I. THE OCCASION OF THIS SYMPATHETIC SORROW.
1. The affliction of "the daughters of the city." Whether by this expression we are to understand dependent towns or literally the maidens of Jerusalem, in any case it is the calamities of his countrymen that awaken compassion.
2. This affliction is of the extremest kind, even "destruction." Some of those whose woes call forth the prophet's commiseration are homeless, some are wounded, and some are slain. A hard heart can witness the distresses of fellow creatures unmoved; but a sensitive nature views them with poignant sorrow. Our Lord wept over the same city when, at a later period, he foresaw a fate impending over Jerusalem even worse than that which occasioned the lamentation of Jeremiah.
II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS SYMPATHETIC SORROW.
1. It is cordial; not the sympathy of words merely, but of the heart. Politeness may dissimulate; sincere pity will feel. The sorrows of the soul because of human sin and woe are prompted by sympathy and consecrated by religion.
2. It is manifested. In the East and among simple nations grief displays itself in a more demonstrative way than amongst ourselves. There was nothing extravagant or unmanly in the pouring down of tears, in the running down of rivers of waters from the eyes, described in these verses. The manner in which sympathy is exhibited may vary, but this passage may suggest to us that the expression of compassion ought not to be withheld.
3. It is unintermitted; it ceases not. Such sympathy is not a mere paroxysm of grief; it is constant, enduring whilst the occasion of it endures.
III. THE PURPOSE AND HOPE ACCOMPANYING THIS SYMPATHETIC SORROW. Men sometimes speak of the uselessness of tears, the vanity of grief, etc. The godly sorrow exhibited by the prophet was not of this order; it had an aim, and that aim was the relief of those who were commiserated. Penitence and supplication were regarded as means to procure the regard, the interposition, the delivering mercy of Jehovah. Help, and help from above, - this is the practical design which blends with the anguish and the tears of the Christian. - T.
Matthew Henry, who said, "I would think it a greater happiness to gain one soul to Christ than mountains of silver and gold to myself"; of Doddridge, who said, "I long for the conversion of souls more than anything besides. I could not only labour for it, but die for it with pleasure"; of John Knox, who broke the stillness of the night with his thrice-repeated cry, "O Lord, give me Scotland or I die." God gave him Scotland. No wonder that Queen Mary "feared the prayers of John Knox more than an army of ten thousand men." A passion for souls gives a man irresistible power. The Chinese convert was right when he said, "We want men with hot hearts to tell us of the love of Christ." All about us are souls in sin and death; we may hear their death knell sounding. Men and women there are without God and without hope — men and women soon to stand at the judgment seat of Christ. May God help us to cry unto Him day and might for their rescue!
Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission, till the Lord look down and behold from heaven.I. SHOW WHAT THIS IMPORTS.
1. That a child of God may be under the hidings of God's face, God will have a difference betwixt the upper and lower houses. When the saints are above, all the shadows flee away, but now clouds may intercept the light of His countenance. When the Lord turns His back, conscience turns its face to the soul, and tells that the Lord is displeased. And Oh! how bitter must God's anger be to that soul that knows Him.
2. That the hidings of the Lord's face may continue long with a child of God. God will have His people's faith and patience tried, and therefore makes their clouds return after the rain.
3. A holy dissatisfaction with all things, while Christ hides His face.
4. A wearisome longing after the Lord (Job 7:2, 3; Job 23:3, 4). Duties are hard work, when Christ withdraws. Labour in vain much more causeth weariness. Hope deferred makes. the heart sick. It refresheth the labourer to think that when the sun goes down, he will go to his rest; but the people of God, in this case, see not their signs, nor know the time how long.
5. Some hope that the Lord will yet look down, and behold from heaven (Psalm 43:5). Should they lose all hope, they lose all.
6. A resolute persisting in duty till the Lord return: The soul resolves never to give over, and so holds on, till the Lord look down and behold from heaven.
II. Some REASONS WHY THEY ARE THUS DISPOSED.
1. Felt need of Christ. The gracious soul cannot live without Him. They say with Peter, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." Now, necessity hath no law, and hunger will dig through stone walls. And if it cannot dig through them it will leap over them. The soul still cries, Lord help me.
2. Superlative love to Him (Song of Solomon 8:6, 7).Use —
1. Hence we may see why so many professors fall short of Christ. They are utter strangers to this disposition of the godly.(1) They have not the living spirit of Christ in them, and so they cannot follow the Lord fully (Numbers 14:24; John 4:14).(2) There are difficulties in the way of heaven which their hearts cannot digest.(3) The world and their lusts were never made sapless to them, but still have the chief room in their hearts. Hence, when Christ will not answer, they have another door to go to.
2. You are in earnest for Christ, yet under the hidings of His face, and all things else insipid to you without Him, you see here how you are to behave; you must hold on seeking till the Lord look down from heaven.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
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