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Out of the depths of His great heart came the sacrifice of His own Son for the sins of men. Christ wept over sinners. Does not God have the very feeling that in Jesus expressed itself in tears ? And, as we look forward to the day of final judgment, can we doubt that the just and awful word “Depart” will strike the deeper home because of the manifest sorrow for their ruin which will accompany its utterance ?
Sympathy with God. We all know very well what sympathy among men is. We know it is an emotion of a very peculiar and distinctive quality.
Sympathy is not the same as admiration. We admire many with whom we do not sympathise. Sympathy is not the same as pity. Pity may, indeed, sometimes be an ingredient of sympathy ; but we
tentimes sympathise with many who have no possible need of our pity. Sympathy is not the same as love. We love frequently those with whom, nevertheless, we cannot sympathise.
No! Sympathy is that emotion which arises from harmony with another in the emotion which he feels. It results from a kind of mental putting of ourselves in another's place. It comes from sharing—not merely observing -the feelings and purposes which actuate him.
Now is such a sentiment as this a legitimate one to feel toward God?
Perfectly, I answer. Sympathy with God is one of the most valid and practical emotions a man can feel.
But does some one object that the infinite distance at which God is removed from men in the volume and quality of His being, constitutes a bar to this emotion ? No, I reply, it does not constitute a bar.
The humble day-labourer who digs some garden-patch in the obscure corner of a vast empire, is at a very considerable remove from the statesman who directs that empire's affairs. The private soldier of a great army is widely separated from the general-in-chief who orders that army by his single will. But both of them may sympathise with those above them. The benignity of the statesman’s intent, the patriotism of the commander's purpose, are matters which, just so far as they are understood, bring both of them within the reach, not of admiration and reverence only, but of sympathy.
However great a being may be, all that is necessary to awaken sympathy with him, is some measure of knowledge of what he is and does, and approbation of what is known. Grant this, and we can leap across an even infinite remove, and can exercise a fellow-feeling even toward God.
But certainly the knowledge of God is not wanting to men. God Himself has provided for the importation of this knowledge by the very act of making man in His own image. And having made him so, He has poured in upon him through a hundred avenues the truth respecting Himself upon which man's intelligence can fasten. He has shown to us His character. He has revealed to us His plans. He has let us into the motives which actuate Him. He has told us what He loves and what He hates.
And now all that is requisite to awaken sympathy with God in any human heart, is an active and loving approbation of what God has made known. Feeling this, a man feels with God. The emotion is not mere admiration or even love. It is a sympathetic responsiveness of soul by which a man joins himself to God in the fellowship of common experience. He who thus feels is, in the Scripture phrase, “one spirit with the Lord.”
But perhaps the reality of this sympathy with God may be vivified to some minds by mentioning one or two points when its exercise is sometimes practically manifest.
God's feeling of compassion toward sinners may afford one example. How God feels toward lost men He has not left us vaguely to conjecture. He has written the declaration out for us in Bethlehem and Calvary. The measureless pathos of Christ's humiliated life, and the unfathomed wonder of His dying pains, tell us how God loves sinning men and longs to rescue them. Now is it possible for a man so to sympathise with God in this feel. ing as almost to sink and lose his own individuality of interest and aim, in his response to this feeling of God ? Men have so sympathised with God. The emotion of God in this matter has entered into them and almost consumed them by its power.
Paul, willing himself to be cursed from Christ i his nation might be saved ; Martyn, driven by his fiery desire across and across Asia to his early grave ; Payson, crying in his agony, “Give me souls or I die"—these are illustrations not to be gainsaid of sympathy with God in His pity for sinning men.
Or there may be sympathy with God in His opposition to iniquity.
God is setting Himself against evil every day. His heart is in the conflict which right and wrong are waging the world over. Not His hand only but His will and determinations are engaged in it.
But in this longing and endeavour, man also can sympathise. It can become the very aim and passion of a man's soul. It did become so to Knox, striving to render afresh the fetter in which Scottish consciences were bound by the delusions of the Papacy. It did become so to Wilberforce, crying in the midst of an almost unheeding generation against the iniquity of human slavery. It is so still in God's militant servants, striving on many a hard-fought battle-field to war for the right and the pure, against the false and corrupt.
There are but two illustrations of that sympathy with God which over a wide range, and in many and many a point beside, it is permitted to a man to feel. Yes, man can feel it, and in that feeling become united to God.
He can become one spirit with the Lord,” in living abiding sympathy. In all reverence it may be said he feels as one putting himself in God's place. No other feeling he knows, no other purpose he cherishes, can be so vital or so controlling as that feeling and purpose of God which he recognises and makes his own.
G. L. WALKER
Morning prayer in the family is the time to keep the rest of the day from revelling.
Live for Something.
Look about thee for employ ;
Labour is the sweetest joy.
Selfish hearts are never gay ;
Active be, then, while you may.
Scatter blessings in thy pathway !
Gentle words and cheering smiles
With their grief-dispelling wiles.
Ever on the grateful earth,
Gladden well the darkened hearth.
Hearts that are oppressed and weary,
Drop the tear of sympathy,
Give, and thy reward shall be
From this perfect fountain head.
Shall the grateful light be shed.
Parable of the Sower.—No. 6. The Soil—The 6000
Ground. In Matthew, our Lord's explanation is this : “He that receiveth seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” In Mark, for "understand ” we have the word "receive.” Luke's version is peculiar, but concurrent, and significant : “That on the good ground are they which, in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." In the expression in Matthew, “ Which also beareth fruit,” the word “ also" should rather have been rendered "now"; the idea being, that after a three-fourth’s wading through wilderness soil, we now at length strike good, fruit-bearing ground.
Taking the three evangelists together, and analysing their statements,
we make out no fewer than eight characteristics of the good-ground hearers.
1. They are ingenuous hearers ; candid, honourable, and upright. It is in this sense we understand the “honest and good heart” named in Luke. And so meant our translators; for here, as in other places, their “ honest” is to be taken in its old sense of “honourable.” The two original words are used together, just as here, to intensify their common meaning, and are even found combined into one. They variously denote the handsome, well-born, noble, and good. “ Wellborn ” is the literal meaning of that word which Luke, in Acts xvü. 11, applies to the Bereans, and that, too, of the same conduct as here— acting honourably with the Divine Word: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily whether these things were so.” “Noble " is thoroughly the right word to use, for both it and the original which it represents bear the secondary meaning of nobleminded, generous, manly, candid. Hence the maxim Virtus vera nobilitas, and its fine expansion by Tennyson :
“Howe'er it be, it seems to me,
'Tis only noble to be good;
And simple faith than Norman blood.” So with our word "ingenuous,” which means well-born, and thence honourable and upright. Both meanings are found combined in the women mentioned in that same chapter of Acts; for while they were 66 chief women in position, they were “honourable women” in character (Acts xvii. 4, 12). They, and the Bereans of the verse before, were too noble to repel our apostle summarily and disdainfully as a Nazarene; and they were too high-minded to receive his doctrines on trust. Hence they “searched the Scriptures,” or “tested” his tenets, as the word means, by that divine criterion.
Exactly such were the front and attitude of the good-ground hearers. Between them and the noble men and women of Acts xvii. the parallel is triply expressive-first, in the same words being used ; secondly, from the pen of the same Luke ; and thirdly, in the self-same meaning of candid and ingenuous. Such spirits love and long for the truth; but for this very reason they will test it well. They will take the heavenly manna as thankfully from a wooden trencher as from a golden tray; but they will see well that it is genuine. They are confiding, yet candid, trustful yet truthful, resolved to buy the truth at any price and sell it at none. This is the source and sum of all good hearing. “Ingenuous and noble" is the general expression for all the rest; the enclosing bud out of which all other forms of good hearing evolve.
II. They are attentive hearers. They are such as hear the word.” They so “hear" as to “hearken,” in the full sense of the call, “ Hear, and your
soul shall live." Ah! to get the irreligious masses but to hear, were already half the desired result. Even stray words can smite in through the harness to the very "joints and marrow.”
Cases are recorded in which the deliberate stopping of the ears during a sermon has been suspended for a moment to scare away a buzzing insect, when a Gospel utterance got into the liberated ear that went with fervour to the heart. The Jews first “stopped their ears” against Stephen, and then “rushed upon him with one accord”-apt emblem of the too common connection between wrong hearing and strong commenting. Right hearing is not only attentive, but sympathetic ; hearing from the speaker's own centre; hearing not his voice only, not even his mind only, but, as far as may be, his very heart. Were men in this sense more "swift to hear," they would, in the matter of hostile comment, be more slow to speak.”
Absent hearing, let the young be warned, is a habit that grows. Indulge it, and soon the law of habit will have you in its coils, and, like Delilah with Samson, weave at will this enchantment around you.
We have seen old men, whom the burden of years predisposed to sleep, rise erect, like heroes, a spectacle to the whole congregation, the better to battle down the insidious foe. Beware of that Balaam sort of sleep, “falling into a trance, but having the eyes open." Some fine adventure is mentally enacted; some little novel spins its tissue; some little drama plays out its plot on the ideal stage. Perhaps worse happens, as imagination, impure or profane, takes leave to disport itself on forbidden fields. Rise
up in alarm. Never was knight in an enchanted castle more helpless than you are spiritually, if you allow these reveries free,
It is horrible profanation thus to sport, yea, to wanton in God's Holy of Holies; and it is certain death, if persisted in, to all life of God in the soul.
III. They are intelligent hearers. They “hear the word and understand it." This comes next in the order of nature. What is attention but a summons from the will calling the intellect into action. Hearing is a sensation, but it is also a perception, which already involves the intelligence. Even motives that more especially address our emotions, can only do so by means of the intelligence. Whatever would influence the man must first engage his thinking. As he thinks, he feels; and as he thinks and feels, he freely wills. This is mental philosophy; and it is Bible philosophy; for the Bible with its contained Gospel is a set of soul-saving truths that address themselves to our intelligence and demand our belief. And it tells us that only by belief can salvation enter into