The Sigh of Christ
He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, "Be opened!" Mark 7:34
The sympathy of our Lord evaporated not in mere sentiment- cold and unpractical. It was always expressed and embodied in acts of benevolence and in works of power, which, while they conferred upon their recipient a real and permanent good, confirmed His Messiahship, illustrated His boundless resources, and gratified His own manly and man-loving nature. Unlike changeable pity which sublimates into thin vapor- hollow, heartless, unsubstantial- Christ's sympathy, wakeful to every sigh of sorrow and spectacle of suffering, flowed in streams of real and abiding blessing; and of Him it may in truth be said, "He lived in deeds, not words- in thoughts not years."
And as we proceed, dear reader, in unfolding the precious truth of this volume- Christ's practical sympathy with man- let the fact be constantly before your mind, that you are not reading of a Savior who was, but of a Savior who is; that the Lord Jesus is moved by the same sympathy, is possessed of the same power, and is as quickly and as tenderly responsive to the appeal of the sorrowful and the necessities of the needy, as when the tabernacle of His humanity adorned and consecrated our earth, and when to its asylum thronged earth's sons and daughters of suffering and of woe. Oh, it is a truth as replete with comfort as with wonder, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever." Beloved, cling to this Unchanging One! No ebb in the tide of your affection, nor trembling in the needle of your faith, has created, or can create, the slightest variation in His love or faithfulness. Your waywardness has not chilled it, your fickleness has not affected it, your sinfulness has not forfeited it, because He is essentially, immutably, and eternally the same. "If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself."
The first view of Christ's sympathetic nature which we present, brings Him into close relation with the more pensive and subdued feelings of our humanity- the sigh of Jesus. "He sighed." How near will this bring the Savior to many a heart! To some minds of delicate sensibility and perception there is no emotion more eloquent and touching than a sigh- nothing which carries so deep a meaning, or penetrates the heart with so irresistible a force. What feelings does that sigh betray! what volumes does it speak! We turn to the Savior. "Looking up to heaven, He sighed." Never did He appear more human, or with our humanity more sympathetic! Let us examine THE OCCASION which gave birth to this emotion, and receive from it spiritual instruction.
There was brought to Him for healing, a man bereft of two bodily senses, the deprivation of which entails so much loss of exquisite enjoyment. As if to illustrate our Lord's illimitable power over the physical and mental infirmities of our nature, and thus to confirm our faith in His deity, there was no species of disease which He did not combat and conquer. But a bodily healing was not the end of His interposed compassion and power. There was a hidden and deep significance in every cure He effected. He had come the Divine Healer of a more woeful malady- the Physician of a nobler, more diseased and imperilled part of our being. He had come to heal and save the soul. And while all physical disease fled at His command, vanished at His touch, He sought thus to illustrate His deeper compassion for, and His higher power over, the spiritual. The case before us is replete with gospel teaching.
Take the first infirmity mentioned. This poor man was DEAF. The tympanum of the ear was destroyed, and thus a direct and exquisitely constructed inlet to the soul- one of the most beneficent creations of God- was closed. If for a moment we reflect- gathering the evidence from our own experience- how the soul is stirred to its depths by the accented sounds of the human voice- the breathings of love, the words of friendship, the strains of eloquence, the melody of music- we may form some idea of the severity of the loss which the deprivation of this sense must entail. Take a single illustration- one of the purest enjoyments of which this sense is the avenue- the power of music. I say the purest, for it has been well defined the only sensual gratification which mankind may indulge to excess without injury to the moral feelings. (Addison). The power of music in tranquillizing the mind, calming the spirit, and waking the whole soul to elevated thoughts and feelings, is marvellous. Milton, with a licence of expression resigned to poets, speaks of it as "creating a soul under the ribs of death." Luther's remark is, perhaps, less poetical in its conception but more true in idea- " Music is the art of the prophets, the only art that can calm the agitation of the soul: it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us." A modern writer, forgetful of his own marvellous power as a poet, generously awards the palm to music:
"Of all the arts beneath the heaven
That man has found, or God has given,
None draws the soul so sweet away
As music's melting, mystic lay;
Slight emblem of the bliss above
It soothes the spirit all to love."
Its necromantic power to reproduce, as it were, the past-
to summon back its sacred reminiscences, its holy loves, its precious and
undying memories, has been exquisitely and touchingly expressed by a master
in the sister art:
"Mysterious keeper of the key
That opens the gates of memory,
Often in your wildest, simplest strain,
We live over years of bliss again!
"The sun-bright hopes of early youth.
Love, in its first deep hour of truth,
And dreams of life's delightful morn,
Are on your seraph-pinions borne!
"To the enthusiast's heart your tone
Breathes of the lost and lovely one,
And calls back moments, brief as dear,
When last 'twas wafted on his ear.
"To gloom of sadness you can suit
The chords of your delicious lute;
For every heart you have a tone
Can make its pulses all your own!" (A. Watts)
There is one view of music which to the Christian mind gives it a transcendent place among the arts- I refer to its truthfulness- especially as an expression of religious feeling. Poetry, sculpture, and painting- faithful as may be their delineations- deal more closely with the ideal. The loftiest and most sublime soarings of their genius are upon the eagle plume of imagination, and they delight to revel and to sport amid brilliant worlds of their own creation. But, withdrawing us from the unreal, the gorgeous fancies and subtle refinements of poetry and painting, music brings us into closer communion with the true, into closer communion with ourselves.
To both the 'sister arts' of poetry and music the Church of God will ever acknowledge its profound indebtedness. Sanctified by the grace of God, and consecrated to the high and noble purpose of expressing religious sentiment and pious feeling- the holy thoughts of the mind and the spiritual feelings of the heart- the saints in all ages, including Moses and David, Solomon and Job, have poured forth their noblest thoughts and loftiest aspirations through the medium of these divine gifts. The poetry and the music of the Bible would be, in the absence of all other evidence, alone sufficient to stamp it as a Divine Book, to authenticate, beyond all doubt, its Divine inspiration. From where but from God himself could those historians, poets, and musicians have derived their sacred annals, lighted their holy fires, and learned their entrancing melody? Truly, their minds were instructed and their muse was kindled and their harps were tuned from other than a human source, and by other than a human hand. And yet there are, styling themselves "Masters in Israel," who would reduce this divine and sublime Book to the level of a human, no, a false and spurious composition, and compel us to receive it, not as it is in truth, the Word of the Most High God, but as an invention of man, "a cunningly-devised fable." With regard to music, let the saints of God be jealous of its true glory, which is, its high and holy consecration. "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and snaking melody in your heart to the Lord," you employ the gift in the noblest service, and consecrate it to the highest end on earth. "Praise is lovely." And God has said, "Those who offer Praise glorify me." A praiseful spirit is one of the most deeply sanctified emotions of the soul- praise one of the holiest engagements of the Christian.
The service of heaven is the service of song; the chief employment of the glorified is praise. It behooves us, then, to give the holiest, the highest consecration possible to this noble art. Carnal, worldly music breathing from the lips of a saint of God is as incongruous and inharmonious as a drunkard's song breathing from the lips of a glorified spirit. Nothing but what is holy in its sentiment, spiritual in its tone, and edifying in its influence should be uttered by a Christian's lips, should vibrate from a Christian's harp. The magnificent composition of 'Handel's Messiah' supplies no exception to this rule. Admitting the Divine inspiration of the words, the transcendent genius of the compose, the sublime character of the oratorio, and the elevating influence of its skillful and masterly execution, we must yet maintain that the music of the Messiah, as performed in modern times by the unholy and the unsanctified, should be as distasteful and painful to the Christian and spiritual mind, as it is unquestionably, unacceptable and dishonoring to God. What spiritual mind can listen to the solemn words of Christ, expressive of His heart-sorrow, His soul-anguish, His bodily sufferings, sung by voices and breathing from instruments of music in a cathedral, used to wake the echoes and the plaudits of a theater, without indescribable torture of feeling and the most depressing sadness of spirit? Could we thus listen to a recital of the humiliating insults, the lingering tortures, and dying agonies of one the nearest and the dearest to our hearts? Never! Beware, then, of the unholy fascination of music. It may lead you from God, allure you from Christ, draw you into the world. It may become an easy and a fatal snare to your soul. Seek the deep sanctification of the gift, and its holy and supreme consecration to God. As such, sacred music, breathing from a spiritual mind, a Christ-loving heart, may be a valuable aid to the soul-soothing, sanctifying, elevating. God can give you a night-song- a song in the gloom of your sorrow, loneliness, and woe- a song of His love unchanging, of His faithfulness unfailing, of His presence sweetening your sorrow, soothing your grief, cheering your solitude, making you submissive, happy, and cheerful in the darkest and most painful path along which your covenant God is leading you. Beloved, the chief employment of heaven is music. Oh, what melody floats through those bowers, rings through those mansions, reverberates through that dome, from the spirits of just men made perfect!
They sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. They sing of the everlasting love, of the atoning blood, of the sovereign grace that brought them there. Around the Lamb once "slain" they cluster, and upon His head, once filled with bruises, torn and bleeding with the thorn-crown, they bind the diadem of their praise. And, oh, how worthy is He of their sweetest anthem, their loftiest song, their loudest hallelujahs! So resplendent will be the unveiling of His divine glory, His human beauty; so great will appear His love, so glorious His work, so rich His grace, and so precious Himself to the heart, that from every creature which is in heaven will be heard the anthem, "Blessing and honor and glom and power be unto Him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever." Then, O disciple and follower of Christ, separate yourself from all secular, carnal, worldly music, and learn on earth, in the house of your pilgrimage, in the strange land in which you dwell, and amid your trials, sorrows, and conflicts, the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb, which will employ your tongue throughout eternity. "It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High. It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening, accompanied by the harp and lute and the harmony of the lyre."
But to return from this digression. What a deprivation, then, is the loss of the sense of hearing! To such a one all nature is mute, all beings dumb- signs instead of sounds conveying intelligence to the mind and love to the heart. The feeling, too, of isolation and loneliness, the pensive sadness which the loss produces, is often extremely painful and depressing, and should awaken in our heart, on behalf of its subject, the tenderest sympathy and the most delicate attention. Happy, indeed, for such if the trial is so sanctified as to sequester the heart more entirely from others, entwining it more closely with Christ!
Turn we now to the spiritual teaching of this part of the narrative.
There is a still more marvelously-constructed and delicate organ- the ear of the soul. Through this enter, not the accents of man, but the voice of God! And when He speaks with commanding, irresistible, and saving power, the human soul is yet more deeply conscious of the fact than it ever was of the breathings of love and the words of kindness and sympathy. But this spiritual organ is sealed to the voice of God. The fall of man produced a spiritual concussion of the soul, and from that moment its ear has been closed to the most glorious announcement, the sweetest melody, the most powerful voice that ever chimed upon the ear. We will confirm and illustrate this fact by a reference both to the law and the gospel.
The law of God speaks authoritatively, powerfully, solemnly. It commands perfect obedience- demands supreme love- threatens eternal judgment- thunders the divine curse; but although its dread artillery peals above the sinner, although it confronts him with its commands at every step, exclaiming with imperative tone, "Pay me that you owe," not a sound strikes upon the spiritual ear of the soul! The sinner heeds not the voice of justice, and of wrath, and of condemnation. He is as a deaf man that cannot and that will not hear. So with the gospel. The gospel is the voice of Jesus speaking in mercy, grace, and love. It is the voice of pardon, of peace, and of hope. It affirms the most astounding fact that ever startled the universe, that, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life;" and still the natural man receives not this saying, heeds not this voice, is deaf to this sound. Jesus speaks from Calvary in tones that encircle the earth, that darken the sun, that melt the rocks, that wake the dead, but all is still and motionless as the cemetery of the sleeping dead, over whose graves floats unheeded the music of the spheres. "They have ears, but the do not hear." With many the case is judicial. In them is fulfilled the awful command of God- "Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn, and be healed." That is, leave them to the consequences of their wilful rejection of the Savior and His gospel; give them over to a reprobate mind and to judicial blindness of heart. My reader, God has but to leave a sinner to his wedded idols, to "let him alone," and the unchecked, unbridled, unrestrained passions of his fallen nature will work out their legitimate, certain, and appalling result- judicial hardness of heart here, and eternal destruction from the presence of God hereafter! What is the case with you? Examine and determine- it is for your life! But glance once more at this condition of the soul. Is it a calamity to be deaf to human sounds- to not hear the soft breathings of affection, the entrancing strains of music, the spirit-stirring sounds of eloquence? Oh, infinitely greater the calamity to have the ear of the mind closed to the voice of God, of Christ, of the Spirit, of the gospel! To not hear the voice of life and love, of providence and grace- the melting accents of Calvary, the lessons of adversity, the solemn warnings of bereavement, the imperative tones of death- this is a calamity and a crime the magnitude and the guilt of which distances all thought and defies all expression! Sinner! the hour is coming when you must hear the voice of Jesus speaking to you- not in the all-gentle, all-persuasive pleadings of a Savior, but in the terrible, overwhelming thunders of a Judge! Believer in Jesus! blessed are your ears, for they hear. You have heard the Shepherd's voice, and it has won your heart, enkindled your affection, and bowed your whole soul to its gentle and gracious supremacy. Oh! is there, amid the voices of the universe, one like unto Christ's? Is there one so powerful, so winning, so gentle, so sweet? Lord! were all other sounds hushed in the profoundest depths of eternal silence, all other voices forever quenched in the stillness of everlasting death, to hear Your gentle tones of pardon, peace, and love quelling my fears, soothing my sorrows, assuring me of an interest in Your salvation, calling me Your own, and promising that I shall be with You forever, oh, that were enough for the eternity of my being!
To the loss of the sense of hearing was added, in the case of this object of Christ's compassion, the loss of the faculty of SPEECH. Language is a divine gift. The power of communicating by articulate and intelligent sounds our thoughts, and feelings, and needs, is one of God's most wise and beneficent arrangements. It is by this faculty we hold communion with intelligent beings. The tongue is a mighty instrument for good or for evil. Solomon reminds us that "life and death are in the power of the tongue." There life in it when it speaks a word in season to him who is weary- when it drops into the ear an accent of kindness- when it speaks of Jesus' love and compassion to a sad and mournful heart- when it quotes a promise of God to a dejected, disconsolate mind- when it gives utterance to thoughts that elevate, to counsels that guide, to the breathings of encouragement and sympathy. Oh, what life is there in the faculty of speech when, holy, and wise, and gentle, it is employed for the good of our fellows and for the glory of God! There is death too in the power of the tongue when it is employed as an instrument of evil by the whisperer, the backbiter, the slanderer, the tale-bearer, the untruthful- death to reputation, death to character, death to usefulness, death to happiness. The poison of asps may be under the tongue, and death to some injured one may be the consequence! This thought finds a yet more awful illustration in his case who, as a professed minister of Christ's gospel, gives utterance to doctrines fatal in their tendency and effect to the well-being of souls. God holds us responsible for the use of this faculty, for He writes, "By your words shall you be justified, and by your words shall you be condemned." Oh, see that your speech is seasoned with grace, administering instruction and edification to the hearer. Let no corrupt thing, no false doctrine, no untruthful statement, no harsh, unkind, unsympathizing, heart-wounding word flow from your lips. Speak for God, for Christ, for souls.
But this poor man was mute, or was afflicted with an impediment in his speech, which rendered the faculty distressing if not useless. There is something touchingly affecting in the sight of a mute person! He stands apart, insulated and alone, from his species. All beings, all things, all events, seem to have a language and a speech but him. And yet, perchance, cloistered deep within the recesses of his soul, there are great thoughts reposing, and noble purposes forming, and tender feelings, and sacred sympathies welling up, to which his lips, mute and soundless, can give no utterance. The musings of a mother, bending over her mute and only child, are thus vividly, and with great poetic beauty, described:
"Twas long before I believed
That this one daughter might not speak to me;
Waited and watched, God knows how patiently!
How willingly deceived!
Vain love was long the untiring nurse of faith,
And tended hope until it starved to death.
"Oh! if she could but hear
For one short hour, until I her tongue might teach
To call me 'Mother,' in that broken speech
That thrills the mother's ear!
Alas! those sealed lips never may be stirred
To the deep music of that lovely word.
"I've watched her looking up
To the bright wonder of a sunset sky,
with such a depth of meaning in her eye
That I could almost hope
The bursting soul would burst its binding cords,
And the long pent-up thoughts flow forth in words.
"Wills He the mind within
Should from earths Babel-clamor be kept free?
Even that His 'still small voice' and step might be
Heard at its inner shrine,
Through that deep hush of soul with clearer thrill!
Then should I grieve? O murmuring heart, be still!
"Not of all gifts bereft
Even now. How could I say she did not speak?
What real language lights her eye and cheek,
And renders thanks to Him who left
Unto her soul yet open avenues
For joy to enter, and for love to use!
"And God in love does give
To her defect a beauty of its own,
And we a deeper tenderness have known
Through that for which we grieve;
Yet shall the seal be melted from her ear,
Yes, and my voice shall fill it- but not here.
"When that new sense is given,
What rapture will its first experience be,
That never woke to lower melody
Than the rich songs of heaven,
To hear the full-toned anthem swelling round,
While angels teach the ecstasies of sound!"
Ah! see we not our spiritual nature here portrayed? The only being in the universe that has not a tongue to speak for God, lips unsealed to praise, a tongue loosed to show forth His glory and magnify His great name, is the natural man. You have, perhaps, my reader, grown up from infancy to manhood, from manhood you have descended to old age, and to this moment you have remained spiritually mute! The language of God's children is a strange dialect to you, and you cannot understand what they mean or whereof they affirm. They speak of reconciliation with God, of peace through Christ, of pardon, of justification, of adoption, of the power of indwelling sin, of the desperate depravity of their nature, of the constant alienation of their heart, and yet of an assured hope of endless life in heaven- but you have never learned their language, and cannot understand their speech, because you have never been admitted to their experience. It is an appalling spectacle to meet an individual whose head is blossoming for the tomb, but upon whose lips have never dwelt the heaven-taught accents of a Savior's love.
But how many of the Lord's own people, especially among young believers, maybe said to have a spiritual impediment in their speech- they open their mouths so seldom or so imperfectly for Christ. They are tongue-tied through fear, or timidity, or shame. They hesitate to own the Lord boldly, to speak unhesitatingly of the great things Jesus has done for them, and to magnify the sovereign grace that has called them to be saints. And even with regard to more matured believers, alas! we understand the language of Canaan but im perfectly. We are "a people of a stammering tongue." The truth of God, the love of Christ, the accents of prayer and praise and thanksgiving- the precious, the endearing name, Abba, Father- do but falter upon the tongue of the most advanced, fluent, and eloquent among us. Alas! that there should be so much fear one of the other, striking mute each lip when the saints of God meet together. Why should religion be ignored, Christian experience be tabooed, the name of Christ be banished from the social circle where alone the Savior may be expected to find a welcome and a place? Oh, let us seek to have the heart so replenished with His grace, so glowing with His love, that we may talk of His beauty, and the glory of His kingdom, and the might of His wonderful acts. "Lord, open my lips, and any mouth shall show forth Your praise." Let the well-spring of life within my soul be as a gushing fountain; let the beauty of Christ, the glory of His kingdom, the faithfulness and loving-kindness of His dealings, be the themes upon which I dwell. "Lord, unloose my stammering tongue who should louder sing than I?"
We approach now THE EMOTION OF CHRIST. "And looking up to heaven, He SIGHED." It may appear, at the first glance, but a common place expression of feeling. How many a sigh do we breathe, of which, perchance, we think nothing. The air around us is agitated, like the waves of the sea, with the sadness, the sighs of woe, breathed by our oppressed humanity. We sigh, some from habit, others from sympathy, yet others more from real grief, and the emotion awakens no response. But there was something in the sigh of Christ profoundly significant in its meaning, inexpressibly touching in its character- it possessed an import and a tenderness which no other sigh of our humanity could. Let us not, however, misunderstand it. Christ breathed His sigh over this deaf and mute man not because He felt unequal to the task of healing him. How frequently do we sigh over our conscious inadequacy to meet a case which implores our aid. Not so with Christ. No depression like this forced that sigh from His lips. Well did He know that power over all flesh was His, that His resources were equal to the demand, and that with a touch He could loose the string, and make those mute lips discourse the sweetest eloquence; and that with a word- "Be opened"- He could pour into that sealed ear the most delicious melody. Nor did He sigh from anger that they had brought to Him this patient. Never was He known to betray a feeling of displeasure or uneasiness when men appealed to His compassion or solicited His help. Even when His disciples had been more honored than Himself, and a case which had first been brought to them, had been transferred to Him as incurable, He never uttered a word of upbraiding, but took the child and healed it. Ah, how many of us would have felt our self-esteem wounded that we had not been given the precedence! Blessed Jesus! we will learn of You, for You are meek and lowly in heart. No sigh ever breathed from Your lips the expression of an angered heart, or wounded pride, or disappointed ambition.
And yet why did Christ sigh? In the first place, I would remark, it was an outgushing of sympathy bursting from a humanity kindred to our own. It was a sigh of compassion. As He benignantly bent over this suffering form, the hidden spring of emotion was moved, and it gave vent in a deep, upbreathed sigh. Ah, beloved! the humanity of your Savior was really like your own, sin only excepted. That audible emotion expressed an identity with your nature, your infirmities, your weaknesses, unutterably endearing. And when grief, or depression, or anxiety, pent up within your breast, finds an outlet in a sigh- and for that emotion, perchance, some heartless, unsympathizing one harshly chides you- is there no soothing in the thought- "Jesus once sighed as I sigh, and still, in the overflowing of His sympathy and compassion, echoes every sigh that breathes from my lips?"
The sigh of Jesus was awakened, too, by a view of the ravages of sin. In that spectacle He beheld the humanity He had originally cast into a perfect, peerless mold, and had pronounced "very good," bruised and crushed- its organs impaired, its beauty marred, its nature tainted- and, Himself lovely and sinless, He could not look upon that wretched, defaced, paralyzed specimen of our nature without emotion- without a sigh. Ah, what a glorious truth does this illustrate- the holiness of our Lord's emotional nature! Pure and sinless, it is all the more exquisitely tender and touching. The sin which gives birth to our sorrow, the moral taint inseparable from all that we feel and do, impairs not the compassion and sympathy of the Savior. While on the other hand, so pure and holy is He, He cannot survey the devastating reign of sin, He cannot behold His own image so defaced, a part of His own nature so polluted, without emotion heaving His bosom and breathing from His lips. Beloved! Jesus knew more of the exceeding sinfulness of sin than we shall know through all eternity. There was more of the essence of the sorrow and suffering and fruit of sin in one drop of that cup which could not pass His lips undrunk, than we should have known had we been left to drink the wrath of a holy God forever. Oh, how should this impart to us a holy disgust and loathing of sin! How should we hate the garment spotted by the flesh, and walk humbly and mournfully and softly with God on account of our transgressions; and seek more sympathy with Jesus in His emotion at the ravages and ruin which the fall has produced! Do you sigh for sin- the sin you see in others- the sin yet more visibly and deeply traced in yourself? Ah, there is no calamity that can befall you, were your future pathway to the tomb strewed thick with trials, over which you have more need to sigh than this. And if the deep consciousness of sin heaves your bosom with this emotion, be assured your holy sigh, as it rises, meets and blends with your Savior's.
It was a sigh of practical benevolence. I have remarked upon the hollow, vapid nature of human pity and compassion. How much of it evaporates in thin air! It is needless, it is heartless, no, more, it is criminal, to say, "Be warmed, be clothed, be fed, be healed," and yet extend not a hand, and stir not a foot to help. "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be warmed and filled; notwithstanding you give them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit?" Oh, let us authenticate our faith by our works; for, "faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone." Not so was the emotion of Christ. His pity was a real, tangible, practical principle. It was always connected with some sorrow comforted, some need supplied, some burden unclasped, some help needed, some blessing bestowed. Oh, we deal with the REAL, the sincere, the true, when we deal with Christ- with facts, not fables; with realities, not fictions; with compassion and sympathy robed with the beautiful garment of real, practical charity.
"The Son of God, in doing good,
Was fain to look to heaven and sigh;
And shall the heirs of sinful blood
Seek joy unmixed with charity?"
Now trace THE MARVELLOUS CURE, and see how He blends the power of His deity with the tenderness of His humanity, and illustrates, at each step, the higher healing of the soul. The first move was the separation: "And He took him aside from the multitude." He would make it apparent that there was no collusion, no trickery, no finesse in the cure; but, by making it visible and palpable to all, the miracle should be apparent and the witnesses confounded. What is real conversion- the spiritual opening of the mouth and the unstopping of the ear- but a separation? When the Lord Jesus converts a sinner, He separates him from the world, from his family, from his former self; takes him apart from the multitude, from his associates, from his worldly, sinful pursuits, and He becomes consecrated to God. "The Lord has set apart him that is godly for Himself." The religion of Jesus is a separating religion. Christ said that He had come to sever the dearest ties of nature, to sunder the closest relations of life, and to divide a house against itself. And often when He is about to work a spiritual miracle like this the conversion of the soul- by His providence He takes the subject of it apart from all others, isolates and exiles him, and thus performs the work and secures to Himself the glory. Let Christian, praying parents glean instruction and comfort from this. You have, perhaps, mourned the event that sundered you from your child, that separated him from your influence and your counsels- not your prayers- by oceans and continents removing him into exile and loneliness. Ah! many a one can testify that it was not until thus separated, taken thus apart from a loved circle, into that strange land, in that solitude and loneliness, on that stormy sea, threading that interminable prairie, crossing that burning desert, or in that distant, quiet, and, perhaps, sick-chamber, the Spirit of God moved upon the heart and led it to Jesus. My beloved reader, has the grace of God separated you?
And then came THE SIMPLE MEANS. Jesus touched his tongue. He did not stand at a distance, like some proud and haughty patron, conscious of superior dignity, of higher sanctity, about to confer a favor which He felt a great obligation to bestow. Oh, no! how unlike Jesus would this posture and air have been! But He placed the Divinity that was about to heal, in an angle with the humanity that was to be healed. The Sinless should be brought into contact with the sinful- the Divine should heal the human! He inserted His finger into the ear, and He placed it upon the tongue, and the mute spoke and the deaf heard! Oh, how near does Jesus bring Himself to us when He would, as with a word or as with a touch, open our ear to hear the voice of life, and loose our tongue to speak the words of love. Christ's plans and modes are simple. A touch- a word- and a work is done, greater, sublimer, holier, and more lasting than when He said, "Let there be light, and there was light." Do not be suspicious of sudden conversions, nor afraid of encouraging an immediate repentance and faith. God's ways are not as our ways, nor are His thoughts as our thoughts. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye- a touch of His hand, a word from His lips- "Be opened!"- and a new moral creation bursts into existence! a son is given- an heir of glory is born!
And now mark the fulfilment of a beautiful prophecy of Christ- physically and spiritually fulfilled: "A man shall be a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. And the eyes of those who see shall not be dim; and the ears of those who hear shall hearken. The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly"- (margin, "elegantly.") And never does the human tongue, in the highest sense, speak "elegantly," until, instructed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, it speaks of Christ! And the more it discourses of Him- of the beauties of His person, the perfection of His work, the fulness of His grace, the wonder of His love, the tenderness, compassion and sympathy of His nature- the more eloquent and elegant is its speech. That tongue, untaught by the schools, undisciplined by education and art, may be naturally unlearned and witless- its tones harsh, its language broken, its accents faltering- yet, discoursing of Jesus, there is a softness and mellifluence, an elegance and grace clothing it, which the colleges of the world could not inspire, which those who dwell in king's houses might envy, and those who occupy university chairs might imitate.
And mark the attitude of Jesus as He gave utterance to this emotion. "He looked up to heaven." Oh, how expressive! how replete with significance the picture! It was to His Father He looked for the present sealing of His messiahship. His mind and heart and will were in perfect unison with God's, and He could say, "I came not to do my own will, (apart from the Father,) but the will of Him that sent me." And how precious and holy the lessons He would teach the multitude gazing upon the scene! He would thus remind them that "every good and perfect gift is front above, and comes down from the father of lights." And when they saw the Son of man, with filial reverence and prayerful reliance, thus gazing into the blue vault of heaven in mystic and close communion with His Father, how deeply would the spectacle impress them with the conviction that it was by the power of God the miracle was wrought that broke the silence of those lips and poured delicious sounds into those ears. Learn from this, beloved, what should be your true attitude when the pressure upon your emotional nature forces the deep-drawn sigh from your lips. We sigh, and look within- Jesus sighed, and looked without. We sigh, and look down- Jesus sighed, and looked up. We sigh, and look to earth- Jesus sighed, and looked to heaven. We sigh, and look to man- Jesus sighed, and looked to God!
Let us glean from this particular view of Christ's emotional nature A FEW APPROPRIATE INSTRUCTIONS.
It addresses itself especially to those who are addicted to a like emotion. See how Jesus has recognized and consecrated the sighs of His Church. If the Head sighed, surely it is not sinful for the member of the Body to sigh. A sigh is often the expression of a holy desire, the utterance of a heart-breathed prayer. It has a meaning and an eloquence understood by, and persuasive with, God.
"Sighs now breathed
Unutterable, which the spirit of prayer
Inspired, and winged for heaven with speedier flight
Than loudest oratory." (Milton)
Ah, that sigh! what a depth and pathos of meaning has it. You sigh by reason of the body of sin and of death you bear about with you. You sigh over your flaws and failings. You sigh by reason of your infirmities, your domestic, relative, or personal trials. You sigh as you survey the scenes of sickness and suffering and wrong- for all the abominations that surround you. Do not think that you are alone- that there are no responsive echoes awakened by your emotion. Take your sighs to Jesus, and if this is the only language you can command in giving vent to your sorrow or expression to your need, employ it, and wait in hope God's answer.
"A sigh can reach His heart,
A look can bring Him down from heaven."
We must, however, be cautious lest this emotion should become a physical infirmity. It may grow into a habit- a nervous, morbid habit- and thus, instead of being an outlet of suppressed feeling and a vehicle of sacred intelligence affording unspeakable relief, it may aggravate the suffering it was designed to initiate. Do not, then, let this emotion be too frequently indulged, lest it degenerate into a meaningless habit. It is only twice recorded that Jesus sighed.
Employ your restored and renewed faculties for God. Are you, like Moses, slow of speech and not eloquent? Remember God's words to him- they are equally addressed to you: "And the Lord said unto him, Who has made man's mouth,? or who made the mute, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I, the Lord! Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you shall say." Seek, then Christ's divine and gracious touch, that your tongue may be loosened to vindicate His honor, to defend His truth, to diffuse His gospel, to speak of Him to those who are weary, and to show forth the praise of your covenant God. "For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
And ask Him to unseal your ear- the secret ear of your soul- to the still small voice of His Spirit, the gentle breathings of His love that you may be skillful to distinguish between truth and error, the law and the gospel, the voice of man and the voice of God. Not only seek the sanctifying touch of Christ, teaching you when to speak, but equally do you need it to teach you when to be silent. It has been remarked, Better that the feet slip than the tongue. We need as much wisdom, no, perhaps more, when to be silent as when to speak. To be silent when others detract, accuse, and defame; to be silent when reviled, censured, and condemned, displays no little control over the tongue. "Sometimes to unkindness and injustice, silence may be safer than even the soft answer that turns away wrath." The conquest over self under severe provocation by a dignified and holy quietness is a greater victory than his who takes a city. Oh that our tongue may be Christ's! Oh that it may be employed for the good of our fellows! Oh, that we may be training for the communion and song of the upper skies.
Alas! to what multitudes is life but a "bridge of sighs" to a future of inconceivable and interminable woe! My unconverted reader, you are one of this long and melancholy procession, moving slowly, sadly, surely, from the sighs that are temporal to the sighs that are eternal. Life with you is a toilsome journey, a hard struggle, a severe battle, a continuous scene of change and disappointment, of wrong and suffering, of toil and anxiety, of temptation and sin. Your experience has taught you that the world is heartless and insincere, the creature fickle and disappointing, riches unsatisfying and fleeting, ambition a phantom, human hopes illusive, pleasure concealing a sting, sin embittering, and the way of transgressors hard. Truly the sighing of the prisoner is yours. And yet there is a "Branch" which makes the bitter waters of the curse sweet! Jesus made His advent to this world of sin and woe to deliver us from the burden of the curse, to relieve us from the bondage of sin, to transform our sorrow into joy, our despair into hope, and to make this life-bridge of sighs a radiant, joyful pathway to a world of glory, a land of joy, a home of perfect purity and bliss. "Christ gave himself for its, a sacrifice and an offering to God." Oh, how marvelously changed would be all your present and future being with the sweet forgiving love of God in your heart, and the hope of glory in your soul! With such a Savior as Christ, with such a salvation as God has provided- a salvation all that your extremest case requires, and that the highest claims of His moral government demands- you need not be the sin-burdened; the sad, the lost, the hopeless despairing one that you are, mournfully exclaiming, as you pass to the tomb, ."My life is spent with grief- and my years with sighing." The Redeemer whom you have hitherto despised, or wilfully rejected, or whose will willingness to save you, you have doubted, is prepared to receive you as a sinner, to pardon you as a penitent, to reclaim you as a prodigal, and to enroll your name among the children of God. "For the sighing of the needy will I arise, says the Lord."
Anticipate, child of God, the solemn yet blissful moment when the last gentle sigh will heave your breast. It speeds on! There awaits us a freedom from sin and grief, a state of perfect purity and happiness, in which will be realized the magnificent picture of the far-seeing prophet, when the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion, with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee a away."
And in conclusion, let the sweet words uttered by the wondering spectators of this marvellous and touching display of our Lord's sympathy with man, awaken a deep response within our hearts in all His dealings with us- "He has done all things well." Yes, from first to last, from our cradle to our grave, from the earliest pang of sin's conviction to the latest thrill of sin's forgiveness, from earth to heaven, this will be our testimony in all the way the Lord our God has led us in the wilderness. In providence and in grace, in every truth of His Word, in every lesson of His love, in every stroke of His rod, in every sunbeam that has shone, and in every cloud that has shaded, in every element that has sweetened, and in every ingredient that has embittered, in all that has been mysterious, inscrutable, painful, and humiliating; in all that He gave, and in all that He took away, this testimony is His just due, and this our grateful acknowledgment through time and through eternity- "He has done all things well." Take a survey of His conduct towards you from whatever standpoint, you may- and it is to His dealings with us in our individual history I alone refer, as illustrating and confirming this declaration- such must be our admiration, and such our testimony of Christ. Has He converted us through grace by a way we had thought the most improbable? Has He torn up all our earthly hopes by the roots? Has He thwarted our schemes, frustrated our plans, disappointed our expectations? Has He taught us in schools most trying, by a discipline most severe, and lessons most humbling to our nature? Has He withered our strength by sickness, reduced us to poverty by loss, crushed our heart by bereavement? And have we been tempted to exclaim, "All these things are against me?" Ah! no; faith will yet obtain the ascendency, and sweetly sing
"I know in all things that befell,
My Jesus has done all things well."
Beloved, it must be so, for Jesus can do nothing wrong. Study the way of His providence and grace with the microscopic eye of faith, view them in every light, examine them in their minutest detail, as you would the petal of a flower, or the wing of an insect, and, oh, what wonders, what beauty, what marvellous adaptation would you observe in all the varied dealings with you of your glorious Lord! And when the next storm wave surged, and the next thunder cloud darkened, and the next dark mystery threw its veil around you, you would hopefully exclaim, "What new truth is He now teaching? what new glory is He now unveiling? what new wonder is He now working to arouse my admiration, to win my confidence, and to deepen my love?"
"I'll sing of Jesus crucified,
The Lamb of God who bled and died,
A healing balm, a crimson tide
Flowed from His head, His feet, His side.
Above the rest this note shall swell,
'My Jesus has done all things well.'
"He sought me in the wilderness,
And found me there in deep distress;
He changed and washed this heart of mine,
And filled me with His love Divine.
Above the rest this note shall swell,
'My Jesus has done all things well.'
"For what the Lord has done for me,
For boundless grace so rich and free,
For all His mercies that are past,
I'll praise Him while my life shall last.
Above the rest this note shall swell,
'My Jesus has done all things well.'
"When sorrow's waves around me roll,
His promises my mind console;
When earth and hell my soul assail,
His grace and mercy never fail.
Above the rest this note shall swell,
'My Jesus has done all things well'
"When death shall steal upon my frame,
To damp and quench the vital flame,
I'll look into my Savior's breast,
And there recline and sweetly rest.
Above the rest this note shall swell,
'My Jesus has done all things well.'
"And when we join the ransomed throng,
To chant the sweet immortal song,
With tuneful heart, and voice, and tongue
We'll roll the lofty note along.
Above the rest this note shall swell,
'My Jesus has done all things well.'
"To Him who washed us in His blood,
And made us kings and priests to God;
Hosanna we will ever sing,
And make the heavenly arches ring.
Above the rest this note shall swell,
'My Jesus has done all things well.'