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SYMPATHY A NOTE OF THE CHURCH.
Isaiah lxi. 1.
“ The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath
anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound."
The Person of our blessed Lord is a type of the mystical personality of His Church. The notes by which He was manifested to the world as the true Messiah are the notes by which also His Church is manifested to the world as the true Church. Among many false Christs, there is but one true: He came first, and they arose after Him. Among many, there was none holy but He alone; none but He was the Saviour of all. “There is” but “one God, and one
“ Mediator between God and man.” He only is the “Holy One of God.” He only is “the Saviour of all men,” “the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world." He is the one holy, universal Saviour of mankind, from whom His Church also derives the gifts and properties which are called signs or notes. The prophet Isaiah here gives another note, which indeed is not another, but a development of the same, by which the true Messiah should be known. He was
to be the true Healer and Comforter of all, bringing good tidings of good, binding up broken hearts, loosing prisoners out of bondage, comforting mourners, sympathising with all, drawing all that are afflicted to Himself, by the consciousness of their own miseries, and by the attractions of His compassion. And this He did by His own divine love, by His perfect human sympathy, by His own mysterious experience as the Man of Sorrows. This was a note of the true Messiah which none could imitate. They might show signs and wonders, and utter words of wisdom and moving persuasions; make a great show of holiness and pity for mankind, and draw away many after them; but the reality was wanting: the meek and the broken-hearted, the prisoner, the bondsman, and the mourner, had in them something too deep, vivid, and piercing, to find rest until the one only and true Messiah should appear.
Now it is to this that we find our Lord Himself appealing in proof of His divine commission. Immediately after He had been manifested by the descent of the Holy Ghost in His baptism, and had been tempted of the devil in the wilderness, we read that He returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbathday, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He hath
; sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at
liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him. And He began to say unto thein, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.
And all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.'
And soon after we read: “ Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them, and healed them. And devils also came out
, of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And He rebuking them suffered them not to speak; for they knew that He was Christ.”+
Again : “And He came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of His disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the sea-coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear Him, and to be healed of their diseases; and they that were vexed with unclean spirits : and they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch Him: for there went virtue out of Him, and healed them all. And He lifted up His eyes on His disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor : for yours is the kingdom of God.”[
Again we read: “ John, calling unto him two of his disciples, sent them to Jesus, saying, Art Thou He that should come ? or look we for another? When the men were come unto Hirn, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto Thee, saying, Art Thou He that should come ? or look we for another? And in the same hour He cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto
* St. Luke iv. 14-22. + St. Luke iv. 40, 41. St. Luke vi. 17-20.
many that were blind He gave sight. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the Gospel is preached.
Such was the whole life of our blessed Lord. He was at all times encompassed by the multitude of sick and poor, widowed and desolate, mourners and penitents; all day long “ there were many coming and going;” and He and His disciples had at times no leisure “so much as to eat.”+ They came “ from all cities and villages,” and “from all the country round about,”—Jews, Samaritans, Syro-Phoenicians, Greeks, and Gentiles; some to hear His words, some to touch the hem of His garment, some to ask Him to “ speak the word only,” that they might be made whole. He was the one only and all-sufficient Healer and Consoler of the sorrows of all flesh. And He drew to Him all that mourned in sins, in sicknesses, in desolation of heart. They clung to Him as their true and only Rest. In Him they found the answer to all their perplexities, to all their troubles of heart; He was the true solace of all their anguish. His words, His touch, His very looks of pity, soothed and healed their woes in body and in spirit. He
a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones
as a storm against the wall.” The prophecy was fulfilled in Him: “ A man shall be as an 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.”I
Such was His character and ministry; and such is the character and ministry of His mystical body, which is the
* St. Luke vii. 19-22. + 8t Mark vi. 31. Isaiah xxv. 4; xxxii. 2.
Church. The anointing which was upon Him flowed down from the Head to the members. It consecrated apostles, prophets, martyrs, and saints: they were like Him, and prolonged His ministry on earth not so much by imitation as by union and incorporation with Him—by actual participation of the spirit, sympathy, and mind of Jesus Christ. So we find after His ascension. The Holy Ghost came upon them in the day of Pentecost, and thenceforward they opened their work of compassion and of spiritual mercy by works of healing and by words of consolation. It was indeed the dispensation of the Comforter: the Church was the almoner of the poor, the physician of souls, the solace of the afflicted; it spoke peace, forgiveness, ransom, purity, gladness of heart, to all. And after the descent of the Spirit, the Church passed into that truest discipline of sympathy, the experience of sorrow. It was led, as it were, into the wilderness. In all the world it was tempted of the devil; by allurements and by afflictions he fought against it, making it thereby, and against his intent, to be partaker of the sufferings of Christ. Christians were sons of consolation, because they were men of sorrows; they inherited the title and the office of their Lord; they were called to “fill up that which was behind of the afflictions of Christ in the flesh, for His body's sake, which is the Church."* It was this that gave to the apostolical ministry such a divine and persuasive power. All the world answered to its voice, because in all the earth there were the same afflictions, and in the Church the same power to heal. From the time of the humiliation of the Son of God, sorrow, suffering, and pain became sacred and holy. To the poor was given the first place in Christ's earthly kingdom : widows, orphans, and mourners were so many distinct
* Col. i. 24.