Bearing Infirmities

Matthew 8:17; Romans 15:1.

Nothing is more continually taught in the Scriptures than that Christ is a model and an example for His people, and hence that the one object and aim of the believer should be to express Christ in His walk and ways. This is illustrated in a most striking way in the case of the apostle Paul, who was, perhaps, the closest approximation to the example of his Lord that the world has ever seen. As led of the Holy Ghost, indeed, he was enabled to say that to him to live was Christ; and his one earnest expectation and hope was that Christ might be magnified in his body, whether by life or by death. It is quite true that no individual believer is an adequate vessel for the display of Christ, that for this all the members of His body are requisite; but still nothing short of this object should be before our minds. (See 2 Cor. 4:10.) The two passages at the head of this paper bring this subject before us in one aspect, and it is to this that we invite the reader's most earnest attention; for the consideration of any feature of the blessed Lord's life is not only profitable to our souls, but it also begets in us an intense desire to learn more of His perfections, and to be found more constantly in His company. And then it is that we enter upon the experience of the bride when she said, "I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste; He brought me to the banqueting house, and His banner over me was love."

We learn, then, from our first scripture, that Christ took the infirmities and bore the sicknesses of His people when He was down here upon the earth. In one word, in all their affliction He was afflicted. Strictly speaking, in the passage in Matthew the Lord is seen taking away the sicknesses and the infirmities of His people; but if the passage in Isaiah is consulted of which this act is said to be the fulfilment, it will be seen that He first took these burdens upon His own shoulders. This, indeed, was ever His blessed way. In His own tender grace and unutterable compassion, He went down in spirit under the load of the sorrow of those who sought His aid; then He bore it up upon His own heart before God, and finally took it away. Thus, when they brought unto Him one that was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, after He had taken him apart, etc., looking up to heaven, He "groaned" under the burden of the man's infirmity, and then said, "Ephphatha, that is, Be opened." (Mark 7.) So it was in all His blessed pathway through this world: He was the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, because He entered into the condition of those with whom He came into contact. Truly He was the great Burden-bearer, as, indeed, His tears over impenitent Jerusalem and on His way to the grave of Lazarus abundantly testify. Who can thus consider Him, in these expressions of His sympathy and love, without being deeply touched? Here was One, at least, ever full of unspeakable compassions, incessantly yearning over the burdened hearts of those around, and never chilled in His ministry of love by the lack of response. The springs of His action were above and within - in doing the will of Him who had sent Him, and in gratifying His own affections. Blessed Lord, well might we be ashamed as we meditate upon Thee; and yet, knowing what we are, Thou dost speak to each one of us, and say, even as to this, Follow Me. May we, by Thy grace, be enabled to cry, Draw us, and we will run after Thee in this Thy service of grace and sympathy.

If now we consider the present service of our blessed Lord as the Great High Priest we shall discover the same principle as its basis. We are told that He is not one that cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, and the reason given is that He has been tempted in all points like as we are apart from sin. This we understand to mean that, inasmuch as He has made personal experience of our trials - trials resulting from our infirmities - He is able to enter into our feelings and to sympathise with us in them. The meaning of sympathy is to feel with - not for, that is pity, but with - and thus in a very profound sense the Lord still enters into and bears our infirmities. There is not a single sorrow or trouble arising from these which He therefore does not behold, and which does not call out, and that instantly, the loving sympathy of His heart. It is on account of this that, knowing our need, He is able to maintain us in His priestly intercession before God, and to secure for us the needed mercy and grace when we come boldly to the throne of grace. Oh! how blessed it is then to appropriate Christ in His priestly character. He said Himself, "He that eateth Me shall live by Me," and we may thus be encouraged to appropriate Him, for He is before God as our Representative. It will comfort our hearts and lighten our heaviest burdens to do so. Then, instead of sinking down under our circumstances, as Peter was sinking into the sea, we shall find that His strong hand of support is under and around us, lifting us above our trials and filling our lips with thanksgivings and praise.

What has been before us will prepare us for the apostle's statement that we who are strong should bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves; and it will be at once noticed that he connects the admonition with the example of Christ, for, after he has exhorted us to please our neighbours for good to edification, he adds, "For even Christ pleased not Himself." In like manner, writing to the Galatians, he says, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." The law of His life was, as we have seen, to be a Burden-bearer, and we are also to charge ourselves with the sorrows and the infirmities of our fellow-believers, and indeed, as we may receive grace, with the difficulties and sorrows of all with whom we may come into contact in our daily lives. This is the gist of our subject, that the believer is to be the expression of Christ in this world, first in the circle of our fellowship, then in our homes, and finally in the world. What a mission But, alas! we are so often tempted to expect from, instead of giving to, others, to be receivers instead of givers. Before God we may be receivers, and up to the full measure of our capacity, and we must be receivers from Him if we are to give, even as the Lord taught when He said, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." It would change the whole current of our lives if we entered into this and understood that it is to this we are called, namely, to become channels of grace, sympathy, and succour to those around.

We, then, that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves, because this was "the law of Christ" when He was here upon the earth. And the force of the word ought should be observed. This may be illustrated from a similar use of the word by the apostle John. He says, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." That is, we are under the obligation of righteousness to act one towards another as God has acted towards us; and, similarly, it would not be righteous, since Christ has borne, and still sympathises with us in, our infirmities, if we did not also bear the infirmities of the weak. Let these blessed words be, then, engraven upon our hearts, and, that it might be so, may Christ Himself, in all His tender grace and sympathy, be ever before our souls, in order that, the affections of our hearts being thus drawn out to Him and nourished, it may become a delight to us to walk in His footsteps. It should be added that, the more we are conformed to His image by beholding His glory, the more this blessed trait of His life upon earth with which we have been occupied will be produced in us and expressed. It is also true that if the life of Jesus, in any aspect, is to be manifested in our bodies, there must be the constant application of His death to ourselves. The secret of living Christ is indeed the continuous appropriation of His death. May His love - for there is no other sufficient power for it - constrain us to this, and may He reign so supremely in our hearts that we may never be happy unless treading in His own steps.