In pursuing his calling, Christ will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, in which more is meant than spoken, for he will not only not break or quench, but he will cherish those with whom he so deals.
Who Are the Bruised Reeds?
But how shall we know whether we are such as may expect mercy?
- “The bruised” here doesn’t just mean those that are brought low by crosses, but those that are brought by crosses to see their sin, which bruises most of all. When conscience is under the guilt of sin, then every judgment brings a report of God’s anger to the soul, and all lesser troubles run into this great trouble of conscience of sin. As all excess fluid runs to the diseased and bruised part of the body, and as every creditor falls upon the debtor once he is arrested, so when conscience is awakened, all former sins and present afflictions join together to make the bruise more painful. Now the one that is bruised will be content with nothing but mercy from the one who has bruised him. He has wounded, and he must heal (Hos. 6:1). The Lord who has bruised me deservedly for my sins must bind up my heart again.
- Again, a man truly bruised judges sin the greatest evil, and the favor of God the greatest good
- He would rather hear of mercy than of a kingdom.
- He has poor opinions of himself, and thinks that he is not worth the earth he walks on.
- Towards others he is not censorious, like somebody taken sick at home, but is full of sympathy and compassion to those who are under God’s hand.
- He thinks that those who walk in the comforts of God’s Spirit are the happiest in the world.
- He trembles at the Word of God (Isa. 66:2), and honors the very feet of those blessed instruments that bring peace unto him (Rom. 10:15)
- He is more taken up with the inward exercises of a broken heart than with formality, and is yet careful to use all sanctified means to convey comfort.
But how shall we come to this state of mind?
First we must conceive of bruising either as a state into which God brings us, or as a duty to be performed by us. Here, both are meant. We must join with God in bruising ourselves. When he humbles us, let us humble ourselves, and not stand out against him, for then he will redouble his strokes. Let us justify Christ in all his chastisements, knowing that all his dealing towards us is to cause us to return into our own hearts. His work in bruising should lead to our work in bruising ourselves.
Let us lament our own perversity and say, “Lord, what a heart I have that needs all this, that none of this could be spared!” We must lay siege to the hardness of our own hearts, and aggravate sin all we can. We must look on Christ, who was bruised for us, look on him whom we have pierced with our sins.
But all directions will not prevail, unless God by his Spirit convinces us deeply, setting our sins before us, and driving us to a standstill. Then we will cry out for mercy. Conviction will breed contrition, and this leads to humiliation. Therefore desire God that he would bring a clear and a strong light into all the corners of our souls, and accompany it with a spirit of power to lay our hearts low.
A set measure of bruising of ourselves cannot be prescribed, but it must be so far as
- that we may prize Christ above all, and see that a Savior must be had; and
- that we reform that which is amiss, thought be to the cutting off of our right hand, or pullout out of our eye
There is a dangerous slighting of the work of humiliation, some using as an excuse for their lackadaisical dealing with their own hearts, that Christ will not break the bruised reed. But they must know that every sudden terror and short grief is not that which makes us bruised reeds. It’s not a little “bowing down our heads like a bulrush” (Isa 58:5), but a working our hearts to such grief as will make sin more odious unto us than punishment, until we offer a “holy violence” against it. Else, favoring ourselves, we make work for God to bruise us, and for sharp repentance afterwards.
It is dangerous, I confess, in some cases, with some spirits to press too much and too long this bruising, because they may die under the wound and burden before they are raised up again. Therefore it is good in mixed assemblies to mingle comfort that every soul may have its due portion. But if we have this for a foundation truth, that there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us, there can be no danger in thorough dealing. It is better to go bruised to heaven than sound to hell.
Therefore let us not take off ourselves too soon, nor pull out the stitches before cure is complete, but keep ourselves under this work till sin is the sourest, and Christ is the sweetest, of all things. And when God’s hand is upon us in any way, it is good to divert our sorrow for other things to the root of all, which is sin. Let our grief run most in that channel, in order that as sin bread grief, so grief may consume sin.