; those who visit the sick and the dying, the stranger, and the prisoner, and especial and strong claims upon our Christian sympathy. A little expression of kind interest in their self-denying labors, oh, how often has it inspirited, cheered, and encouraged them!

What a privilege to repair to the scene of their toil, anxiety, and discouragement, and by a visit, a word, a donation, “strengthen their hand in God”—that hand often so feeble, tremulous, and ready to fall. And is there not a lamentable lack of sympathy for the Christian missionary? Who so much demands, and who so worthy of the support, the prayers, the sympathy of the Christian Church, as those who are her messengers and almoners to the far distant heathen?

How much do they need that by our petitions, our zealous cooperation, and our consecrated substance, we strengthen their hand in God! Let us, then, cheer all Christ’s true laborers, remembering that thus, indirectly, we are urging forward His truth and kingdom in the world.

Nor let us withhold our sympathy from any case of sorrow, Christian effort, or individual labor, on the plea that its expression and its source are feeble, uncostly, and obscure. Ah! from many a darkened chamber, from many a sleepless pillow, from many a couch of languor, there has gone up the secret, silent, but fervent and believing wrestle with the Angel of the covenant in behalf of some Christian laborer, or some Christian enterprise, that has brought down from heaven the grace and might, and smile of Omnipotence, to support, strengthen, and bless.

Thus sympathy has its home in every holy heart and in every lowly dwelling; and there is no individual, however straitened by poverty, or veiled by obscurity, oppressed by trial, or enfeebled by sickness, form the altar of whose heart there my not ascent the sweetest, holiest, most precious and powerful of all human offerings—the offering and the incense of a true and prayerful sympathy.

August 2: Partakers Of Grace

“You all are partakers of my grace.” Philippians 1:7

Most true is it, that in the grace bestowed by God upon a Christian pastor all the members of the flock share. They partake of that which belongs to him. All the grace with which he is enriched- all the gifts with which he is endowed- all the acquirements with which he is furnished- all the afflictions with which he is visited- all the comforts with which he is soothed- all the strength with which he is upheld- all the distinction and renown with which he is adorned- belong alike to the Church over which God has made him an overseer. There is in the pastoral relation a community of interest. He holds that grace, and he exercises those gifts, not on account of his own personal holiness and happiness merely, but with a view to your holiness and happiness.

You are partakers with him. You are enriched by his “fatness,” or are impoverished by his “leanness.” The degree of his grace will be the measure of your own; the amount of his intelligence, the extent of yours. As he is taught and blest of Christ, so will you be. The glory which he gathers in communion with God will irradiate you; the grace which he draws from Jesus will sanctify you; the wealth which he collects from the study of the Bible will enrich you. Thus, in all things are you “partakers of his grace.” How important, then, that on all occasions he should be a partaker of your prayers! Thus your own best interests are his strongest plea. Your profit by him will be proportioned to your prayer for him.

To the neglect of this important duty much of the barrenness complained of in hearing the word may be traced. You have, perhaps, been wont to retire from God’s house caviling at the doctrine, dissecting the sermon in a spirit of captious criticism, sitting in judgment upon the matter or the manner of the preacher, and bitterly complaining of the unprofitableness of the preaching. With all tender faithfulness would we lay the question upon your conscience, “How much do you pray for your minister?” Here, in all probability, lies the secret of the great evil which you deplore. You have complained of your minister to others (alas! how often and how bitterly, to your deep humiliation be it spoken); have you complained of him to the Lord?

Have you never seriously reflected how closely allied may be the deficiency in the pulpit, of which you complain, to your own deficiency in the closet, of which you have not been aware? You have restrained prayer in behalf of your pastor. You have neglected to remember in especial, fervent intercession with the Lord, the instrument on whom your advancement in the divine life so much depends. You have looked up to him as a channel of grace, but you have failed to ask at the hands of Jesus that grace of which he is but the channel. You have waited upon his ministrations for instruction and comfort, but you have neglected to beseech for him that teaching and anointing, by which alone he could possibly establish you in truth, or console you in sorrow. You have perhaps observed a poverty of thought, and have been sensible of a lack of power in his ministrations; but you have not traced it in part to your own poverty and lack in the spirit and habit of prayer in his behalf.

You have marveled at, and lamented, the absence of sympathy, feeling, and tenderness in the discharge of his pastoral duties, but you have forgotten to sympathize with the high responsibilities, oppressive anxieties, and bewildering engagements inseparable from the office which your pastor fills, and in which he may largely share, often “under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” Thus in a great degree the cause of an unprofitable hearing of the word may be found nearer home than was suspected. There has been a suspension of prayer and sympathy on your part, and God has permitted a suspension of power and sympathy on his.

August 1: The Minister

“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” Romans 15:30

There are many weighty and solemn considerations which powerfully plead for the prayers of the Church of God, in behalf of her ministers and pastors. The first which may be adduced is- the magnitude of their work.

A greater work than theirs was never entrusted to mortal hands. No angel employed in the celestial embassy bears a commission of higher authority, or wings his way to discharge a duty of such extraordinary greatness and responsibility. He is a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ- an ambassador from the court of heaven- a preacher of the glorious gospel of the blessed God- a steward of the mysteries of the kingdom. Properly to fill this high office- giving to the household their portion of food in due season- going down into the mine of God’s word, and bringing forth to the view of every understanding its hidden treasures- to set forth the glory of Emmanuel, the fitness of His work, and the fullness of His grace- to be a scribe well instructed, rightly dividing the word of truth- to be wise and skillful to win souls, the grand end of the Christian ministry- oh, who so much needs the sustaining prayers of the Church as he?

Secondly. The painful sense of their insufficiency supplies another affecting plea. Who are ministers of Christ? Are they angels? Are they superhuman beings? Are they inspired? No, they are men in all respects like others. They partake of like infirmities, are the subjects of like assaults, and are estranged from nothing that is human.

As the heart knows its own bitterness, so they only are truly aware of the existence and incessant operation of those many and clinging weaknesses of which they partake in sympathy with others. And yet God has devolved upon them a work which would crush an angel’s powers, if left to his self-sustaining energy.

Thirdly. The many and peculiar trials of the ministry and the pastorate ask this favor at our hands. These are peculiar to, and inseparable from, the office that he fills. In addition to those of which he partakes alike with other Christians- personal, domestic, and relative- there are trials to which they must necessarily be utter strangers. And as they are unknown to, so are they unrelievable by, the people of their charge.

With all the sweetness of affection, tenderness of sympathy, and delicacy of attention which you give to your pastor, there is yet a lack which Jesus only can supply, and which, through the channel of your prayers, he will supply. In addition to his own, he bears the burdens of others. How impossible for an affectionate, sympathizing pastor to separate himself from the circumstances of his flock, be those circumstances what they may. So close and so sympathetic is the bond of union- if they suffer, he mourns; if they are afflicted, he weeps; if they are dishonored, he is reproached; if they rejoice, he is glad.

He is one with his Church. How feelingly the apostle expresses this: “Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of how the churches are getting along. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?” To see a Christian pastor, in addition to his own personal grief, borne often in uncomplaining loneliness and silence, yet bowed down under accumulated sorrows not his own- others looking to him for sympathy, for comfort, and for counsel- is a spectacle which might well arouse in behalf of every Christian minister the slumbering spirit of prayer. We marvel not to hear the chief of the apostles thus pleading, “Brethren, pray for us.”