PARTAKERS OF FLESH AND BLOOD
"Partakers of flesh and blood." Heb. 2:14
If "pilgrims" reminds me of my journey through a foreign land, and "little flock" brings to view the feeble character of my own company, the present title describes the weakness and infirmities of my own personal nature. It sends me to look within myself; not particularly to discourage me, but to show me the common condition of the children of God on earth. They are all partakers of flesh and blood. Our conflicts, trials, and cares are all alike. We may therefore sympathize with each other. We know how to help each other in our common course. We stand upon the same ground of complete dependence upon him who took our nature upon him, to bear our burden, and to procure our salvation. It is a most compassionate and tender title by which the Lord thus designates his people. Am I one? And is this my condition?
1. Then I am not to be discouraged with my infirmities. I cannot do the things that I would. How often do I contend without success! What evil thoughts molest my prayers! What sinful tempers start up to gain predominance in my heart! How long do I struggle; but how little do I seem to gain! Now, know that all this is sin that dwells in me; but I will not make it chosen, willful sin. I loathe it--I long for deliverance from it; my heart pants to be free, and to be holy. While, then, I resist and struggle against sin, I know God will not refuse nor reject me. He knows of what I am made, he remembers I am but dust. These infirmities annoy me, distress me, but they cannot overcome me. They give me a deeper sense of my sin. But they shall not be permitted to cast me down. I shall not always be harassed with them. I will look up, and not be discouraged, while I bear them now.
2. Then I must not be wearied with the contests which may arise. I have a body of sin to carry. Evil dwells within me. It will inevitably provoke contest, unceasing contest. Every day new warfare will arise. Enemies will be subdued; but other enemies will start forth with new resistance. This will be my whole earthly path. Thus the Holy Spirit will renew and sanctify me, by leading me ever to contend. This is God's plan for me. The precious blood of Christ cleanses me from all the guilt of my sin--the Holy Spirit rescues me from its power, and renews me from my decays. But in this process, I am always to contend. This is wearisome--to the young Christian often very much so. But I can have no dispensation from it. I must fight as long as I am a partaker of flesh and blood. Let me not faint--my work of trial is thus going on. God is thus establishing and settling me. He will thus prepare me for himself, and I am determined not to yield. By his help I will endure even to the end, according to his will.
3. Then I must not be self-confident. I can never have anything whereof to glory in myself. I do nothing towards my own salvation. I do not even faithfully act out the strength which I receive from God. How can I have any righteousness of my own? Every remembrance of myself is stained with sin. Every duty of my life is wholly worthless. Each day gives me deeper views of my own iniquity, the hidden evils of my heart. I thus become deeply humbled with a sense of my guilt. I lie down in the dust under a consciousness of my great unworthiness. But where have I anything else? The longer I contend, and the further I proceed in my pilgrimage, my own character only appears the more loathsome and abhorrent. I come at last to cry out from my broken heart; "God be merciful to me a sinner!" I have nothing else to say. I shall never get beyond that prayer in this life. My Savior's righteousness will be my only hope, and my only plea, forever. But for that, I should faint and be destroyed.
4. But then I am encouraged to trust in a Savior's sympathy. He took part of this very flesh and blood. He tasted all of its infirmities and its sorrows for me. He bids me come and trust myself freely to his love. Where else can I go? Where else do I need to go? If it were not for this burden, I would not feel half so deeply my need of him, or the joy of his salvation. This empties me of all self--this drives me from all dependence on my own duties--this compels me to seek strength and comfort only in Christ. I could not live a day without him; I would not desire it. It is the knowledge of his grace and mercy which comforts me in all my journey, encourages me to new efforts, and enables me to feel assured that he who died for me, and ever lives for me, will never forsake me. My very emptiness gives me comfort, because it requires me the more completely to prove the tenderness and power of my Divine Savior. I thus can glory in infirmities, which render the power of Christ resting upon me more precious and more important.
5. This is an invaluable lesson. How else could I ever be taught it? I am a partaker of flesh and blood. In all things infirm and deficient. No, in all things corrupt and unholy. I learn, then, never to be discouraged, nor wearied, nor self-confident, nor doubtful of my Savior. He can carry me through. The more humbly I walk with him, the more surely he will carry me through; and I shall drop this flesh and blood, and see his face in glory. The deeper is my feeling of my need--the happier will be my experience of his abounding and eternal love--the more useful can I be to others.
I'll tell the lost, despairing poor,
No more to doubt--to fear no more:
For you a gracious Savior died;
For you the Lamb was crucified.
The more rebellious you have been,
Scarlet and crimson, stained with sin,
The more you need the Savior's grace,
And need his freely-given peace.