The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, but who can survive a broken spirit?
I. THAT THE CONQUERING SPIRIT WITHIN US TRIUMPHS OVER THE BODILY INFIRMITY. There have been times when, and people by whom, the very worst bodily afflictions have been borne with lofty indifference or with still loftier and nobler resignation. Such was the Roman whose right hand was consumed in the fire without a groan; such were the Christian martyrs; such have been and such are they who are condemned to long years of privation or of suffering, and who wear the face of a holy contentment, of even a beautiful cheerfulness of spirit. Beneath the infirmity of the flesh is the sustaining spirit: but what of the wounded spirit itself?
II. THAT IT IS THE WOUNDED SPIRIT FOR WHICH HELP IS NEEDED. There are many ways in which our spirit may be wounded.
1. There is the merciful wound from the hand of God. For God does wound; he wounds in part in order that, he may heal altogether; for the moment, that he may make whole forever. The weapon (or one weapon) with which he smites the soul is the human conscience. We have all felt the smart from its righteous blow. We have before us the alternative of either blunting the edge of the instrument or learning the lesson and turning away from the sin. To do the former is to take the path which leads to wrong and ruin; to do the latter is to walk in the way of life.
2. The faithful wound from the hand of man. There are circumstances under which, and there are relations in which, we are simply bound to wound one another's spirit. As Christ wounded the spirit of Peter with a reproachful glance (Luke 22:61, 62); as Paul wounded the Corinthian Christians (2 Corinthians 2:1-10); so will the faithful minister of Christ, the conscientious parent or teacher, the true and loyal friend, now administer rebuke, offer remonstrance, address an appeal which will fill the heart with compunction and regret.
3. The cruel wound from the hand of man. This includes
(1) the wound of neglect, - often a very deep and sore wound is this, coming from the hand that should sustain and heal;
(2) of hastiness and rashness;
(3) of malice.
4. Spare to wound another's spirit. It is worse to hurt the feelings than to filch the purse; to cause a bad heartache than any suffering of the nerve. "The spirit of a man can sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?"
5. When your heart is wounded repair to the One who can heal it. There is only One who can "heal the broken heart, and bind up its wounds." - C.
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY SUSTAINING INFIRMITIES? Infirmities here, being opposed to a wounded spirit, must signify only external sufferings, whatever is grievous by afflicting, excepting the disorders and troubles of our own minds. By sustaining infirmities is not meant that we must not feel them. It is to feel but not sink under the weight of them: as that man sustains his burden who can go upright, and not stagger, or at least not fall, though he feels the weight of it on his shoulders.
II. BY WHAT MEANS CAN THE SPIRIT OF A MAN SUSTAIN HIS INFIRMITIES?
1. By natural courage and strength of mind. There is an inbred greatness in human nature which does not care to confess its own weakness; an untaught courage which supports the rude and illiterate part of mankind, even without reason and discourse.
2. By the power of reason, which adds to our natural courage, and gives us a more confirmed sense of decency and honour. The mere power of natural reason and moral arguments cannot support us under all events; but reason is the strength of the mind, and it is the mind which must bear up under external sufferings. Nature furnishes us with a great many arguments to bear sufferings easily, without fainting.
3. By the arguments which religion furnishes us with. Refer to two: That whatever we suffer is not the effect of a blind chance or fatal necessity, but is ordered by a wise and good Providence. That if we bear our present sufferings with patience and submission to the will of God, and make a wise use of them to our improvement in grace and virtue, our very sufferings shall be greatly rewarded in the next world. If God sees pain and sickness, poverty and disgrace, necessary to cure or restrain our vicious and distempered passions, or to improve and exercise our graces, have we any reason to complain that God takes such severe measures to save our souls? This may be very grievous and afflicting at present, but then we have the hopes of immortal life to support us.
III. WHAT IS MEANT BY "A WOUNDED SPIRIT"? This is a metaphorical expression, and signifies a spirit which suffers pain and trouble. A wound in the body is a division of one part from another, which is always painful; and though a spirit cannot be thus divided, yet because a wound causes pain, a spirit which is disordered and suffers pain is said to be wounded. Some men's spirits are wounded with the disorders and violence of their own passions. They love, or hope, or fear, or desire, or grieve immoderately; and all passions are very painful when they are in excess. Other men's spirits are wounded with a sense of guilt. Their own consciences reproach and shame them.
IV. HOW UNSUPPORTABLE A WOUNDED SPIRIT IS! Anger, when it grows immoderate, worries the mind. An immoderate love of riches or honours or pleasures causes us infinite trouble, torments with an impatient thirst. All this is nothing to the agonies of a guilty mind. And moreover, a wounded spirit has no refuge or retreat, has nothing left to support itself with. The spirit of a man can bear his infirmities, but when the spirit itself is wounded, there is nothing to support that. This wounds our courage, our reason, makes all external comforts tasteless, and deprives us of all the comforts of religion. A wounded spirit cannot find any support from the considerations of religion unless it find its cure there. Useful thoughts:
1. This is a great vindication of the providence of God with respect to those evils and calamities that are in the world. God inflicts nothing on us but what the spirit of a man can sustain, but our greatest sufferings are owing to ourselves, and no more chargeable on the providence of God than our sins are.
2. This greatly recommends the Divine wisdom in that provision God has made for our support under sufferings.
3. It is better to suffer than to sin, even with respect to our present case, because sufferings may be borne by an innocent and virtuous mind.
4. The government of our own passions contributes more to our happiness than any external enjoyments. What a wrong course do the generality of mankind take to make themselves happy! They seek for happiness without, when the foundation of happiness must be laid within, in the temper and disposition of our minds. An easy, quiet mind will weather all the storms of fortune. But how calm and serene soever the heavens be, there is no peace to the wicked, who have nothing but noise and tumult and confusion within.
(W. Sherlock, D. D.)
I. WHAT KIND OF PERSONS ARE THE PROPER SUBJECTS OF THIS TROUBLE? Both the righteous and the wicked; but with a very different issue in one and in the other.
II. WHEREIN DOES THE STRANGE, EXCESSIVE, AND SOMETIMES SUPERNATURAL GREATNESS OF IT APPEAR? We may gather this —
1. From the behaviour of our Saviour Himself in this condition.
2. From the most raised and passionate expressions that have been uttered from time to time, by persons eminent in the ways of God, while they were labouring under it.
3. From the uninterrupted, incessant continuance of it.
4. From the violent and more than ordinary manifestation of itself in outward signs and effects.
5. From those horrid effects it has had upon persons not upheld under it by Divine grace. Both history and experience testify what tragical ends men deserted by God, under the troubles of a wounded spirit, have been brought into.
III. BY WHAT WAYS AND MEANS THIS TROUBLE IS BROUGHT INTO THE SOUL.
1. By reflections upon the Divine justice, as provoked.
2. By fearful apprehensions of the Divine mercy, as abused.
3. By God's withdrawing His presence and the sense of His love.
4. These wounding perplexities are brought upon the soul by God's giving commission to the tempter more than usually to trouble and disquiet it.
IV. WHAT IS GOD'S END AND DESIGN IN CASTING MEN INTO SUCH A PERPLEXED CONDITION? God brings anguish upon the spirit of the pious and sincere for a twofold end.
1. To embitter sin to them.
2. To endear and enhance the value of returning mercy.
V. DRAW SOME USEFUL INFERENCES FROM THE WHOLE.
1. Let no man presume to pronounce anything scoffingly of the present or severely of the final estate of such as he finds exercised with the distracting troubles of a wounded spirit.
2. Let no secure sinner applaud or soothe up himself in the presumed safety of his spiritual estate because he finds so much trouble or anguish upon his spirit for sin.
3. Let no person exclude himself from the number of such as are truly sincere and regenerate, only because he never yet felt any of these amazing pangs of conscience for sin.
I. BY FOLLY. That is, by vain, light, and improper pursuits; by a conduct which, though it should not be immediately criminal, yet is unsuitable to one's age, character, or condition in the world. Good sense is no less requisite in our religious and moral behaviour than it is in our worldly affairs. In this age of dissipation and luxury, how many avenues are open that lead to the Temple of Folly. If something happens to awaken persons of this description from their dreams of vanity, what mortifying and disquieting views of themselves will arise! Conscience now begins to exert its authority, and lift its scourge.
II. BY PASSION. If by folly the spirit is wounded, it is exposed by passion to wounds still more severe. Passions are those strong emotions of the mind which impel it to desire, and to act, with vehemence. When directed towards proper objects, and kept within just bounds, they possess a useful place in our frame; but they always require the government and restraint of reason. When a man's passions have been so far indulged, and left to run to excess, a dangerous blow has been given to the heart. The balance of the soul is lost. The case becomes infinitely worse if the passion which has seized a man be of the vicious and malignant kind. Over his dark and scowling mind gloomy ideas continually brood. The wounds given to the heart by ill-governed passions are of an opprobrious nature, and must be stifled in secret.
III. BY GUILT. If beyond being misled by folly or overcome by passion a man be conscious of having committed deeds of injustice or cruelty, deep and lasting is the sting which is sent into the heart. The voice of nature, of conscience, and of God will make itself heard within him. He will become despicable in his own sight. Remorse will prey the deeper on the bad man's heart, if it should happen that there was a period in his life when he was a different man. Then let us learn —
1. To give the most serious and vigilant attention to the government of our hearts.
2. To join prayer to Almighty God, in addition to our own endeavours of guarding and governing our spirits.
3. That the great God hath already begun to punish bad men for their sins and vices. You see His hand in all that they are made to suffer by the "wounded spirit." He has not delayed all retribution to another world. Let us hold fast by this truth, that every man's real happiness or misery is made by the appointment of the Creator, to depend more on Himself, and on the proper government of his mind and heart, than upon any external thing.
(Hugh Blair, D. D.)
I. THE MISERY OF IT. Not a wounded conscience only, but generally a mind wounded by grief and troubles. All manner of trouble and misery, as felt by the patient, is resolvable into pain of body or pain of mind; into some uneasy sensations, which we commonly call anguish. What an advantage, in all kinds of uneasinesses, to have a mind well fortified and steeled against them. Strength of mind and fortitude are of admirable use to repel uneasiness and pain, and to prevent its making any deep and durable impressions. The spirit of a man, while firm and erect, becomes a kind of armour of proof against either inward pains or untoward disasters. When the spirit sinks, every calamity puts on the blacker face, and every pain and uneasiness stings to the quick, and is much increased with galling reflections The mind is haunted with dark images. The man sits down and indulges his sorrow, hugs his grief, abandons himself to impatience, bitter wailing, and despair, refusing to be comforted.
II. THE CAUSES WHICH LEAD TO THIS MELANCHOLY EXTREMITY. The occasional and immediate causes of this malady are either from without or from within. The outward calamities of life are many and various. A second cause is the sense of some grievous sin lying hard upon the conscience. The greatest calamity that can be is an ill-spent life. There is such a thing as religious melancholy — bodily indisposition, which is frequently the sole cause of a broken, dejected mind.
III. PRESCRIBE SOME PROPER REMEDIES OR PRESERVATIVES. Natural courage, inborn strength of mind, is one of the best preservatives. Rule
1. Trust in God and live a life conformable to the doctrine of Christ.
2. Sit as loose as possible to the world; weave and disentangle the affections from temporal things. If we can be content with a moderate share of temporal prosperity, we shall be the less concerned at disappointments, and of consequence the better prepared to meet afflictions and to bear up under them. Other inferior rules are, agreeable company; good books; employment in an honest calling; innocent diversions, and the like. Rely rather upon faith, a good life, and a good conscience consequent thereon; together with fixed and constant meditations upon the joys of a life to come. If ye do these things ye can never fail.
(D. Waterland, D. D.)I. WHAT IS MEANT BY "A WOUNDED SPIRIT"? A guilty and self-condemning conscience arising both from a sense of sin and of the danger which a man by sinning has brought himself into.
II. WHY IS A WOUNDED SPIRIT SO GRIEVOUS AND UNSUPPORTABLE?
1. It imports a sense of sin in offending against the light and conviction of our own minds.
2. In offending against the majesty of a gracious and good God.
3. A sense of danger in provoking the justice of an angry and avenging God. The spirits of men are often wounded, and their thoughts afflicted, at a sense of the present shame and sufferings which their evil courses bring upon them. The following are crimes which, in their own nature are attended with uneasy and stinging reflections:(1) Public offences against government and the common interests and good of society.(2) When the wrong-doer is under any obligations of love, fidelity, or obedience to those whom he injures.
III. THOUGH THE CONDITION OF SUCH A PERSON IS SO DEPLORABLE, IT IS NOT HOPELESS OR DESPERATE. By the grace of God means are left for his recovery. That faith which, according to the terms of the gospel, justifies a sinner, and is reckoned unto him for righteousness, imports a firm belief that Jesus was the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, and that His sufferings and death upon the Cross were a true and proper expiatory sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Let us apply the benefits of that general expiation Christ made for the sins of mankind to our particular persons.
(R. Fiddes, D. D.)I. A SOUND SPIRIT IS WHAT WILL RELIEVE UNDER OUTWARD INFIRMITIES AND TROUBLES.
1. When may the spirit of a man be said to be sound? When it is renewed and sanctified by the Spirit of God. A holy soul is a healthful one. There is a natural soundness or stoutness of spirit which is not easily discouraged or broken by external trouble or pain. There is a moral soundness of spirit when enlightened conscience hath nothing gross to upbraid a man withal. A sound spirit is one pardoned through the blood of Jesus, and through Him restored to the favour of God. It is in some measure comforted with a sense of God's love, and its own safety for eternity.
2. Show that every man has his infirmities. "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward." "Through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom." The term "infirmity" denotes what afflictions are, both in their nature and tendency, viz., weakening things. And man has no ability to prevent their coming, nor to free himself from them when they come.
3. How far will a sound spirit sustain under these? The man does not hereby become insensible. But a sound spirit will be a praying one; it will not let go its hope in God of a blessed issue, either in this world or a better; it will keep something of cheerfulness. This sound spirit is not alone; it has the Spirit of God with it. And this Spirit proves a comforter and helper, by leading the afflicted Christian into an aquaintance with what is written in the Word, and what has been wrought within himself.
II. A WOUNDED SPIRIT IS ITSELF A BURDEN, UNDER WHICH THERE IS NO STANDING WITHOUT RELIEF GIVEN FROM HEAVEN.
1. The spirit or soul in man may be wounded. There is such a thing as a grieved soul as well as a pained body. There is a bitterness peculiar to the heart which can only be understood by God and itself. A wounded spirit is one filled with anguish from a sense of sin.
2. When, and in whom, may the spirit be wounded. Either before conversion or after. The soul of the sinner is wounded that Christ may be rendered precious and amiable to it, and bring it to close with Him upon His own terms; that it might be filled with a greater hatred of sin; that, when it is healed, it may be the more enlarged in thankfulness towards its gracious God. The distress of a wounded spirit will for ever be an argument of love to God and Christ, and it will put others upon considering what they are liable to suffer on account of sin in this world, besides the death which is the wages of it in another. The spirit is wounded in such as God is about to recover to Himself, to make and keep them humble all their days. By the distress that goes before recovering grace God will encourage His people's trust in Him in after-trials. What compassion is due to such as know by experience the insupportable burden of a wounded spirit!
(J. F. B. Tinling.)
( Matthew Henry.)
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