Christian Sympathy

James Smith

"Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people!" Jeremiah 9:1

Jeremiah has been called the weeping prophet. He was unquestionably a man of deep feeling. He was a thorough Jew. He was as thorough a Christian, believing in Messiah to come, as we believe in Jesus who has appeared. He loved his nation; he pitied his people. Though he sympathized with God who punished them, he sympathized with them, also, under all their privations and calamities. Whoever wrote such bitter words, from such a sorrowful heart as Jeremiah! How deep are his feelings, and how touching his exclamation, now before us! "Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people!" Here is—

First, an affecting SIGHT. The Jews were slain by Nebuchadnezzar and others. The destruction was merciless, the massacre was dreadful, the sight was calculated to produce the greatest sorrow and grief. No respect was paid to age or station; the sword devoured one as well as another. Jerusalem was turned into an Aceldama, a field of blood. God's wrath was poured out; his long-suffering was exhausted; and now his awful threatenings were fulfilled. It was "a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!" The prophet heard the sound of the trumpet, the cries of the wounded, and the groans of the dying. He saw desolation ride in triumph through the land, and the slain lay everywhere in heaps! His heart was almost broken, and with deep emotion he cried out, "Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people!"

Brethren, is there any similarity between his circumstances and ours? Not literally—but spiritually there is. If the eye of the mind were as quick to discern, as the eye of the body is—what would we see? We would see ourselves surrounded by the spiritually dead. Even literally, we are almost surrounded by the graves of those who have been cut down by the relentless hand of death; and spiritually, look which way we will, there are the slain. We are surrounded on every hand by those who are dead in sin. Every city, town, village, and hamlet, is full of the dead. Every street, lane, and alley, contains the dead. Scarcely can we find "a house in which there is not one dead."

Oh, the number of our fellow-countrymen who are in one sense dead, and in another, under sentence of death! Dead in sin, and sentenced to endless suffering in hell! Oh, how strange that there should be such indifference– indifference in them as to their doom– and indifference in us as to their everlasting destiny! How great must be the hardening power of sin! One would think that our hearts were petrified, and literally turned into stone.

What a strange infatuation they are under, to feel at ease under such circumstances. Nor are we much less infatuated not to feel for them more than we do. They are our brothers and sisters in nature, as well as our fellow-citizens, and fellow-countrymen.

What slew them? SIN! Who slew them? The offspring of sin, DEATH! Who delivered them up to such a fearful doom? The JUSTICE of God. Who is the Nebuchadnezzar that rejoices and triumphs in their destruction? Satan, the cruel serpent, the merciless old lion, who "goes about seeking whom he may devour."

What an affecting sight, to see thousands, tens of thousands, millions, of our brothers and sisters, all around us, slain by sin, and doomed to endless woe! One would think that we should daily feel like the noble-minded Esther, when she exclaimed, "How can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? How can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?" But, alas! such feelings seldom fill our breasts, or influence our conduct; we are rather like the ostrich in the wilderness, destitute of feeling or concern. But here is—

Secondly, an affected HEART. "Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people!" He saw the state of his countrymen already slain; he realized the danger of those who were left; he pitied their sad condition; he sighed over their sorrows; he desired their escape; and he prayed for their salvation.

Brethren, is this our case? Are our hearts affected? What numbers have died in sin all around us during the last year; what hosts have gone down into hell from our country, from our towns, from our very doors! At the beginning of the year, we saw them, perhaps, as healthy and as likely to live as ourselves; but death came and cut them down! They were in the land of hope—but they are now in the regions of eternal despair. Do we ever think of them? Do we ever feel for them?

Do you say, "It is of no use!" True, we can do them no good now; but look all around us. By whom are we surrounded? Is not every unconverted sinner under sentence of eternal death, and every moment in danger of dropping into hell? We know their danger; we see their state; but do we sympathize with them? Oh, the misery of their condition—as the enemies of God—as led captive by the devil at his will!

But are we affected by their miserable state as we ought to be? Suppose some modern Nebuchadnezzar were to take the town, and collecting together all the unconverted inhabitants were to chain them together with heavy chains, and lead them by your doors in gloomy procession, to inflict upon them dreadful and long-continued torment; could you witness the sight, and not feel sympathy for them? Among them you see the old man you have known from your childhood with his silvery locks; the young men and women of your acquaintance; and multitudes of boys and girls. Some of the company are your near neighbors, some of them are your fellow-workmen, and some of them are your own children or other relatives. Supposing this to be the case, what kind of heart must you have, not to feel?

But is it not worse, infinitely worse, to see multitudes of all grades, and all classes, passing before your eyes—marching to hell! What are the sufferings of earth—compared to the horrors of hell? What the torments of time—compared to the perpetual agonies of eternity? What the anguish of the body—compared to the unutterable sorrows of a lost soul?

And yet, we do not sigh over those sorrows. We do not appear to desire their escape. If we realized their dreadful destiny, if we really sympathized with them, if we really desired their escape—would we, could we, be so indifferent, so careless, about them? Could we live with them—and never warn them? Could we live by them—and make no effort for their rescue? Are our feelings like those of Jeremiah? Do we weep like him? Do we sigh like him? Do we pray like him? Yet have we not cause, yes, greater cause than he had? Must we not say with the sons of Jacob, "We are truly guilty concerning our brethren!" But we have—

Thirdly, an affecting DESIRE. "Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people!" He would encourage deep feeling, give way to incessant weeping, and thus manifest his sympathy, pity, and anxiety for their welfare. Oh, brethren, does this at all represent the state of our hearts in reference to perishing sinners around us? Must it not rather be said of many, as in the days of Job, "They perish forever without anyone regarding it?"

Souls are daily, hourly perishing—but who regards it?

Hell is filling—but who regards it?

Satan is reaping a tremendous harvest—but who regards it?

Every hour, every minute, every second, souls are sinking into hell—but who regards it?

Where is our deep feeling? Where are our tears for the lost? For those who are now perishing? Where is our sympathy, when Englishmen are sinking by thousands into perdition? Where is our pity when the human family are passing away from us in every direction—to the regions of black eternal despair? Where is our concern, even for our own flesh and blood? Wife, is your husband unconverted? How do you feel? Husband, is your wife unconverted? How do you feel? Child, is your brother, your sister, your father, your mother, unconverted? How do you feel? How many tears have we shed for the thousands who have perished during the past year?

Friends, do you ever weep over perishing sinners? Is it not astonishing, that we can walk the streets or sit in our houses, without weeping? Is it not more astonishing, that we can go to the house of God and pass the ungodly, and the multitudes of careless creatures that throng our streets—and never shed a tear? Is it not more astonishing still, that we can preach on the torments of the lost, and the joys of the saved; publish the glorious gospel of Christ, knowing that there is no salvation without receiving it—and see the great mass of the people around us rejecting it, yes, refusing to listen to it—and not weep bitter, bitter tears?

Would it be surprising if our places of worship were often turned into Bochims—places of weeping over impenitent sinners? Surely not. But we do not half believe—what we preach or what we hear. We do not half believe the statements of Holy Scripture in reference to the dreadful realities of eternity and hell—or we must feel deeply, and weep frequently too.

But do we now wish that our heads were waters, and our eyes fountains of tears—that we may weep for those perishing around us? Or, would we rather go on in the same callous, unfeeling way that we have? God forbid it.

If we never shed tears over sinners perishing in their sins—we are not like Jeremiah, for he did. Neither are we like the blessed Apostle Paul, for he did. Hence, speaking of his labors at Ephesus, he says, "Remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one day and night with tears!" (Acts 20:31). We are not like our adorable Lord and Savior, for when he came near to Jerusalem just before his death, passing over the Mount of Olives, where it came fully in view, we read, "He beheld the city—and wept over it!" Oh, to feel as Paul felt! As Jesus felt! If we realized the danger of sinners, and the terrors of hell as they did—we would weep as they wept!

But WEEPING is not enough. Feel we ought; but feeling should lead us to PRAYER. We should pray for sinners—as if we saw them suspended over the burning lake of hell, and one after another falling in—as if we could hear the awful splash, as the lost soul takes its terrific plunge into the liquid flaming brimstone!

Feel we ought; but feeling should lead us to EFFORT—personal effort—frequent effort—hearty, soul-affecting effort! It should lead us to plead with them, as well as plead with God for them—to plead with them tenderly, lovingly, in good earnest—to plead with them as if we realized their danger, dreaded their doom, loved their souls, and would gladly do anything to snatch them as firebrands from the flames!

It should lead us to strive to influence them, so as to bring then under the preached Word, to believe the gospel, and to flee to the blessed Jesus for immediate salvation. We shudder when we read of the heathen seeing their neighbors and fellow-countrymen drowning, or perishing by other means, and not exerting themselves for their rescue. But are we better than they, if we see our friends, neighbors, and fellow-countrymen perish, perish forever, and never attempt to rescue them? Are we not worse than they, seeing we have the book of God in our hands, which says to us, "Rescue others, by snatching them from the fire!" "Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins!"

See the example the Apostle Paul, who became all things to all men, that he might, "by all means save some;" who stooped as far as he could to everyone's prejudices, that he might "save the more!"

As the soul is more valuable than the body, as eternity is more important than time, as the eternal death of the soul is worse than the natural death of the body—so we must be more blamable than the heathen if we can see sinners perish and never go out of our way, or stretch out a hand for their rescue! Oh, how unfeeling we are! How unlike the prophet! How unlike Paul! How unlike Jesus! Let us endeavor to realize it, to deplore it, to pray over it, and seek for grace to convert us from such an inconsistent state.

Oh, Savior, let your blood wash out the blood of souls, how deeply we are stained with it! And when you make inquisition for blood, may not one drop of the blood of souls be found on our robes!

Brethren, are we not guilty? Ought we not to repent? Is it not time for us to reform? Can we do better than at once to seek grace, that we may weep for souls, labor to save souls, and wherever we are, or whatever we do, keep one object in view—even to bring souls to Jesus? This is the path to honor, the road to renown, the way of holiness: this will bring glory to God, confusion on Satan, good to society, and comfort to ourselves. Activity for God, zeal for souls, concern to do good, always secures benefits for ourselves, while such a course must be crowned with the Divine blessing. Awake then, arise, and labor to bring sinners to Jesus!