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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Thomas Goodwin :: The Heart of Christ

Thomas Goodwin :: Part 3

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For we have not an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all things tempted like as we are, yet without sin.—Hebrews 4:15

Some generals to clear how this is to be understood, that Christ’s heart is touched with the feeling, of our infirmities, together with the way that our infirmities come to be feelingly let into his heart.

I. Having thus given such full and ample demonstrations of the tenderness and sameness of Christ’s heart unto us now he is in heaven, with that which it was while he was here on earth; and those, both extrinsic (in the first part) and intrinsic (in the second); I now come to the last head which I propounded in the opening of these wards, namely, the way and manner of Christ’s being affected with pity unto us; both how it is to be understood by us, and also how such affections come to be let into his heart, and therein to work these bowels of compassion unto us. This in the beginning of the second partI propounded to be handled, as being necessary both for the opening and clearing the words of the text, which mainly holds forth this, as also for the clearing of the thing itself, the point in hand. For, as I there showed, these words come in by way of preoccupation or prevention of an objection, as if his state now in heaven were not capable of such affection as should tenderly move him to pity and commiseration, he being now glorified both in soul and body. Which thought, because it was apt to arise in all men’s minds, the apostle therefore forestalls it, both by affirming the contrary, “We have not an high priest that cannot be touched,” that is, he both can be, or is capable of it, and likewise istouched, notwithstanding all his glory, as also by his annexing the reason of it, or showing the way how it comes to pass, in that “in all points he was tempted like as we are,” Hebrews 4:15.

Now in handling and opening these, which is a matter full of difficulty, I shall, with all wariness, proceed to the discovery of what manner of affection in Christ this is, and that by these steps and degrees.

  • 1. This affection of compassion, or his being “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” is not wholly to be understood in a metaphorical or a similitudinary sense, as those speeches used of God in the Old Testament are to be understood, when bowels of compassion are attributed unto him, and his bowels are said to be “rolled together,” or as when as it is said of God, that he repented, and was afflicted in all his people’s afflictions. All which expressions were of God (as we all know) but merely ϰαθ ἀνθρωπωπάθειαν, after the manner of men; so to convey and represent to our apprehensions, by what affections use to be in parents or friends in such and such cases (what provoke them unto such and such actions), which like effects proceed from God towards us when he sees us in distress. And so they are spoken rather per modum effectus, than affectus, rather by way of like effect, which God produces, than by way of such affection in God’s heart, which is not capable of any such passions as these are. Now towards the right understanding of this, the first thing which I affirm is, that barely in such a sense as this, that which is here spoken of Christ, is not to be understood, and my reason for it is grounded upon these two things put together.
    • First, that this affection of his towards us here spoken of, is manifestly meant of his human nature, and not of his Godhead only, for it is spoken of that nature wherein he once was tempted as we now are. So expressly in the next words, which can be meant of no other than his human nature.
    • And secondly, that those kind of expressions which were used of God before the assumption of our nature, only in a way of metaphor and similitude, “after the manner of men,” should in no further or more real and proper sense be spoken of Christ and his human nature now assumed, and when he is a man as truly and properly as we are, I cannot imagine; when I consider and remember that which I last insisted on, that one end of Christ’s taking a human nature, was “that he might be a merciful high priest forever,” in such a way as, he being God alone, could not have been. I confess I have often wondered at that expression there used, “He took the seed of Abraham, that he might be made a merciful high priest,” Hebrews 2:16-17, which at the first reading sounded as if God had been made more merciful by taking our nature. But this solved the wonder, that this assumption added a new way of God’s being merciful, by means of which it may now be said, for the comfort and relief of our faith, that God is truly and really merciful, as a man. And the consideration of this contributes this to the clearing of the thing in hand, that whereas God of himself was so blessed and perfect, that his blessedness could not have been touched with the least feeling of our infirmities, neither was he in himself capable of any such affection of pity or compassion: “He is not as a man, that he should pity or repent” 1 Samuel 15:29. He can indeed do that for us in our distress, which a man that pities us uses to do; but the affections and bowels themselves he is not capable of. Hence, therefore, amongst other ends of assuming man’s nature, this fell in before God as one, that God might thereby become loving and merciful unto men, as one man is to another. And so, that what before was but improperly spoken, and by way of metaphor and similitude, in the Old Testament, so to convey it to our apprehensions, might now be truly attributed unto him in the reality; that God might be forever said to be compassionate as a man, and to be touched with a feeling of our infirmities as a man. And thus by this happy union of both natures, the language of the Old Testament, uttered only in a figure, becomes verified and fulfilled in the truth of it, as in all other things the shadows of it were in Christ fulfilled. And this is the first step towards the understanding of what is here said of Christ, taken from this comparison with the like attributed unto God himself.
  • 2. A second and further step to let in our understanding to the apprehension of this, is by the like further comparison to be made with the angels, and those affections of love and pity that are certainly found in them. In comparison of which, these affections in Christ’s human nature, though glorified, must necessarily be far more like to ours, even more tender, and more human; for in that Hebrews 2:16, it is expressly said, “He therefore took not the nature of the angels, that he might be a merciful high priest.” Part of the intention of those words is to show and give the reason, not only why he took our nature under frail flesh, though that the apostle mentions, Hebrews 2:14, but why a human nature for the substance of it, and not the nature of angels; because in his affections of mercy he would forever come nearer to us, and have such affections, and of the same kind with ours. Whereas, otherwise in other respects, an angel would have been a higher and more glorious high priest than a man.
  • Now the angels being fellow servants with us, as the angel called himself, Revelation 22:9, they have affections towards us more assimilated unto ours than God has, and so are more capable of such impressions from our miseries than God is. Although they are spirits, yet they partake of something analogical, or resembling and answering to those affections of pity and grief, which are in us. And indeed, so far as these affections are seated in our souls, and not drenched in the passions of the body, unto which our souls are united, they are the very same kind of affections in us that are in them. Hence the same lusts that are in men are said to be in devils, John 8:44, and therefore the devils also are said to fear and tremble. And so, oppositely, the same affections that are in men, so far as they are spiritual, and the spirit or soul is the seat of them, they must necessarily be found in the good angels. But Christ having a human nature, the same for substance that ours is, consisting both of soul and body, although through glory made spiritual, yet not become a spirit; “A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have,” says Christ of himself, after his resurrection, Luke 24:39. Therefore he must necessarily have affections towards us, yet more like to those of ours than those are which the angels have. So then by these two steps we have gained these two things, that even in Christ’s human nature, though glorified, affections of pity and compassion are true and real, and not metaphorically attributed to him as they are unto God; and also more near and like unto ours here than those in the angels are; even affections proper to man’s nature, and truly human. And these he should have had, although this human nature had, from the very first assumption of it, been as glorious as it is now in heaven.
  • 3. But now, thirdly, add this further, that God so ordered it, that before Christ should clothe this his human nature with that glory he has in heaven, and put this glory upon it, he should take it as clothed with all our infirmities, even the very same that does cleave unto us, and should live in this world, as we do, for many years. And during that time God prepared for him all sorts of afflictions and miseries to run through, which we ourselves do here meet with; and all that time he was acquainted with, and inured unto, all the like sorrows that we are; and God left him to that infirmity and tenderness of spirit, to take in all distresses as deeply as any of us (without sin), and to exercise the very same affections under all these distresses that we at any time do find stirring in our hearts. And this God thus ordered, on purpose thereby to fit him and to frame his heart, when he should be in glory, unto such affections as these spoken of in the text. And this both this text suggests to be God’s end in it, as also that fore-mentioned place, Hebrews 2:14, “Forasmuch as we,” namely, his members, “are partakers of flesh and blood,” which phrase does ever note out the frailties of man’s nature, as 1 Corinthians 15:50, “he himself took part of the same…that he might be a merciful high priest,” Hebrews 2:17. And then the apostle gives this reason for it, Hebrews 2:18, “For in that himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able”—this ability is, as was before interpreted, the having an heart fitted and enabled, out of experience, to pity—and “to succor them that are tempted.” The meaning of which is, that it is not the bare taking of a human nature, if glorious from the first, that would thus fully have fitted him to be affectionately pitiful out of experience, though, as was said, the knowledge of our miseries taken in thereby would have made him truly and really affectionate towards us, with affections human and proper to a man, and so much nearer and like ours than what are in the angels themselves, or than are attributed to God, when he is said to pity us; but further, his taking our nature at first clothed with frailties, and living in this world as we, this has forever fitted his heart by experience to be in our very hearts and bosoms; and not only or barely to know the distress, and as a man to be affected with a human affection to one of his kind, but experimentally remembering the like in himself once.

    And this likewise the text suggests as the way whereby our distresses are let into his heart the more feelingly, now he is in heaven. “We have not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” Hebrews 4:15. And the more to comfort us herein, observe how fully and universally the apostle speaks of Christ’s having been tempted here below. First, for the matter of them, or the several sorts of temptations, he says he was tempted ϰατα πάντα, “in all points,” or things of any kind, by which we are exercised. Secondly, for the manner; he adds that too, ϰαθὁμοιότητα, “like as we are.” His heart having been just so affected, so wounded, pierced, and distressed, in all such trials as ours use to be, only without sin, God, on purpose, left all his affections to their full tenderness, and quickness of sense of evil. So that Christ took to heart all that befell him as deeply as might be; he slighted no cross, either from God or men, but had and felt the utmost load of it. Yea, his heart was made more tender in all sorts of affections than any of ours, even as it was in love and pity; and this made him “a man of sorrows,” as in Isaiah 53:3, and that more than any other man was or shall be.

Now therefore, to explicate the way how our miseries are let into his heart, and come to stir up such kindly affections of pity and compassion in him, it is not hard to conceive from what has now been said, and from what the text does further hint unto us.

  • (1.) The understanding and knowledge of that human nature has notice and cognizance of all the occurrences that befall his members here. And for this the text is clear; for the apostle speaks this for our encouragement, that “Christ is touched with the feeling of our infirmities;” which could not be a relief unto us, if it supposed not this, that he particularly and distinctly knew them; and if not all as well as some, we should want relief in all, as not knowing which he knew, and which not. And the apostle affirms this of his human nature, as was said, for he speaks of that nature that was tempted here below. And therefore, “the Lamb that was slain,” and so “the man Christ Jesus” is, Revelation 5:6, said to have “seven eyes,” as well as “seven horns,” which seven eyes are “the seven spirits sent forth into all the earth.” His eyes of providence, through his anointing with the Holy Ghost, are in all corners of the world, and view all the things that are done under the sun. In like manner he is there said to have seven horns for power, as seven eyes for knowledge; and both are defined to be seven, to show the perfection of both, in their extent reaching unto all things. So that, as “all power in heaven and earth” is committed unto him as Son of man, as the Scripture speaks, (Matthew 28:18), so all knowledge is given him of all things done in heaven and earth, and this as Son of man too; his knowledge and power being of equal extent. He is the Sun as well in respect of knowledge as of righteousness, and there is nothing hid from his light and beams, which do pierce the darkest corners of the hearts of the sons of men. He knows the sores, as Solomon expresses it, and distresses of their hearts. Like as a looking-glass made into the form of a round globe, and hung in the midst of a room, takes in all the species of things done or that are therein at once, so does the enlarged understanding of Christ’s human nature take in the affairs of this world, which he is appointed to govern, especially the miseries of his members, and this at once.
  • (2.) His human nature thus knowing all—“I know thy works, thy labour, and thy patience,” Revelation 2:2—he together with that has an act of memory, and recalls how himself was once affected, and how distressed while on earth, under the same or the like miseries. For the memory of things here below remains still with him, as with all spirits in either of those two other worlds, heaven or hell. “Son, remember thou in thy lifetime received thy good things, and Lazarus evil,” says Abraham to the soul of Dives5 in hell, Luke 16:25. “Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” Luke 23:42, said the good thief to Christ. And in Revelation 1:18 “I am he,” says Christ, “that was dead, and am alive.” He remembers his death still and the sufferings of it; and as he remembers it, to put his Father in mind thereof, so he remembers it also, to affect his own heart with what we feel. And his memory presenting the impression of the like now afresh unto him, how it was once with him; hence he comes feelingly and experimentally to know how it is now with us, and so affects himself with that; as Dido6 in Virgil—Haud ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco.—Having experience of the like miseries, though a queen now, I know how to succor those that are therein.
    5The traditional name, “Dives”, is not actually a name, but instead a word for “rich man” in the text of the Latin Bible, the Vulgate.
    6Dido was, according to ancient Greek and Roman sources, the founder and first Queen of Carthage (in modern-day Tunisia). She is primarily known from the account given by the Roman poet Virgil in his Aeneid.
  • As God said to the Israelites when they should be possessed of Canaan their own land, Exodus 23:9, “Ye know the hearts of strangers, seeing ye were strangers,” and therefore does command them to pity strangers, and to use them well upon that motive, so may it be said of Christ, that he does know the hearts of his children in misery, seeing himself was once under the like. Or, as the apostle exhorts the Hebrews, “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them, and them that suffer adversity, as being yourselves in the body,” Hebrews 13:3, and so before you die, may come to suffer the like. So Christ, the head of the body, which is the fountain of all sense and feeling in the body, does remember them that are bound and in adversity, having himself been once in the body, and so he experimentally compassionates them. And this is a further thing than the former. We have gained this further, that Christ has not only such affections as are real and proper to a human nature, but such affections as are stirred up in him, from experience of the like by himself once tasted in a frail nature like unto ours and thus much for the way of letting in all our miseries into Christ’s heart now, so as to strike and affect it with them.

A more particular disquisition, what manner of affection this is; the seat thereof, whether in his spirit or soul only, or the whole human nature.—Some cautions added.

II. But concerning this affection itself of pity and compassion, fellow-feeling and sympathy, or suffering with (as the text calls it), which is the product, result, or thing produced in his heart by these, there still remains another thing more particularly to be inquired into, namely, what manner of affection this is; for that such an affection is stirred up in him, besides and beyond a bare act of knowledge or remembrance how once it was with himself, is evident by what we find in the text. The apostle says, not only that he remembers how himself was tempted with the like infirmities that we are, though that be necessarily supposed, but that he is struck and touched with the feeling of our infirmities; to the producing of which this act of remembrance does but sub-serve. And he tells us, Christ is able, and his heart is capable of thus being touched. And the word συμπαθῆσαιis a deep word, signifying to suffer with us until we are relieved. And this affection, thus stirred up, is it which moves him so cordially to help us.

Now, concerning this affection, as here thus expressed, how far it extends, and how deep it may reach, I think no man in this life can fathom. If cor regis, the heart of a king, be inscrutable, as Solomon speaks, the heart of the King of kings now in glory is much more. I will not take upon me to “intrude into things which I have not seen,” Colossians 2:18, but shall endeavor to speak safely, and therefore warily, so far as the light of Scripture and right reason shall warrant my way.

I shall set it forth three ways: 1. Negatively; 2. Positively; 3. Privatively.

1. Negatively. It is certain that this affection of sympathy or fellow-feeling in Christ is not in all things such a kind of affection as was in him in the days of his flesh, which is clear, by what the apostle speaks of him and of his affections then. Hebrews 5:7, “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong cryings and tears, was heard in that which he feared.” Where we see his converse and state of life here below, to be called by way of difference and distinction from what is now in heaven, “the days of his flesh:” by flesh, meaning not the substance of the human nature, for he retains that still, but the frail quality of subjection to mortality, or possibility.7So fleshis usually taken, as when all flesh is said to be grass; it is spoken of man’s nature, in respect to its being subject to a fading, wearing, and decay, by outward casualties, or inward passions. So in Hebrews 2:14, “Forasmuch as the children,” we his brethren, “did partake of flesh and blood,” that is, the frailties of man’s nature, “he himself also took part of the same.” And accordingly the apostle instances in the following words of Hebrews 2:14, as in death, which in the days of his flesh Christ was subject to, so also in such frail passions and affections as did work a suffering in him, and a wearing and wasting of his spirits; such as passionate sorrow, joined with strong cries and tears, both which he mentions, and also fear, in these words, “He was heard in that which he feared.” Now these days of his flesh being over and past, for this was only, as says the apostle, in the days of his flesh, hence therefore all such concomitant passionate overflowing of sorrow, fear, are ceased, and he is now no way capable of them, or subjected to them. Yet,
7Qu. “passibility”?-ED.

2. Positively. Why may it not be affirmed that for substance the same kind of affection of pity and compassion, that wrought in his whole man, both body and soul, when he was here, works still in him now he is in heaven? If this position be allayed with those due cautions and considerations which presently I shall annex. For, if for substance the same flesh and blood and animal spirits remain and have their use, for though Christ, in Luke 24:39, mentioned only his having flesh and bones after his resurrection, unto Thomas and the other disciples, because these two alone were to be the object of his touch and feeling; yet blood and spirits are included in that flesh, for it is caro vitalis, living flesh, and therefore has blood and spirits that flow and move in it; then why not the same affections also? And those not stirring only and merely in the soul, but working in the body also, unto which that soul is joined, and so remaining really human affections. The use of blood and spirits is, as to nourish (which end is now ceased) so to affect the heart and bowels by their motion to and fro, when the soul is affected. And why this use of them should not remain (and if not this, we can conceive no other) I know not. Neither why this affection should be only restrained to his spirit or soul, and his corporeal powers not be supposed to communicate and partake in them. That so as he is a true man, and the same man that he was, both in body as well as in soul, for else it had not been a true resurrection, so he has still the very same true human affections in them both; and such as whereof the body is the seat and instrument, as well as the soul. And seeing this whole man, both body and soul, was tempted, and that (as the text says) he is touched with a feeling in that nature which is tempted, it must therefore be in the whole man, both body and soul. Therefore, when as we read of the “wrath of the Lamb,” as Revelation 6:16, namely, against his enemies, as here of his pity and compassion towards his friends and members, why should this be attributed only to his deity, which is not capable of wrath, or to his soul and spirit only? And why may it not be thought he is truly angry as a man, in his whole man, and so with such a wrath as his body is affected with, as well as that he is wrathful in his soul only, seeing he has taken up our whole nature, on purpose to sub-serve his divine nature in all the executions of it?

But now, how far, in our apprehensions of this, we are to cut off the weakness and frailty of such affections as in the days of his flesh was in them, and how exactly to difference those which Christ had here and those which he has in heaven, therein lies the difficulty; and I can speak but little unto it.

  • Yet, first, this we may lay down as an undoubted maxim, that so far, or in what sense his body itself is made spiritual (as it is called, 1 Corinthians 15:44), so far, and in that sense, all such affections as thus working in his body are made spiritual, and that in an opposition to that fleshly and frail way of their working here. But then, as his body is made spiritual, not spirit (spiritual in respect of power, and likeness to a spirit, not in respect of substance or nature), so these affections of pity and compassion do work not only in his spirit or soul, but in his body too, as their seat and instrument, though in a more spiritual way of working, and more like to that of spirits, than those in a fleshly frail body are. They are not wholly spiritual in this sense, that the soul is the sole subject of them, and that it draws up all such workings into itself, so that that should be the difference between his affections now and in the days of his flesh.

    Men are not to conceive as if his body were turned into such a substance as the sun is of, for the soul, as through a case of glass, to shine gloriously in only; but further it is united to the soul, to be acted by it, though immediately, for the soul to produce operations in it. And it is called spiritual, not that it remains not a body, but because it remains not such a body, but is so framed to the soul that both itself and all the operations of all the powers in it are immediately and entirely at the arbitrary imperiumand dominion of the soul; and that as the soul is pleased to use it, and to sway it and move it, even as immediately and as nimbly, and without any clog or impediment, as an angel moves itself, or as the soul acts itself. So that this may perhaps be one difference, that these affections, so far as in the body of Christ, do not affect his soul, as here they did, though as then under the command of grace and reason, to keep their motions from being inordinate or sinful; but further, the soul being now too strong for them, does at its own arbitrement raise them, and as entirely and immediately stir them as it does itself.
  • Hence, secondly, these affections of pity and sympathy so stirred up by himself, though they move his bowels and affect his bodily heart as they did here, yet they do not afflict and perturb him in the least, nor become a burden and a load unto his Spirit, so as to make him sorrowful or heavy, as in this life here his pity unto Lazarus made him, and as his distresses at last, that made him sorrowful unto death. So that as in their rise so in their effect, they utterly differ from what they were here below. And the reason of this is, because his body, and the blood and spirits thereof, the instruments of affecting him, are now altogether impassible, namely, in this sense, that they are not capable of the least alteration tending to any hurt whatever. And so, his body is not subject to any grief, nor his spirits to any waste, decay, or expense. They may and do sub-serve the soul in its affections, as they did while he was here; but this merely by a local motion, moving to and fro in the veins and arteries, to affect the heart and bowels, without the least diminution or impair to themselves, or detriment to him. And thus it comes to pass, that though this blood and spirits do stir up the same affections in his heart and bowels which here they did, yet not as then, with the least perturbation in himself or inconvenience unto himself. But as in this life he was troubled and grieved “without sin” or inordinacy; so now when he is in heaven he pities and compassionates without the least mixture or tang of disquietment and perturbation, which yet necessarily accompanied his affections while he was here, because of the frailty in which his body and spirits were framed. His perfection destroys not his affections, but only corrects and amends the imperfection of them. Passiones perfectivas to be now in him, the best of schoolmen do acknowledge.
  • Thirdly, all natural affections that have not in them indecentiam status, something unbefitting that state and condition of glory wherein Christ now is, both schoolmen and other divines do acknowledge to be in him,
  • 7#8230;humanæ affectiones quæ naturales sunt, neque cum probro vel peccato conjunctæ, sed omni ex parte rationi subduntur; denique ab iis conditionibus liberantur quæ vel animo, vel corpori aliquo modo officiunt, beatis nequaquam repugnare censendæ sunt.

    Those affections which are natural to man, and have no adhesion of sin or shame unto them, but are wholly governed by reason, and lastly are exempt from such effects as may any way hurt either the soul or the body, there is no ground to think that such affections may not well stand with the state of souls in bliss, [says Justinian upon this place.]

  • Now if we consider it, Christ his very state in glory is such, as it becomes him to have such human affections of pity and compassion in his whole man, so far as to quicken and provoke, him to our help and succor: not such as to make him a man of sorrows in himself again (that were uncomely, nay, incompatible to him), but such as should make him a man of succors unto us, which is his office. To this end it is to be remembered that Christ in heaven is to be considered, not personally only as in himself made happy in his Father, but further in his relations and in his offices as a head unto us; and in that relation now he sits there, as Ephesians 1:21-22 (and the head is the seat of all the senses for the good of the body), and therefore most sensible of any other part. Wherefore because his members, unto whom he bears this relation, are still under sin and misery, therefore it is no way uncomely for him in that estate to have affections suitable to this his relation. If his state of glory had been wholly ordained for his own personal happiness, then indeed there had been no use of such affections to remain in him; but his relation to us being one part and ingredient of his glory, therefore they are most proper for him, yes, it were uncomely if he had them not. Neither are they a weakness in him, as so considered, but rather part of his strength, as the apostle calls them, δύναμιζ. And although such affections might in one respect be thought an imperfection, yet in another respect, namely, his relation to us and office for us, they are his perfection. As he is our head, which he is as he is a man, it is his glory to be truly and really, even as a man, sensible of all our miseries, yes, it were his imperfection if he were not.
  • And, fourthly, let me add this for our comfort, that though all such affections as are any way a burden to his spirit, or noxious to his body, be not now compatible to him; and though that passionate frailty and infirmity which did help him here to pity and relieve men in misery, out of a suffering hurtful to himself; though these he cut off, yet in those workings of affections and bowels which he has now, which for substance are the same, there is, instead of that passionate frailty, a greater capaciousness, vastness, and also quickness in his affections now in heaven, so to make up a compensation, and so no less effectually to stir and quicken him to relieve us, than those former affections did. For it is certain that as his knowledge was enlarged upon his entering into glory, so his human affections of love and pity are enlarged in solidity, strength, and reality, as true conjugal love used to be, though more passionate haply at first. They are not less now, but are only made more spiritual. And as Solomon’s heart was as large in bounty and royalty as in knowledge, so Christ’s affections of love are as large as his knowledge or his power. They are all of a like extent and measure. So far as God’s intention to show mercy does reach (and who knows the end of those riches?) so far does Christ’s disposition to bestow it. Ephesians 3:19, “The love of Christ,” God-man, “passeth knowledge.” It has not lost or been diminished by his going to heaven. Though God in his naturebe more merciful than Christ’s human nature, yet the actand exercise of Christ’s affections is as large as God’s purposes and decrees of mercy are. And all those large affections and mercies are become human mercies, the mercies of a man unto men.

3. Privatively. If these affections of Christ’s heart be not suffering and afflicting affections, yet we may, by way of privation, express this of them, that there is a less fullness of joy and comfort in Christ’s heart, while he sees us in misery and under infirmities, comparatively to what will be when we are presented to him free of them all.

To clear this I must recall, and I shall but recall, that distinction I made (in the fourth demonstration, section 2, part II.) of a double capacity of glory, or a double fullness of joy which Christ is ordained to have: the one natural and so due unto his person as in himself alone considered; the other additional, and arising from the completed happiness and glory of his whole church, by which mystically he is one. So in Ephesians 1:23, although he by reason of his personal fullness is there said to “fill all in all,” yet as he is an head in relation to his church as his body, as in the verses before he is spoken of, thus the perfection of this his body’s beatitude, it is reciprocally called his fullness; and therefore until he has filled them with all happiness and delivered them from all misery, himself remains under some kind of imperfection and answerably his affections also, which are suited to this his relation, have some want of imperfection in them, while they lie under misery, in comparison of what his heart shall have when they receive this fullness.

We may warrantably say Christ shall be more glad then, and is now, as his children are grown up from under their infirmities, and as they do become more obedient and comfortable in their spirits, so John 15:10-11. I shall add some illustration to this by this similitude (which though it hold not in all things, yet it will hold forth some shadow of it). The spirits of just men departed are said to be perfect, Hebrews 12, yet because they have bodies unto which they have a relation, and unto which they are ordained to be united, they in this respect may be said to be imperfect, till these bodies be reunited and glorified with them, which will add a further fullness to them. Thus in some analogy it stands between Christ personally and Christ mystically considered. Although Christ in his own person be complete in happiness, yet in relation to his members he is imperfect, and so accordingly has affections suited unto this his relation, which is no derogation from him at all. The Scripture therefore attributes some affections to him which have an imperfection joined with them, and those to be in him until the day of judgment. Thus expectation and desire, which are but imperfect affections in comparison to that joy which is in the full fruition of what was expected or desired, are attributed to him, as he is man, until the day of judgment.

Thus, Hebrews 10:12-13, he is said to sit in heaven, “expecting till his enemies be made his footstool;” the destruction of which enemies will add to the manifestive glory of his kingdom. Now, as that will add to the fullness of his greatness, so the complete salvation of his members will add to the completeness of his glory. And as the expectation of his enemies’ ruin may be said to be an imperfect affection, in comparison of the triumph that one day he shall have over them, so his joy which he now has in his spouse is but imperfect, in comparison of that which shall fill his heart at the great day of marriage. And accordingly, the Scripture calls the accomplishment of these his desires a satisfaction; so Isaiah 53:11, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and he satisfied,” which argues desires to be in him, lying under a want of something in the end to be obtained. Only we must take in this further, that Jesus Christ indeed knows and sees the very time when this his fullness, through the exaltation of his members up to himself, shall be completed, and when he shall trample upon the necks of all his and their enemies; he sees their day coming, as the Psalmist has it, which alleviates and detracts something from this imperfection, that he should thus expect or tarry.

This scruple satisfied, how his heart can be feelingly touched with our sins (our greatest infirmities), seeing he was tempted without sin.

III. There remains one great dissatisfaction to be removed, which cannot but of itself arise in every good heart. You told us, may they say, that by infirmitiessins were meant, and that the apostle’s scope was to encourage us against them also; and they are indeed the greatest discomforts and discouragements of all other. Now, against them this which the apostle here speaks affords us but little, seeing Christ knows not how experimentally to pity us therein, for “he knew no sin.” Yes, the apostle himself does here except it, “He was tempted in all things, yet without sin” Hebrews 4:15. It may comfort us, indeed, that Christ does and will pity us in all other infirmities, because he himself was subject to the like, but he never knew what it was to be under sin and vexed with lust, as I am. And how shall I relieve myself against that by what the apostle here speaks of him? I shall endeavor to give some satisfaction and relief in this by these following considerations.

  • First, the apostle puts it, indeed, that “he was tempted, yet without sin.” And it was well for us that he was thus without sin, for he had not been a fit priest to have saved us else. So Hebrews 7:26, “Such an High Priest became us as was separate from sinners, innocent.” Yet for your further relief, consider that he came as near in that point as might be. “He was tempted in all things,” so says the text, though “without sin” on his part; yet tempted to all sin so far as to be afflicted in those temptations, and to see the misery of those that are tempted, and to know how to pity them in all such temptations. Even as in taking our nature in his birth he came as near as could be, without being tainted with original sin, as, namely, by taking the very same matter to have his body made of that all ours are made of, so in the point of actual sin also, he suffered himself to be tempted as far as might be, so as to keep himself pure. He suffered all experiments to be tried upon him by Satan, even as a man who has taken a strong antidote suffers conclusions to be tried on him by a mountebank. And, indeed, because he was thus tempted by Satan unto sin, therefore it is on purpose added, “yet without sin;” and it is as if he had said sin never stained him, though he was outwardly tempted to it. He was tempted to all sorts of sins by Satan, for those three temptations in the wilderness were the heads of all sorts of temptations, as interpreters upon the gospels do show.
  • Then, secondly, to fit him to pity us in case of sin, he was vexed with the filth and power of sin in others whom he conversed with, more than any of us with sin in ourselves. His “righteous soul was vexed” with it, as Lot’s righteous soul is said to have been with the impure conversation of the Sodomites. He “endured the contradiction of sinners against himself,” Hebrews 12:3. “The reproaches of them that reproached thee,” that is, upon his God, “fell upon me,” Romans 15:3. It was spoken by the Psalmist of Christ, and so is quoted of him by the apostle; that is, every sin went to his heart. So as in this there is but this difference betwixt him and us, that the regenerate part in us is vexed with sin in ourselves, and that as our own sin, but his heart with sin in others only, yet so as his vexation was the greater by how much his soul was more righteous than ours, which makes it up. Yes, in that he sustained the persons of the elect, the sins which he saw them commit troubled him as if they had been his own. The word here translated temptedis read by some πεπειραμένον, that is, vexed.
  • Yea and thirdly, to help this also, it may be said of Christ while he was here below that in the same sense or manner wherein he “bore our sickness,” Matthew 8:17, who yet was never personally tainted with any disease, in the same sense or manner he may be said to have borne our sins. Namely, thus Christ, when he came to an elect child of his that was sick, whom he healed, his manner was first by a sympathy and pity to afflict himself with their sickness, as if it had been his own. Thus at his raising of Lazarus, it is said that he “groaned in spirit,” and so by the merit of taking the disease upon himself, through a fellow-feeling of it, he took it off from them, being for them afflicted, as if he himself had been sick. And this seems to be the best interpretation that I have met with of that difficult place in Matthew 8:16-17, where it is said, “he healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sickness.’” Now, in the like way or manner unto this, of bearing our sicknesses, he might bear our sins too; for he being one with us, and to answer for all our sins, therefore when he saw any of his own to sin, he was affected with it, as if it had been his own. And thus is that about the power of sin made up and satisfied.
  • And fourthly, as for the guilt of sin and the temptations from it, he knows more of that than any one of us. He tasted the bitterness of that, in the imputation of it, more deeply than we can, and of the cup of his Father’s wrath for it, and so is able experimentally to pity a heart wounded with it, and struggling under such temptations. He knows full well the heart of one in his own sense forsaken by God, seeing himself felt it when he cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46.

Uses of all.

Use 1. Thus that which has been said may afford us the strongest consolations and encouragements against our sins of any other consideration whatsoever, and may give us the greatest assurance of their being removed off from us that may be for:

  • First, Christ himself suffers (as it were), at least is affected under them, as his enemies, which therefore he will be sure to remove for his own quiet sake. His heart would not be quiet, but that he knows they shall be removed. As God says in the prophet, so may Christ say much more, “My bowels are troubled for him, I remember him still,” Jeremiah 31:20.
  • Secondly, there is comfort concerning such infirmities, in that your very sins move him to pity more than to anger. This text is plain for it, for he suffers with us under our infirmities, and by infirmities are meant sins, as well as other miseries, as was proved. While therefore you look on them as infirmities, as God here looks upon them and speaks of them in his own, and as your disease, and complain to Christ of them, and do cry out, “O miserable man that I am, who shall deliver me?” Romans 7:24. So, fear not long. Christ takes part with you, and is so far from being provoked against you, as all his anger is turned upon your sin to ruin it. Yes, his pity is increased the more towards you, even as the heart of a father is to a child that has some loathsome disease, or as one is to a member of his body that has the leprosy, he hates not the member, for it is his flesh, but the disease, and that provokes him to pity the part affected the more. What shall not make for us, when our sins which are both against Christ and us, shall be turned as motives to him to pity us the more? The object of pity is one in misery whom we love; and the greater the misery is, the more is the pity when the party is beloved. Now of all miseries, sin is the greatest and while yourselves look at it as such, Christ will look upon it as such only also in you. And he, loving your persons, and hating only the sin, his hatred shall all fall and that only upon the sin, to free you of it by its ruin and destruction, but his bowels shall be the more drawn out to you; and this as much when you lie under sin as under any other affliction. Therefore fear not, “What shall separate us from Christ’s love?” Romans 8:35.

Use 2. Whatever trial, or temptation, or misery we are under, we may comfort ourselves with this that Christ was once under the same, or some one like unto it, which may comfort us in these three differing respects that follow, by considering:

  • First, that we are thereby but conformed to his example, for he was tempted in all, and this may be no small comfort to us.
  • Secondly, we may look to that particular instance of Christ’s being under the like, as a meriting cause to procure and purchase succor for us under the same now; and so in that respect may yet further comfort ourselves. And,
  • Thirdly, his having once borne the like, may relieve us in this, that therefore he experimentally knows the misery and distress of such a condition, and so is yet further moved and quickened thereby to help us.

Use 3. As the doctrine delivered is a comfort, so the greatest motive against sin and persuasive unto obedience, to consider that Christ’s heart, if it be not afflicted with—and how far it may suffer with us we know not—yet for certain has less joy in us, as we are more or less sinful, or obedient. You know not by sin what blows you give the heart of Christ. If no more but that his joy is the less in you, it should move you, as it used to do those that are ingenuous. And take this as one incentive to obedience, that if he retained the same heart and mind for mercy towards you which he had here on earth, then to answer his love, endeavor to have the same heart towards him on earth which you hope to have in heaven; and as you daily pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10.

Use 4. In all miseries and distresses you may be sure to know where to have a friend to help and pity you, even in heaven, Christ; one whose nature, office, interest, relation, all, do engage him to your succor. You will find men, even friends, to be oftentimes unto you unreasonable, and their bowels in many cases shut up towards you. Well, say to them all, if you will not pity me, choose, I know one that will, one in heaven, whose heart is touched with the feeling of all my infirmities, and I will go and bemoan myself to him. Come boldly (says the text), μετὰ παῤῥησίας, even with open mouth, to lay open your complaints, and you shall find grace and mercy to help in time of need. Men love to see themselves pitied by friends, though they cannot help them; Christ can and will do both.

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The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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