7. THE SYMPATHY OF CHRIST WITH
THE CHRISTIAN IN TEMPTATION.
"For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, he
is able to succour them that are tempted."-Heb. ii. 18.
We ascend with our present subject into a higher and
diviner region of thought and feeling. From the sympathy of angels in
temptation, we rise to the sympathy of the Lord of angels. And if the one
has proved so intelligent, soothing, and helpful in the hour of battle and
of danger, what must be the power and effect of the other? Infinitely
transcending the combined ability of all the hosts in heaven, must be that
of the tempted Head and Savior of His Church. There is a point in sympathy
and power which no angel can possibly reach. The truest and most effectual
sympathy is that which flows from kindred suffering. He who soothes me in
temptation-stanches my wound-and weeps when I weep-must be one whom the
archers have pierced-whom adversity has schooled-whom sorrow has chastened.
"Not being untutored in suffering," says an ancient classic, "I learn to
pity those in affliction." And not less expressive the same sentiment as
rendered by a modern poet-
"They best can bind
Who have been bruised oft."
It is here that the sympathy of Christ infinitely
distances all other; and all the benevolent angels in heaven must yield the
palm to Him. Probably no chapter of our Christian life brings us into such
close and tender contact with the heart of Christ, or He with ours, as the
temptations-satanic or otherwise-which constitute so essential an element in
our Christian character here, and in our fitness for its higher and more
perfect development hereafter.
In directing our attention to a view of Christís sympathy
in temptation, let us inquire what are some of its more distinctive
characteristics. "For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is
able to succour them that are tempted."
The first feature which will impress the thoughtful mind
is,-its Priestly character. "We have not an High Priest which cannot
be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points
tempted like as we are, yet without sin." It will thus appear that, one
essential part of Christís Priesthood is-sympathy with the tempted.
There does not exist in the offices filled by Christ in the Church of God so
essential and precious a one as His Priestly office. His sacrifice
lays the foundation of all the other relations He sustains in the economy of
redemption. He could not possibly be a Prophet to instruct, or a King to
govern, or a Mediator to administer, or a Brother to sympathize, but as He
first became a Priest to atone. There must first be the offering of a
righteousness and the shedding of blood in vindication of the honor of the
moral government of God, ere He could consistently exercise any one function
of His mediatorial mission. And it is a noteworthy fact that, the most
prevalent and arrogant attack of modern heresy is directed against the
Priesthood of Christ! The underlying element of existing ecclesiasticism is
a species of pseudo-sacerdotalism, arrogating to itself a priestly
authority and function, entirely ignoring the office, and subversive of
the work, of Christ, the one only Priest of His Church. It is from this
sacerdotal element that springs-as a natural and logical sequence-the
notions of apostolic succession, sacramental efficacy, auricular confession,
and priestly absolution. Exorcise this ghostly pretension-priestly
power-and with it will vanish the kindred spectres which wander among
the tombs of those who are dead to the reality and power of the life of God
in the soul of man.
But the Priesthood of Christ occupies its own solitary,
unapproachable, and untransferable position in the Church of God. "We have a
Priest"-a Divine Priest-a sacrificial Priest-an interceding Priest; and
every true member of the "Royal Priesthood," needs and acknowledges no
other. That there is a divinely appointed "priesthood" in the Church of
Christ, composed of all believers, of every nation and from every communion,
we readily and gratefully admit. "Ye are a Royal Priesthood." The conditions
of this Priesthood are not submission to any rite, or subscription to any
creed, or membership with any Church; but all true believers become members
of this "Priesthood" in virtue of their spiritual and mystical union with
the Lord Jesus Christ, the "Priest upon His throne." Thus the saints of God
belong to the true "seed royal," through their relation to Christ, and will,
with Him, reign "kings and priests" for ever. Oh, how faintly do the saints
of God value their true royalty! How we forget that we belong to a
"kingdom of priests"! that we are clothed with royal apparel-the robe of
Christís righteousness! that we sit at the Kingís table, and feed on royal
dainties-that a life-guard from the Court of Heaven is commissioned to be
our ministering attendants; that hereafter we shall reign with Christ
in His kingdom of glory upon the New Earth and the New Heaven, for ever and
ever. But to this royalty is attached the distinction and office of
Priests. "Ye are a Royal Priesthood"-made so by Christ and through His
Priestly office, and anointed as such by the Holy Ghost. To this office of
Priests is attached the function of sacrifice: not an atoning,
propitiatory sacrifice for sin-this exclusively appertains to the Great High
Priest of His Church-but the sacrifices which, as a Royal Priesthood, we
offer, are those of a broken heart and a contrite spirit-the sacrifices of
prayer and praise-and the presentation of our "bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy, acceptable unto God, which is our most reasonable service." And for
this "kingdom of Priests"-this "Royal Priesthood," there awaits the anthem
which will employ their tongues and tune their harps through eternity-"Unto
Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has
made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to whom be glory and
dominion for ever and ever. Amen." My reader, rise to the dignity of your
Royalty, exercise your privilege as Priests; and while you strive
to keep your royal apparel unspotted from the world, day by day offer the
sacrifice of contrition of heart for sin, and thanksgiving and praise to Him
who, by the one sacrifice of Himself, has for ever delivered you from its
guilt and condemnation. "By Him, therefore"-our Priest, Sacrifice, and
Altar-"let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the
fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name." Oh, how fragrant your
prayers-melodious your praises-and a sweet-smelling savor your offerings of
love done to the saints,-the representatives of Christ-all presented and
accepted in virtue of the One Sacrifice He our Priest has offered for us to
God! Your cup of cold water quenching the thirst-your crust of bread
satisfying the hunger-your seasonable garment clothing the nakedness-your
visit of sympathy soothing the sickness-of one of Christís disciples, is an
"odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well pleasing to God;"
and is laying up for you a grateful recognition, a loving welcome, and a
rich reward of grace in the Heavenly Kingdom; when Jesus will say to you,
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, My brethren, ye
have done it unto Me. Enter you into the joy of your Lord." Hold fast the
profession of your faith, without wavering, in the one sacrificing
Priesthood of the Lord Jesus! Recognize no priestly authority, or power, or
function in the Church of God but His! "Jesus only"-the One "High Priest
over the house of God."-is the watchword of the Christian Church-the
counter-sign of the great army of the living God-the one badge of the "Royal
Priesthood" on earth and in heaven.
"Shall I trust my soulís salvation
To a fellow-creatureís care?
Can a priest, a saint, or angel,
Save me in my dark despair?
None but Jesus, none but Jesus,
Hears a contrite sinnerís prayer.
"Do I need a Mediator,
Other than the Son of God?
Can the Virgin Mary help me?
Jesus shed for me His blood
None but Jesus, none but Jesus,
Intercedes for me with God.
"Is there aught of praise or merit
Due to works my hands have done?
Can a life of tears and penance
For a single sin atone?
None but Jesus, none but Jesus:
He must save, and He alone.
"Can the waters outward washing
Inward change of heart supply?
Life and energy bestowing,
Can it bid corruption die?
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Send Your Spirit from on high!
"Can the sacramental symbols-
Emblems of a Saviorís love-
Can these satisfy the longings
Of a soul born from above?
None but Jesus, none but Jesus,
Food for fainting souls can prove."
The sympathy of Christ with the tempted is
experimental. It is this attribute which, perhaps, more than any other,
imparts to it such peculiar interest and tenderness in the experience of the
Satan-tempted believer. How strikingly is this feature of personal
experience of our Lordís sympathy with the tempted expressed by the Apostle:
"In that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to
succour them that are tempted." And again: "Who can have compassion on the
ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that He Himself is
compassed with infirmity." This is a most touching and soothing view of
Christís compassion. The sympathy He offers in infirmity, in sorrow, in
temptation, is not theoretical and visionary; it is the fellow-feeling, the
sympathy of One who has been taught in the same school of suffering, who has
passed through the same furnace of affliction, who has endured the same
fiery temptations-"tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin."
You look, in your sorrow, to the "Man of Sorrows;" in grief, to Him who was
personally "acquainted with grief;" and in temptations from Satan, from the
world, from man, to Him who battled with the devil-who was despised,
rejected, and crucified by the world-and "who would not commit Himself to
man, because He knew what was in man." Go ye then to Jesus, and tell Him
just what you fear, just what you suffer, just what you are. The infirmity
that oppresses you, encompassed Him; the flaming dart that pierces you, was
hurled at Him; the painful cross you carry, bowed Him to the earth; the
bitter cup you drink, once pressed His quivering lips.
The sympathy of Christ with the Christian is
intelligent. It is not a blind, heartless sympathy, either unacquainted
with, or indifferent to, our case. "I know their sorrows, and have come down
to deliver them," was the wonderful and consolatory declaration of God
concerning His people under the cruel and crushing service of Pharaoh. And
what are the words of Jesus the Shepherd of His Flock but an echo of the
same truth: "I know My sheep." Oh, how unspeakably assuring is this truth!
Enough, that Christ knows our temptation, is acquainted with our sorrow,
though not another being in the universe is cognizant of it. It is the
sympathy of a full and intelligent knowledge of all the delicate shades, and
the subtle circumstances-too sacred and intricate, perhaps, to explain to
another-of the position in which we are placed, and of the temptations by
which we are assailed. Such knowledge is too wonderful for us-it is high, we
cannot attain unto it-for it is the knowledge of an Infinite and Divine
mind. The most confidential friend may be ignorant of the mental and
spiritual exercise through which we are passing, of the fiery conflict we
are waging, of the temporal and anxious pressure we are sustaining, the
lonely path we tread, the trying life we live, the daily cross we
carry;-enough that Christ knows it all! And this assurance should infinitely
outweigh the solitariness and sadness we experience, and which the
ignorance, or, perhaps, the coldness, of all others may painfully augment.
Who would exchange the compassion and individual knowledge of our daily life
which Christ possesses for the most tender commiseration the human heart
The sympathy of Christ is practical and
helpful. In this feature it differs essentially from much of the
so-called sympathy of the world. There exists a species of compassion which;
apparently sincere and fervent, evaporates in mere words: "Depart ye in
peace, be ye warmed and filled," is the utmost limit of its expression. The
helping hand is not extended, the closed purse-strings are not unloosed, the
tear of sympathy moistens not the eye, and thus no practical and timely
outflow of sympathy is the response. And, "if a brother or a sister be
naked, or destitute of daily food," or the mind oppressed with anxiety, or
the heart bowed with grief, appeals to our compassion and asks our aid, of
what practical avail if, with the priest and the Levite, content with an
idle look of pity, we pass by on the other side, leaving the object of our
heartless indifference to bear his burden or nurse his wound in lonely and
unrelieved sorrow? Oh, for more reality in our religion! Oh, for more
of the sweet, helpful charity of Christ!-that charity which, like the gentle
dew of evening, distils silently and unseen, but softening and reviving,
upon the fainting flowers-a link from the golden chain which entwines an
angelís form-and which, like the mild radiance of the emerald, emits a
softer and more pleasing luster than the sparkling diamond or the brilliant
ruby. Such, if we are Christís true followers, should be characteristic of
our charity; like the Good Samaritan-not evaporating in empty, meaningless
expression, but embodied and manifested in noble and fragrant deeds-
"Like the sweet South,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odor."
Apply this to the sympathy of Christ with His tempted
saints. How true, yet how faint, the illustration! Tempted in all points
like as we are, is there a single form of assault with which He is not
personally familiar, and with which He does not practically sympathize? Are
you tempted by worldly attraction? distrust of God? creature idolatry? false
worship? self-destruction? Oh, bend an ear to Christís own words-"My grace
is sufficient for you; My strength is made perfect in weakness." Not
satisfied with a mere expression of sympathy, Christ imparts skill to fence,
power to bear, grace to overcome. "There has no temptation taken you but
such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be
tempted above that ye are able, but will, with the temptation, also make a
way that ye may be able to bear it." "The Lord knows how to deliver the
godly out of temptation."
Nor let us overlook the exquisite tenderness of
Christís sympathy. Could language be more expressive of this than that of
the Apostle? "We have not an High Priest who cannot be touched with the
feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are."
ĎTouchedí-how full of meaning the word! We are Ďtouchedí-our deepest
sensibility and sympathy aroused-by a spectacle of suffering and want. Such
is the sympathy of Jesus! He is touched with our misery, touched with
our temptation, touched with our grief. Who can sound the depth, or portray
the tenderness of that sympathy with bereaved sorrow embodied in the
inimitable picture, which no artist has ever attempted to delineate-"Jesus
wept"? Such is the sympathy of the Great Tempted One, to which we invite
you. Approach Him with prayer and confidence-unveil to Him your trouble-make
known to Him your want-confess to Him your sin-sob your grief upon His
bosom-for "we have not a High Priest who cannot he touched with the feeling
of our infirmities,"-and He is touched with yours.
The sympathy of Christ is not only that of a
fellow-sufferer, but it is also that of an Intercessor. This office
constitutes Christís work in heaven. "He ever lives to make intercession."
"By His own blood He entered once into heaven itself, now to appear in the
presence of God for us." What a sweetly soothing truth is this, that every
temptation that assails us-every affliction that bows us-every trouble that
befalls us-every sorrow that crushes us-and every sin that wounds us, is
represented in heaven. All are borne upon the breastplate-entwined with the
prayers-perfumed with the incense of our once Sacrificing, but now
Interceding, High Priest. "I have prayed for you-I am praying
for you-I will pray for you," is the sweet assurance He addresses to
all who, as He once did, are passing through the fiery ordeal of
temptation-sifted as wheat-tried as gold-and are "filling up that which is
behind of the afflictions of Christ in the flesh." Words addressed by Christ
to the Apostle Pete; are equally addressed to every assailed believer-"Satan
has desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for
you, that your faith fail not."
"Jesus, that King of Glory, reigns
On Zionís heavenly hill,
Looks like a Lamb that has been slain,
And wears His Priesthood still.
"He ever lives to intercede
Before His Fatherís face:
Give Him, my soul, your cause to plead,
Nor doubt the Fatherís grace."
"If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous."
We must not overlook the crowning attribute of Christís
sympathy-its perfect sinlessness. "Yet without sin." In this, its
purity, consists its power. Human sympathy-the most tender-must,
necessarily, be imperfect from the fact of its sinfulness. Not a
relation, nor a passion, nor a feeling, nor a sentiment of our humanity has
escaped the effects of the Fall. Sin has palsied and infected the whole. Not
thus the sympathy of Christ. Ignorance does not blind it-selfishness does
not warp it-fickleness does not change it-ingratitude does not chill
it-unworthiness does not forfeit it-time nor distance do not impair it,
because sin does not taint it! "Yet without sin." Oh, how truly real,
exquisitely tender, and unspeakably soothing and precious must that
stream of sympathy be which flows from a spring so sweet and from a fountain
so pure! Such is the sympathy of the Savior with all the tempted, tried, and
sorrowful of His Church.
This thought of Christís pure sympathy, suggests a
cognate truth unspeakably comforting, and assuring to the tempted Christian.
The perfect sinlessness of Christ in temptation teaches us that, temptations
are not per se-in other words, of themselves-sinful. That,
whatever the shaft of the adversary may be,-however skeptical and
blasphemous, carnal and worldly, God-dishonoring and self-destroying the
temptation-the mere presentation or suggestion of the Devil to the Christian
mind involves no moral obliquity, and leaves upon the conscience no trace of
guilt. Ignorance, or forgetfulness, of this fact has often occasioned
needless mental suffering to many of the Lordís tempted saints. Where, in
the history of His Church, shall we find so tempted, and yet so holy, a
Being as the Lord Jesus Christ? And yet, not only did He emerge from the
terrible ordeal unscathed, but He came forth with not the shadow of a shade
of moral dishonor, of compromised integrity, attaching to His soul. We
cannot say that He emerged from the furnace more purified and refined-for He
was "without sin," and needed it not-but we may safely affirm that, as the
suffering Mediator and Head of His Church, He became more thoroughly fitted
by the discipline of temptation through which He passed to sympathize with
and succour them that are tempted. "Though He were a Son, yet learned He
obedience by the things which He suffered;" and that lesson of Ďobedienceí
thus learned, involved a fellow-feeling-a sympathy the most perfectly
intelligent and exquisitely tender-for all the weak and tempted ones of His
"Touched with a sympathy within,
He knows our feeble frame;
He knows what sore temptations mean,
For He has felt the same."
Be not, then, cast down-write no bitter things against
thyself, you tempted soul! Yielding not to the vile suggestion of the
enemy-for temptation only becomes a sin as we succumb to its power-ye shall,
like your tempted Head, come forth from the flaming furnace with not the
smell of fire upon your garments. You may be sorely tempted by Satan to
believe that the Bible is not true-that Christianity is not divine-that God
is not faithful-that prayer is a delusion-that your sin is unpardonable-that
Jesus does not save-and that your past religious experience and Christian
profession is but delusion and hypocrisy, and your hope of heaven but a lie;
nevertheless, these suggestions of Satan are not only all false, but,
Ďresistingí them with your Lordís invulnerable weapon, "It is
written"-"he will flee from you"-one touch of the Divine Word overcoming
him-leaving you, like your Lord, victor upon the field.
Forget not that temptation is an essential part of
the development of Christian character here, and of the education and
fitness of the Christian for glory hereafter. "Prayer, temptation,
and study," remarked Luther, "are essential to the Gospel minister:" equally
so to the private Christian. And, since temptation is a test of the reality
of our grace, and the genuineness of our faith, and the stability of our
hope, let us accept the discipline with meekness and love; and putting on
the whole armor of God, withstand the Evil One, and having done all to
stand. "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest that is passed into the
heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have
not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our
infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain
mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."