Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.
I. GOD HAS MADE MAN A SOCIAL BEING. He is the "God of the families of Israel." The Law commanded convocations, social observances; the people encamped not as individuals, but as households and tribes. Besides the appetites and affections that concern ourselves personally, there are others which respect our fellows and cannot be gratified without their presence. Love, gratitude, pity, all suppose their existent objects, so that the moral constitution of man exhibits the social capacities with which he has been endowed. There is a basis for sympathy in our physical nature. The appearance of one man acts and reacts on his companions. The mirthful induces merriment in the company, and the entrance of a gloomy countenance damps the spirits of a whole party. Infants are quickly affected by the attitude of those near them; and the lower animals are prone to frisk and leap when their masters are glad, and to be depressed by their melancholy. To shut one's self up in solitude, to take no notice of the circumstances of others, is therefore to sin against the laws of our being.
II. JESUS CHRIST HAS PROVIDED FOR THESE SOCIAL INSTINCTS IN THE ESTABLISHMENT OF HIS CHURCH. He has instituted a community of believers, united for mutual counsel and support. One by one we resort to the Saviour for individual teaching and healing, but "those that are being saved" are "added to the Church," and the visibility of the fact assists in that redemption from selfishness which is the essence of sin. "Bear ye one another's burdens" is the recognition of our unity. The limb which shares not in the thrill of pain or pleasure is on the way to atrophy, disunion, death. Love and service to the Head of the body bind the members together as an organism, and love ministers to trouble and enhances joy. Such sympathy cannot, however, be restricted to the members of the Church. Family ties lead to efforts for the salvation of outsiders, and a desire for the glory of the Lord and the enlarging usefulness of his kingdom prompts to imitation of his beneficence who came to lighten our woes and to augment our gladness.
III. OUR DEVELOPMENT UNTO PERFECTION DEMANDS THE CULTIVATION OF SYMPATHY. It was not "good" for Adam to be alone. A high pitch of civilization cannot be reached or maintained in isolation. Left to ourselves, we grow careless of refinement or progress. To shut ourselves up like flowers that close their petals at the rude blast, to crawl inside our shell, and, closing the aperture, to dwell simply on our own satisfactions and uneasinesses, is the pleading of mistaken self-love that overreaches itself and misses the pure happiness of sharing others' delights and of doing good. Spiritual growth is not attainable any more than physical strength by a life within-doors. Avoid the heat and the icy wind, and health suffers by too-great confinement. What lessons may be learnt from the successes and misfortunes of our neighbours! Their lot may be ours soon; it were well to be wise betimes. To look on others is to gaze at a mirror that reflects our own image.
IV. THE FULFILMENT OF THIS PRECEPT WOULD MATERIALLY LIGHTEN THE WRETCHEDNESS OF THE WORLD. The savageness of unrestricted competition vanishes where a due regard is paid to the happiness or suffering of our companions. Nothing like a visit from the employer to the homes of his servants, or a sight by the speculator of the misery his unjust gains have entailed, to abate the fierceness of greed and to remedy grievances and wrongs. The world sorely needs brotherly kindness. Then would men and nations realize that what elevates one raises all, what depresses one truly enriches none. We may note that obedience to the latter clause of the text is perhaps more needful than compliance with the former. The distressed require help, the prosperous can do without it. But any separation of the two duties weakens both. It is not always easy to congratulate a fortunate compeer, any more than to assist the unlucky. No doubt we like to bask in the sunshine, and to withdraw from gloom. But the "elder brother" refused to join in the household felicitations, and the Levite and the Pharisee "passed by" the wounded traveller. Guard against the mere indulgence of passive sympathy. The rejoicing and mourning of the text imply an active sympathy, and action forms habits of good will and benevolence as Butler has described. Copy the Redeemer. No ascetic or misanthrope was he, who multiplied the innocent gaiety of the marriage feast, and mingled his tears with those of the weeping sisters of Lazarus. Even a hearty grasp of the hand adds to joy, and a moistened eye comforts those that mourn. The poorest in point of worldly goods may be rich in God-like sympathy. Many a man has been saved from utter despair by the knowledge that another was interested in his welfare. - S.R.A.
Rejoice with them that do rejoice.
I. THE CHRISTIAN'S JOY.
1. He rejoices in all the happy lower creatures. "God looked upon all that He had made, and behold it was very good." In this the Christian man is a follower of God as a dear child. "He prayeth well, who loveth well, both man and bird and beast," etc.
2. He rejoices in all the pure human joys of his fellow-men, like Him who attended the wedding-feast of Cana of Galilee.
3. He rejoices in the progress of the kingdom of God. Every conversion, every time of hallowed fellowship, every act of kindness, all tidings of good being done in any part of the world, fill his heart with joy.
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S GRIEF. He grieves —
1. Over the special sins and sorrows with which he is brought into contact.
2. Over the sin and sorrow of the world, when he "enters into the fellowship of Christ's sufferings." The more shallow any nature is, the less capacities it has for joy and grief; the finer and deeper a nature, the more sensitive it is to both. A racehorse is more sensitive both to pleasure and pain than a dray-horse. The Christian has both a deeper joy and a deeper grief than others, because he lives a deeper and a wider life, because his heart trembles into sympathy with human gladness and sorrow all over the world.
(R. Abercrombie, M.A.)I. WHAT WE ARE TO DO, AND HOW WE ARE TO BE DISPOSED, FOR TAKING A CORDIAL INTEREST IN THE PROSPEROUS OR ADVERSE CONTINGENCIES OF OUR FELLOW-CREATURES.
1. Would we rejoice with the joyful and weep with the sorrowful, or, would we take a cordial interest in the good and ill that happens to other persons, we should before all things seriously consider in what a variety of ways mankind are connected together, and how great an influence the happiness or the misery of one has upon the happiness or the misery of others. We should therefore call to mind how many things we possess in common, and how much more important these things are than those whereby we are distinguished from each other. We have all the same rational, immortal nature, the same origin and the same destination. We are likewise obnoxious to the same wants, infirmities, passions, errors, follies, and failings, and the greater or less degree in which we are obnoxious to there evils, depends not so much on our behaviour and our deserts, as on the circumstances in which the Ruler of the world has placed us. Can or should differences weaken or dissolve the ties of affinity and the social benefit that connect us all together? Are there not similar discrepancies even between the children of one father, who were born and brought up in the same house?
2. Would we farther rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep, would we take a cordial interest in the good and ill that happens to others; we must understand the good and the ill that befalls them, that which occasions them joy or sorrow. We must therefore pay attention not only to what passes among our friends or acquaintance, or in the place and the country where we happen to live, but likewise to what is going forward in the rest of the great world, in order to form just and lively conceptions of it. How many opportunities and motives will then occur to the Christian philanthropist to rejoice with them that rejoice, and to weep with them that weep, as he perceives here the light of knowledge, of the sciences, and of true religion making progress, and there still the clouds of ignorance, of superstition and error, hanging heavily over a country; if he here see courage, liberty, generous sentiments, there pusillanimity, bondage, and a servile disposition prevail; if he in this place hear a happy people rejoicing in the blessings of the harvest, or the vintage, and yonder another groaning beneath the sword of the destroyer or under the arrows of pestilence. Is he, however, unable or unwilling to travel in his imagination so far; yet vivid representations of what passes in his place, among his neighbours, in his district, will warm his heart to charity, and one while inspire him with joy, at another bring tears into his eyes.
3. In order to this we must thirdly take a real interest in the good and ill that befall others. We must consider their joys and sorrows, their prosperous or disastrous adventures not as objects irrelative to us, and about which it would be absolute folly in us to be either glad or sorry, because we, perhaps, can discern only an exceeding remote connection, or even none at all, between their situations and ours.
II. HOW WE SHOULD EXPRESS AND EVINCE, BOTH IN WORD AND DEED, OUR CORDIAL PARTICIPATION IN THE GOOD AND ILL THAT BEFALL OTHERS.
1. That we may rejoice with them that rejoice, we should not disapprove, not condemn, not scare away their joy, if it be but rational and innocent, by dark looks and churlish gestures, not censure it as being incompatible with virtue and godliness.
2. Neither should we kill nor diminish the joy of others by requiring that it should always be exactly proportionate to the value of the objects at which they rejoice, and indeed to the worth that we attribute to them. Joy is a matter of sensation, and the feelings admit not of being rigidly restricted to those regulations which cold-hearted philosophers lay down for them.
3. Would we rejoice with them that rejoice, let us rather put ourselves in their situation, view the good and agreeable that happens to them, as it were with their eyes, and in this respect too become all things to all men.
4. Would we be of the number of such as rejoice with them that rejoice, we should show it in action or by works. We should try to promote the satisfaction and happiness of others by all manner of means. We should procure them encouragements, opportunities and means for the enjoyment of a harmless and genial pleasure, according to their inclinations, their circumstances, their wants, and capacities.
5. Parallel duties lie on us in regard to the afflicted and unhappy. Throw no violent obstruction in the way of that flood of tears which relieves their heart; rather mingle your tears with theirs. Have indulgence and compassion for them, even though the expression of their grief be really excessive.
(G. J. Zollikofer.)
I. WITH THE CONVERTS.
1. Some delivered from lives of grievous sin. All saved from that which would have ruined them eternally, but certain of them from faults which injure men in society.
2. Some of them rescued from agonising fear and deep despair. Could you have seen them under conviction you would indeed rejoice to behold them free and happy.
3. Some of them have been brought into great peace and joy. The blissful experience of their first love should charm us into sympathetic delight.
4. Some of them are aged. These are called at the eleventh hour. Rejoice that they are saved from imminent peril.
5. Some of them are young, with years of happy service before them.
6. Each case is special. In some we think of what they would have been, and in others of what they will be. There is great gladness in these new-born ones, and shall we be indifferent?
II. WITH THEIR FRIENDS.
1. Some have prayed long for them, and now their prayers are heard.
2. Some have been very anxious, have seen much to mourn over in the past, and feared much of evil in the future.
3. Some are relatives with a peculiar interest in these saved ones. Parents, children, brothers, etc.
4. Some are expecting, and in certain cases already receiving, much comfort from these newly saved ones. They have already brightened the family circle, and made heavy hearts glad. Holy parents have no greater joy than to see their children walking in the truth. Do we not share their joy?
III. WITH THOSE WHO BROUGHT THEM TO JESUS. The spiritual parents of these converts are glad. The pastor, relative, teacher, or friend, who wrote or spoke to them of Jesus. What a joy belongs to those who by personal effort win souls! Endeavour to win the same joy for yourself, and meanwhile be glad that others have it.
IV. WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT. He sees —
1. His strivings successful.
2. His instructions accepted.
3. His quickening power operating in new life.
4. The renewed mind yielding to His Divine guidance.
5. The heart comforted by His grace. Let us rejoice in the love of the Spirit.
V. WITH THE ANGELS.
1. They have noted the repentance of the returning sinner.
2. They will henceforth joyfully guard the footsteps of the pilgrim.
3. They expect his life-long perseverance, or their joy would be premature. He is and will be for ever their fellow-servant.
4. They look one day to bear him home to glory. The evil angel makes us groan; should not the joy of good angels make us sing in harmony with their delight?
VI. WITH THE LORD JESUS. His joy is proportioned —
1. To the ruin from which He has saved His redeemed ones.
2. To the cost of their redemption.
3. To the love which He bears to them.
4. To their future happiness, and to the glory which their salvation will bring to Him.Conclusion: Do you find it hard to rejoice with these newly baptized believers? Let me urge you to do so, for you have your own sorrows, and this communion of joy will prevent brooding too much over them.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)1. Sympathy, it may be said, is an accident of temperament, and cannot be a duty. There are those who cannot help being distressed by the troubles of others, and being made happier for the happiness of others. On the other hand there are those who are naturally cold and cannot help it. But the same objection might be urged against other duties. Indolence and intemperance may be largely the result of hereditary tendencies, but as industry and temperance are manifest duties it is unsafe to regard their opposites merely as diseases. Some children are naturally docile and affectionate, others the reverse; but to be obedient and loving are duties and their opposites grave faults. Some have naturally a kind disposition, others have a bad temper. And yet good temper is not a mere fortunate accident, nor is a bad one a mere constitutional calamity — it is a vice. So while some men find it easier than others to rejoice, etc., sympathy is one of the great moral virtues.
2. There is nothing about it in the Ten Commandments, but in the Christian code it stands side by side with justice, truthfulness, etc. It is not merely an ornament of character, but as essential a part of Christian life as worship. The obligation must not be so qualified as to be practically suppressed. There are people with whom it is easy to sympathise, but as it is our duty to be honest to all, the obligations of sympathy are equally general. This precept is only an application of the great commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." The duty arises from the discovery that has come to us through Christ of the intimacy of our relations to all mankind. All men are dear to the heart of God, and therefore they must be dear to us.
3. We owe sympathy to other men because it is an effective means of contributing to their moral perfection, and because by withholding it we inflict on them grave moral inquiry. In men and women who have many admirable qualities there are grave defects of temper and spirit. They remind one of noble trees that require warmth and sunshine, but which have been discouraged by gloomy skies, and chilled, tormented, by cold, harsh winds. We may not be able to do much to recover those who are morally lost, but we may all do something to lessen the hardness and add to the moral grace of those with whom we live. Sympathise with a man in his prosperity and you do much to protect him from its perils. If you know that a man is carrying on his business on dishonourable principles, whether he is getting richer or poorer, you are bound to refuse him your moral approval. But if you begin to have hard thoughts of him, and if he feels that you have no delight in his honest prosperity, you are not only unjust to him, you may do him serious moral harm. If you are cold to him because he is richer than you, he will be cold to you because you are poorer than he is. If you think of his wealth with discontent, he will think of it with exaggerated complacency. There is always danger that when a man gets rich he will cease to have a brotherly heart towards other men; it is the duty of his old friends to do what they can to save him from that, not by preaching to him, unless they are sure they can preach well, but by rejoicing with him in his riches. The same law holds in relation to success in public life, etc. So when trouble comes upon men your sympathy may lessen the bitterness of their grief, and may prevent them from yielding to a hard resentment against God and the whole order of the world. But remember that what they want is not your ingenious philosophy, but just a touch of your heart.
4. Some people have what is called the gift of sympathy, and a charming gift it is, but it is necessary to distinguish between the gift and the grace. Sympathy with misfortune may be followed by no endeavour to lessen it, and sympathy with joy may be followed in an hour by a sarcasm or a sneer.
5. If it is a duty to give sympathy, it is also a duty to receive it. By rejecting it we harm the person who offers it, for we check the growth of a form of moral perfection. It is a sin to discourage a man who wants to be truthful; it is also a sin to discourage the man who wants to show that he shares our trouble or our gladness. And we wrong ourselves, for we confirm our unbrotherly selfishness.
6. This sympathetic spirit has not really to be created even in those whose natural temperament is unsympathetic. It is in our heart somewhere, and would show itself if it had a fair chance. But it must be cultivated, and it is only by a deliberate effort to measure the magnitude of a great trouble, and to realise some of the innumerable elements of misery in it, that some of us can ever come to feel adequate sympathy with it. And a similar effort is necessary to sympathise perfectly with a great happiness. But self-discipline is not enough. If we abide in Christ we may come to have that sensitiveness to suffering which moved Him to compassion when He saw the blind, etc., and which made Him weep over the grave of Lazarus; and we may come to have that sympathy with common joys which prompted Him to change water into wine.
(R. W. Dale, LL.D.)
(T. Guthrie, D.D.)
(D. L. Moody.)1. Joy and sorrow are the two chief elements of life. They often meet in the one event; what is sorrowful to one is joyful to the other. They are often very near each other in this life of uncertainty and change. An hour beyond the present time may transfer us from one to the other. Often the morning is bright, but the evening dull and cloudy and vice versa.
2. Joy and sorrow modify each other, and life requires both to make it complete. Continual sorrow would make men sad and sour; and perpetual joy would make men too light in character, and disqualify them as the comforters of the afflicted; but by their co-operation they make men more fit in this world to work and sympathise. The sweet makes the bitter tolerable; and the bitter imparts a kind of tonic quality to the sweet. Confining ourselves to the latter clause, we shall view calamities —
I. THROUGH SOME OF THEIR CAUSES.
1. A willing ignorance of law. Many fevers, explosions, shipwrecks, etc., arise from ignorance of the laws of things; and there is no excuse for our ignorance of most of them.
2. Presumption. Repeated transgression of law, because it has often happened hitherto without any calamity, often costs men dearly.
3. Mercenary selfishness and ambition. From a love of money sanitary improvements are neglected; and in our mines means of safety are neglected because there is a little expense in the introduction of them.
4. Careless indifference. We by custom become used to things, and act carelessly; where others, unused to the same things, are timid and careful, and often save themselves.
II. THROUGH SOME OF THEIR HARROWING DISTRESSES AND RESULTS. Calamities, by reason of their frequent occurrence, lose their impression upon us. Like the loss of life in times of war, they become things of little power because of their frequent occurrence. However we view and feel them, it is clear that the results from them are grave and glaring.
1. They reduce our estimate of human life. We value our own life above all things, and the simplest duty of religion is, to do to others as we would that others should do unto us. We too often reverse this, and by blindness and selfishness make human life the meanest of all things.
2. They harden men religiously. People are amazed that they do not change the heart and life of men. But can the widow melt into tenderness of religious emotions when she broods over her great loss and hard lot, and all the while attributes it to the carelessness of others? Can the orphan be made more religious when he thinks of the way his nearest friend in life has been taken away? If they attribute their calamities to God. do they present Him in that amiable character as to attract the heart in love to Him?
3. They diminish the goodness and enjoyment of life.
4. They increase the burden of society. Who are to provide for the widows and the fatherless?
5. But the distress of such calamities to the immediate individuals themselves is beyond language to describe.
III. ON CHRISTIAN GROUND AND IN CHRISTIAN LIGHT. Christianity —
1. Brings out the purest and the noblest sympathies of the soul to meet and comfort distress. All done to the distressed under its influence is done by love, hence it is both pleasurable and lasting. It leads the afflicted to an ever-living Father, to the sympathy and love of a Saviour, and the comfort of His Spirit; it brings them into fellowship with all the good; and gives a hope of a heaven of happiness after the sorrows of life will end.
2. Teaches men to make earthly things subordinate to the want and support of persons in their woes and sorrows.
3. Makes it a part of Christian life to assist the needy and ameliorate the woes of men. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" is its first and last teaching.
4. Is catholic and impartial in its aid and comfort to distress and misery. It asks no questions as to nationality, rank, sect, and creed; it views all as human creatures in want and distress.
5. Lessens the misery of humanity. It does this to the mind of men by its spiritual provisions, and to their bodies and outward wants by making all material things subordinate to human want and woe.
6. Unites men so closely to each other as to make them responsible for the good and comfort of one another.
IV. THROUGH THEIR LESSONS TO US. Calamities as these teach us —
1. To be more submissive and satisfied with the ordinary ills and misfortunes of life.
2. The necessity of studying the laws of human life more, and understanding them better.
3. That we are so nearly related to one another that the life and interest of all are very much in the hands of each other.
4. That great calamities all result from the repeated neglect of small things.
5. To do all we can to comfort and help those in distress.
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