Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed…
I. THE CAPACITY OF HUMANITY. We have probably been impressed with some form of the idea that man, as yet, has only begun to use the powers that are in him, that he walks on earth fettered by many limitations. The question is whether we shall take the average of humanity, and think of the few men who stand above it as exceptional beings, or whether we shall think of them as the standard-bearers of the great advancing army; as the types and prophecies of what shall sometime be the common attainment. Here lies the chief danger, that a man will think that the superior piety of some one, to whom he looks with reverence, is entirely out of his reach, something beyond the range of his capacity. He thinks of the saints as beings of a different order; he asks them to pray for him, and he puts great faith in their prayers; but this is not treating them right; they are but men and women of like passions as we are. They have had to conquer their temptations, overcome their difficulties, and tremble in weakness before they could stand in strength. If they could pray, you can pray; if they had to step up by the Master's side to live the brave and noble life He led, then, by the same course, and not by clinging to their sainthood, can you go up and become as they are. The line of sainthood superstitiously used has kept men away from God, instead of bringing them to God. But the same thing is going on wherever men forget that the great and good among them are not to be taken as exceptions, but as types and models of all that we may and ought to be. We forget that Christ incarnate was such as we are, and some of us are putting Him where He can be no example to us at all. Let no fear of losing the dear, great truth of the divinity of Jesus make you lose the dear great truth of the humanity of Jesus. No man can know how far he is from God until he has had some vision of himself close to God held in His arms, pressed to His bosom. To be capable of God, to know that God can fill us with Himself, and make us strong in Himself, this is the promise of infinity. Looking on into futurity, you cannot begin to see the end of these paths upon which you are now entering: but you can be all you need to be; you can know all you need to know; where other men have gone you can go, and what they have done you can do. From the men who have won in this life and passed on we should gather hope and courage.
II. THE LIKENESS OF MEN TO ONE ANOTHER. The inequalities of birth and education, the diversities in moral nature surrounding us ca every side, compel us to ask what there is left that is common to all men? What is it that really likens all men to one another? The answer is to be found in that ancient figure of the Bible which represents God as our Father. In a household, or family of children, there are inequalities enough; but there are certain things which they all have in common because they are all members of the same household. One is brave, another is timid; one is prudent, another thoughtless; one is headstrong, another is docile; yet in all their differences of character they are alike in that they have their father's nature and their household rights. Each, while possessing something distinct from the rest, will have those qualities which mark him as a member of that family. Paul and I are brothers. But, because he wrote an Epistle to the Hebrews, shall I suppose that I can reason and write upon those sublime mysteries? There are certain qualities peculiar to Paul which constitute his manhood; but not one of us can read the story of his life without feeling ourselves grander and holier for it. So always try and believe about the noblest of your race, the men or women in your own circle whom you know to be beyond yourselves in attainment, who possess something personal which you can never represent, that, so far as they show out humanity, the lustre and completeness of human nature, you may get new courage and faith in yourselves from what you see them do.
III. SPIRITUAL POWERS ARE THE MOST COMPLETE STEP OF OUR HUMAN NATURE. Religions nature is very different in all of us; but it is in all of us. The different forms of its utterance are apt to bewilder. We are apt to settle on certain forms, and, because we do not find them everywhere, we think it cannot be that the relation of the child's soul to the father's soul constitutes religion. We may appeal to man's consciousness for this. Here, James says, is a man in the attitude of prayer;-no matter if separated from us by centuries, and no matter if immensely stronger in faith — nevertheless, he is "a man subject to like pass ons," and to his prayer there comes the answer. He prayed for certain things — rain, food; no matter what it was — he wanted something he could not get out of himself, or out of his own nature; but he had a right to pray as the Father had told him, and because of his needy human nature, and because of his sacred rights as a child of God. Here is a man who says, "I cannot pray; I am too far from God, I am too worldly," etc. Are you not needy, and His child? Is not your nature full of the wants He has taught it to feel, and are not your rights as the rights of a child to its father? Your need and your nature as a child of God are all the credentials you want; take these, cast yourselves down beside Elias, and David, and the praying Jesus, for they were all men of like passions with you, and the grace they needed shall be given you as it was given unto them.
(Bp. Phillips Brooks.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.