North Berwick, Maine, March 31, 1902
Miss P. HITCH – DEAR SISTER IN THE LORD:
“The Lord bless thee, and keep thee, the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” – Numbers 6:24-26. Thus of old the high priest blessed the tribes of Israel. Much more will Christ, our great High Priest, pour forth upon his people, whom he has redeemed, all grace and glory. While here in the world we have only glimpses, “the earnest of our inheritance,” but when we are brought home to glory then we shall see face to face, then in all its infinite fullness we shall know the blessing of the Lord our God.
“Not all things else are half so dear
As his delightful presence here:
What must it be in heaven!
‘Tis heaven on earth to hear him say,
As now I journey, day by day,
Poor sinner, cast thy fears away,
Thy sins are all forgiven.”
Having a precious hope that the Lord has been gracious to us, and that his grace endureth forever, we may well trust in him, go on our way in sweet confidence, with our hearts lifted up in the ways of the Lord (2 Chron. 17:6). Though I write this I well know that we need much grace ministered to us by the holy Spirit that we may in truth he found cleaving to the Lord with full purpose of heart. I can well understand your lament of the smallness of your love to the dear Redeemer; my cry continually is, O that I could love thee, O Savior.
“Lord, it is my chief complaint,
That my love is weak and faint,
Yet I love thee, and adore,
O for grace to love thee more.”
But I promised you to write upon- a certain subject. Now lest I should make my letter too bulky I will begin and quote as a starting point Hebrews 4:15: “For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Christ Jesus our High Priest is both God and man. This is a precious and glorious mystery, for it presents him so pre-eminent, and so peculiarly suited to be our Friend and Mediator beyond all that the wisdom of men could have devised. He is the Son of God equal with the Father, (Phil. 2:6-8), and to whom equal honor is due (John 5:23). God the Father hath spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds, who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:1-3; John 1:18; Psalm 110:1). Then we have the glorious mystery to contemplate that the Son of God became incarnate, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” – John 1:14. “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham” – Heb. 2:16. His name is Emmanuel, God with us.
“Some take Him a creature to be,
A man, or an angel at most;
Sure these have not feelings like me,
Nor know themselves wretched and lost.
So guilty, so helpless am I,
I durst not confide in His blood,
Nor on His protection rely,
Unless I was sure He is God.”
Now such a person as our Lord Jesus Christ became us to be our High Priest, our Redeemer, Shepherd, Husband, Friend, our All. He has such power and grace in his own person as the incarnate Son of God to undertake all things for time and eternity in behalf of his people.
I have mentioned these things pertaining to the person of our High Priest because when it is taught us that he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, we may know that he is able according to the fullness of his compassion to succor us in all our times of need. Creatures may feel their hearts often touched for each other’s woe, and yet find themselves powerless to afford any relief. No such lamentable condition can befall Jesus, our almighty Friend, “but what his soul desireth even that he doeth” – Job 23:13. Our blessed Redeemer stands in such relationship with his church that it is not an exaggeration to speak of Christ as saying,
“I fool at my heart all thy sighs and thy groans,
For thou art most near me, my flesh and my bonus;
In all thy distresses thy Read feels the pain,
Yet all are most needful, not one is in vain.”
“He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye” – Zech. 2:8. When Saul of Tarsus was making havoc of the church, Christ arrested him, saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecntest thou me?” – Acts 9:4. How very near and dear the church must be to Christ.
“Ye children of God and the Lamb,
Remember when sorrows press sore,
Your Jesus did once feel the same,
When trials and conflicts he bore.
And still His redeemed should know
He’s Jesus the same in His love;
The foot can’t be crushed below,
And the Head be unconscious above.”
The precious doctrine then is, Christ is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He wept at the grave of Lazarus, he had compassion upon the hungry and weary multitude (Mark 8:2). He was touched with the affliction of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:19-15). He shewed compassion upon the man possessed with a legion of devils (Mark 5:19). How many instances might be cited to declare that he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. 0, he is full of compassion, and his compassion never fails (Psalm 77:38; Lam. 3:22). Even when his people are smarting beneath sore chastenings because of their transgressions, his compassions fail not (Jer. 12:15). Muse upon the following revelation of the kind heart of the Lord our God: “Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him, I will surely have mercy upon him saith the Lord.” That sweet text you mentioned in your letter is very appropriate: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” How very blessed it is for a poor sinner amidst his manifold infirmities to be drawn to the everlasting God, and endowed with the spirit of adoption to say, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”
It is declared of our dear Savior that he was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. He therefore knows our infirmities, he is in truth acquainted with our grief (Isaiah 53:3). Touched with all the woes of his body, the church, he was beyond all others a man of sorrows. He made himself of no reputation, he was poor, he hungered. The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air their nests, but Jesus had no where to lay his head. He was persecuted, despised and rejected of men; cruel men buffeted him, smote him, spit in his face, beat him with whips and crushed upon his sacred brow a crown of thorns; they pierced his hands and his feet, and lifted him up upon the cross, a spectacle to men and angels, the mob reviled him, mocked him, but he reviled not again; while they cursed him he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” For our sakes our dear Savior surrendered himself to all these shameful and cruel things. He gave himself a sacrifice for our sins, and in enduring all this ignominy and misery it was that he also should come into all the trials and miseries of his body, the church. Truly he was touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and in that he suffered being tempted he is able to succor them that are tempted. He was tempted of the devil (Matt. 4:1). He was tempted of men (Matt. 16:1). He was called a gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. They said, He hath a devil, they called him Beelzebub (Matt. 10:25). Thus he was touched. It is comforting to consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest we be wearied and faint in our minds. We have many infirmities, and at times are in heaviness through manifold temptations. We have seasons when Satan with hellish spite infuses into our minds dreadful things, his messengers buffet us, his fiery darts are hurled at us, and sometimes hit and wound us, too, when we have neglected to use our shield (Eph. 6:16). You remember how Christian was assailed in the valley of the shadow of death. But our Lord Jesus who was touched is our succorer.
“When Jesus with His mighty love
Visits my troubled breast,
My doubts subside, my fears remove,
And I’m completely blest.”
When Christ draws near, the enemy flees, our trust is then in him and his precious atonement for our sine. O, his blood silences all the accusations of the enemy, and quiets our troubled minds. Our sinfulness is no trifling thing, how it sometimes seems to drink up our spirit, and we are brought (yes, a gracious and divine power brings us) in shame and heaviness of spirit, with a contrite heart before the Lord. Have we even then a compassionate Friend in our high Priest? Yes indeed. In a wondrous mystery Jesus so bore our sins that he was wounded, grieved and crushed, beneath them. He himself was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. But Christ the Lamb without blemish and without spot was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. To the pure and holy Jesus how black and loathsome was our guilt. O, what sickening anguish he endured beneath our dreadful sins, and then upon him, our dear Surety and Ransomer, was poured the wrath of God; He was the victim, our atonement. Well might the lovely Savior, the just One, be sore amazed and very heavy, and sweat great drops of blood when all our sins confronted him, were laid upon him, while he was stricken, smitten, wounded, bruised for our transgressions. He indeed was touched. Having such an High Priest, so kind, so compassionate, who does not despise us and cast us aside because of our infirmities, let us unbosom to him all our cares and temptations; “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Those lines you quoted from the beautiful poem, “The glory of God in creation,” were noble and inspiring. Let me now close my letter by quoting a few lines from another poet, they have a tender place in my heart.
“I was a stricken deer that left the herd long since.
With many an arrow deep infixed
My panting side was charged, when I withdrew
To seek a tranquil death in distant shades.
There I was found by One who had Himself
Been hurt by the archers: In his side he bore
And in his hands and feet the cruel scars,
With gentle force soliciting the darts.
He drew them forth, and healed, and bade me live.
Since then, with few associates, in remote
And silent woods I wander, far from those
My former partners of the peopled scene,
With few associates, and not wishing more.”
– Cowper, “The Task,” Book 3.
I shall be expecting a few lines from you before long. May the Lord graciously watch over you and uphold you in his fear.
I am your brother in the fellowship of the Son of God, who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities,
FREDERICK W. KEENE
SIGNS OF THE TIMES, 1902, Page 452-455