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.
But Are We Not Really Bruised Unless We Grieve More For Sin Than We Do For Punishment?
Sometimes our grief from outward grievances may lie heavier on the soul than grief for God’s displeasure. In such cases, the grief works upon the whole man, both outward and inward, and has nothing under it but a little spark of faith. This faith, because of the violent impression of the grievance, is suspended in the throw of it. This is most felt in sudden distresses that come upon the soul like a torrent or flash flood, and especially in bodily sicknesses which, because of the sympathy between the soul and the body, work on the soul so far as to hinder not only the spiritual, but often natural interventions as well.
Therefore James wishes us in affliction to pray ourselves, but in case of sickness to “send for the elders” (James 5:14). These may, as those in the Gospels, offer up to God in their prayers the sick person who is unable to present his own case. Thereupon God allows for such a plea because of the sharpness and bitterness of the grievance, as in David (Psalm 6). The Lord knows our frame; he remembers that we are but dust (Psa. 103:14), that our strength is not the strength of steel.
This is a branch of his faithfulness to us as his creatures, where he is called “a faithful creator” (1 Pet. 4:19). “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able” (1 Cor. 10:13). There were certain commandments which the Jews called the hedges of the law. So as to fence men off from cruelty, God commanded that they should not take the dame with the young, nor “seethe a kid in his mother’s milk” (Exod. 23:19), nor “muzzle the mouth of the ox” (1 Cor 9:9).
Does God take care of beasts and not of his more noble creature? And therefore we ought to judge charitably of the complaints of God’s people which are wrung from them in such cases. Job had the esteem with God of a patient man, notwithstanding those passionate complaints. Faith overborne for the present will gain ground again; and grief for sin, although it come short of grief for misery in terms of violence, yet it goes beyond it in constancy; as a running stream fed with a spring holds out, when a sudden swelling brook fails.
For the concluding of this point, and our encouragement to a thorough work of bruising, and patience under God’s bruising of us, let all know that none are fitter for comfort than those that think themselves furthest off. Men, for the most part, are not lost enough in their own feeling for a Savior. A holy despair in ourselves is the ground of true hope. In God, the fatherless find mercy (Hos. 14:3); if men were more fatherless, they should feel more God’s fatherly affection from heaven, for the God who dwells in the highest heavens dwells likewise in the lowest soul (Isa 57:15).
Christ’s sheep are weak sheep, and lacking in something or other; he therefore applies himself to the necessities of every sheep. He seeks that which was lost, and brings again that which was driven out of the way, and binds up that which was broken, and strengthens the weak (Ezek. 34:16). His tenderest care is over the weakest. The lambs he carries in his bosom (Isa. 40:11). He says to Peter, “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15). He was most familiar and open to troubled souls. How careful he was that Peter and the rest of the apostles should not be too much dejected after his resurrection! “Go your way, tell his disciples and Peter” (Mark 16:7). Christ knew that guilt of their unkindness in leaving him had dejected their spirits. How gently did he endure the unbelief of Thomas and stooped so far unto his weakness, as to allow him to thrust his hand into his side.