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II. The more particular exhibition of character which the circumstance affords. Character is uniformly made known by actions. The actions of Jesus illustrated his character; and the circumstance to which our attention is directed in the text, proves to us distinctly the compassion of Christ—that he possesses every attribute of a true friend; and finally, that he can display, along with the manifestation of tender feelings, the comforts adapted to our necessities.
1. Contemplate the Saviour as possessed of compassion. The present was not the only occasion of his compassion for the sorrows and the sufferings of men. His history is one uniform exhibition of mercy to mankind-He even sought out their distresses, or if he met with them, relief was afforded under them. Of course according to circumstances, or according to the nature of the wants to be relieved, would the nature and extent of Christ's compassion be made known. If he entered an abode of sickness, and restored the individual to strength, it was great compassion, and bespoke the feelings of his heart;- but if, as on the present occasion, he wept over the ravages of disease, and groaned beside the sepulchre ; I need nothing further to convince me, that as he was high in character, so was he unparralleled in mercy. It was not the circumstances of the case simply that called forth his compassion ;-these were one cause certainly ; but there was something also, particularly susceptible in his nature, upon which the impressions of these circumstances so decidedly operated, and produced the feeling of the text. Jesus was not a rich man, although the world was his own. « Foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but the Son of man had not where to lay his head." This, it is true, was voluntary
privation, and yet it seemed a necessary part of his assumption of humanity,—for “though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor; that we through his poverty might be rich !" But poor as he was in this sense, and destitute, and shelterless; it was just his compassion that so often attracted the multitude, and gladdened at this time the hearts of Martha and of Mary. this
very compassion which first induced the Son of God to become intimate, as it were, with the family at Bethany; and I doubt not, but they considered every visit which he made them a token of his tenderness. And what but the same compassion could have led him to accompany the weeping sisters to the grave of their brother? It was all compassion blended with power: The one stooped to attend to the petition of the suppliants—the other put forth its elements to grant their relief. Such was the Saviour's character when on earth—the display of that character was the display of compassion. But is he less compassionate now? I have already reminded you of the apostle's language. Speaking of Christ as a High Priest, he tells us that “he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities ;"-or in other words, that though now in heaven, he retains his compassion for the children of men.
that rends the heart,
We may be unable literally to show you Jesus Christ, either at the cottage of Bethany, or at the grave of Lazarus-it is no longer necessary to do this. It is enough that Christ is known to have been once there. And it is still
enough to direct suffering believers to One, who in all places, and at all times possesses for them a sympathizing heart. He sees you at the grave-side of every departed friend. The remembrance of this is for
benefit. He waits for you to turn away from earthly comforts to himself; that while you weep for any now no more in this world, you may think of the home he has provided for the saints. Is not this the display of unbroken benevolence ? It is always in exercise toward his people. And indeed there is something so peculiar to itself in the compassion of Jesus, that we know not how to give up the subject. It is a doctrine full of comfort to the believer. In this he has his life, and from this he draws his happiness. But what shall be said of those, who slight the compassion of Christ? To slight his compassion is to awaken his wrath! To see him
weep and not to weep for ourselves is cruel ! It is disregarding our condition of sinners, and forgetting that we are mortal. We know not how soon the grave may be opened for us; and how can we think of dying without the mercy of Jesus in our hearts ? Oh! for that mercy to be felt. Jesus! compassionate our soul; and lead us by thy Spirit to thine embrace !
2. He possesses every attribute of a true friend. As we have just been considering his compassion, so we would now request, that that
may be laid down as the foundation of his friendship for us. In the love of God our redemption originated. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." But to speak of the love of God is to speak of the love of Christ at the same time; and thus we lay down his compassion as the foundation of his friendship for us. Now there can be no sympathy where there is no friendship. And we apprehend that the converse of the proposition is equally true, that there can be no true friendship where there is no syınpathy. But Christ possesses every necessary attribute for the exercise of friendship, and hence the appellation, that " he is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." In the councils of Heaven he stood forth as the friend of man. And when the fulness of the time was come, he publicly showed himself in that capacity; "for the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Our own world was the theatre of his actions, where he went about doing good, and where he ultimately suffered the death of the cross. By becoming a partaker of humanity, he knows by feeling whatour sorrows are. Let me again lead you back to the circumstances recorded in the text, and to the other attendant circumstances, as narrated by the Evangelist. The whole of the chapter shows us, that Jesus felt and acted throughout as the friend of Martha and Mary. He entered into such conversation with them, as was fitting on that solemn occasion ; nor did he even refrain from weeping, as a response to the vibrations of internal and powerful sympathy. In fact he seems, for a season, to have forgotten the grandeur and the superiority of his character, condescending as he did to practise such amiable familiarity. There was a holy distinction between his weeping and that of the Jews who attended at the same time. The distinction consisted in a deeper feeling and a more solid friendship; which, while it busied itself to give present comfort, was nevertheless a friendship for eternity. In all that he did on this, as on every other occasion, there was nothing affected. Every action indicated the pulsations of the
heart. And the more we look at the circumstances of the
the more we are tempted to conclude, that if ever a friend visited our world, that friend was Christ ; or if ever sympathy descended in a bodily shape, that sympathy shrouded his heart. Mark his footsteps ; and the more correctly you can trace them, the greater will be your
evi. dence that Christ was a friend. Others might forsake him in his distress, and did forsake him in his distress, but he never forsook his friends. Amid sufferings and death he was steadfast to his professions. To have heard his voice was to have listened to the language of truth ; or if he addressed any in the time of their sufferings and sorrow, it was to sympathize and to relieve. The presence of Christ on the occasion recorded in the text, did much, I doubt not, to raise the bleeding hearts of the sisters of Lazarus ; and even had no resurrection of their brother taken place, the Redeemer could have addressed to them something of comfort. Nor is this without a bearing on ourselves. Jesus has left behind him this remembrance of a humanity, accessible to every one, and tenderly alive to every affliction that assails us.
I can never but believe that the record of his weeping at the grave of Lazarus, was designed to comfort us at the burial of the dead. As his compassion was displayed, not only for the benefit of those who lived when he lived, so his friendship conveys to the present and to coming ages, the qualities necessary
to sustain us. The inference then will be this happy are they who have Jesus for their friend. They who are in possession of such a portion have his sympathy in distress; and when earthly friends die, he remains the unchangeable. When one goes away from us by death—when in this way earthly friendships are broken up ; and when in such cases we can assuredly gather that