William Guthrie -


MATTH. xv. 23.—" Send her away, for she cryeth after us."

We heard a part of the entertainment this poor woman got in her address to Christ, (in some former discourse) - he answered her not a word; a small encouragement, and certainly she might expect the less of all the company since his heart seems to be from her. Our Lord Jesus Christ will sometimes give cold entertainment to the importunate desires of his people, even when he intends to give them a gracious answer at length.
In the words ye have the next part of the entertainment she met with at the hands of the disciples; they seemed to bear some burden with her, but they come not up in their sympathie; all their sympathie is this, "Send her away, for she cryeth after us:" they entreated him either to give her ane alms or ane answer, and let her be going; they ought to have born burden with her in her affliction, but this is all, Give her something, or let her go, for readily they thought with themselves it would be their prejudice if she should cry on, for Christ resolved to be quiet in this place, and they ran a risk and hazard if she by her crying should discover them. There was also a desire of ease in them; they ought not abide to be troubled or fashed with any thing, and it seems she, by her crying, tangled them in their march, and they did not remember that such errands as she had was the main work they should wait on. Such reasons as these, apprehension of hazard and love of ease, always militate against sympathie, and marr it exceedingly.
1. That they press Christ to send her away - observe, that the people of God are many times but cold and weak sympathizers with others in trouble, when the trouble is not at their own door. Of whom could sympathie have been expected if not from the disciples, who were the best folk in the world? And yet so little burden do they bear with this poor woman, that they bid Christ send her away, as one that troubled them. They were slain indeed with her crying: little remembered they that the devil was troubling her daughter, or regarded her fra they were heal of lith and limb themselves. So it was, (Matth. xx. 31,) when two blind men cryed on Christ, the multitude rebuked them, and bade them hold their peace.
In following out this doctrine, first, I shall show what true and kindly sympathie with suffering folks is. 2dly, What be these things that obliges to this dutie of sympathie. 3dly, What be the grounds or reasons why many a time the people of God sympathise so little with others of his people, that are under suffering: for other things more inconsiderable, we may take them in the use.
1st, What is this we call sympathie? Sympathie is a fellow-feeling, or burden-bearing with others in their trouble, or as the word signifies, it is a consuffering with them that suffer, and it is a thing best known by the effects hinted at here and there in Scripture, some few whereof we shall shortly point at.
1st, Wherever sympathie is with others in their affliction, there will be a remembering, a keeping in mind, and not a forgeting of their trouble and affliction, a keeping of it in folks thoughts; if I be a sympathizer, I must be a consufferer: this far the people of God under the captivity of Babylon express their sympathie, (Psal. cxxxvii. 5,) "If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning ;" let me never play a right chop all my dayes; and it's commanded, (Heb. xiii. 3,) "Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them ;" have mind of their condition; but it's better exprest then either in the command or practise of the saints, in our Lord Jesus his own practise, (Isa. xlix. 1 5,) "A woman may forget her sucking child, but I will not forget thee; thou art engraven upon the palms of my hands, thy walls are continually before me." That is the kindliest sympathie that is in God s heart.
2dly, True sympathie, as it does not forget the trouble of others of God's people, so the remembrance of it will make void many of our contentments and enjoyments, and proves a moth in them, in so far as they are not extended to the full rate; that is true sympathie which abridges even our lawful libertie and forbids the puting of them to the full rate or use that we might take of them at some other time: So it was with the Lord s peoples (Psal. cxxxvii. 5.) They would not play; they dought not play as formerly, there was a sympathie at their heart: and Amos vi. 3 - 6, it's charged on that people that they lay on beds of ivory, eat the lambs, chanted to the viol, invented instruments of musick, drank their wine in bowls, and were not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. They might eat the fat and drink the sweet, but it was another case now when the Church was in trouble; sympathie forbade them the full rate of libertie in their enjoyments they might have made use of at another time. They are not kindly sympathizers with Zion in affliction, that extend their liberties to a full rate, are as joyfull, ranting and roveing, singing and playing, as if all things were going well. Wo to them that are at ease this way, there is no sympathie there.
3dly, Sympathie hath in it a grieving, a being pained, as if the sorrow of others were our own; and this better answers the word then any other, and the want of this is it which is desiderat, (Amos vi. 6,) "They are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph," and it's that that is commanded, (Heb. xiii. 3,) "Remember them that in bonds, as being bound with them." If ye were in prisons as they are, if ye had the irons knit to your heels as they have, ye would have pain said labour; yea, so to be affected with their condition; and (Isa. lxiii. 9) it is best exprest by the Lord himself; "in all their afflictions he was afflicted." It's true he is not in pain as we are, but he really resents our wrongs, and sympathises with us in our trouble.
4thly, Sympathie hath in it serious prayer to God, for hasting the delivery of them that are in trouble. That was it that might have been expected of the disciples; that they might have used their prayer with Christ for help to the poor woman: and Psal. cii. is instituted a prayer for the afflicted when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint befor the Lord; and yet ye will find a great lift of Zion's case taken on here. Sympathie calls to wrestle with God for these in affliction, when we can do no more. That was kindly sympathie in Christ called "the man among the mirtle trees," (Zech. i. 12,) while he cried, "0 Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercie upon Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou last had indignation these threescore and ten years?~ Kindly sympathie makes him kindly interpose.
5thly, Sympathie hath with it a readiness not only to interpose by prayer, but also anie other way, that God shall call to, and which may contribute for the help and relief of the partie troubled, (Cant. viii. 8,) "What shall we do for our sister in the day that she shall be spoken for ?" Sympathie carries ay alongst with it, What shall we do for the people of God in affliction? a readiness to do any thing lawfull, which may contribute for their freedom. And it is but a scorn for them to speak of sympathie that is not ready to caith it in doing. A tender sympathiseing heart hath a liberal and ready hand; that was a token of sympathie in Esther, chap. iv. 16, "I will go in to the king, tb it be contrary to the law: and if I perish, I perish." I will hazard my neck for the people of God in trouble: betide my life, betide my dead, I will venture for them in this their strait.
6thly, Sympathie hath with it a true sadness of countenance, flowing from inward sadness of heart, because no occasion does offer itself that does promise relief to the partie afflicted, and that ay and while God offer some outgate for this. In Neh. chap. ii. 2, compared with chap. i. 4, while he stood before the king, his sadness and sorrow of heart slew it self in his countenance, and the king said, "Why is thy countenance so sad, seeing thou art not sick?" He answered, "Why should I not be sad, when the place of my fathers sepulchers lys waste ?" because those kings used to think most of their fathers sepulchers; but the great cause was the report that was brought unto him of the great affliction wherein God's people were; there was such grief for that at his heart, that his countenance slew it came from the bone: sympathie casts the sympathizer in the mould wherein the afflicted partie is. To apply this,
1. In what cases is sympathie a dutie? I answer, sympathie is not a dutie in every case, and to every parti or person; for,
1. We are not called to sympathise with the devils, they are not to be pitied; neither,
2. Are we to sympathise with the desperat enemies of God, when the vengeance of God lights on them, tho there be that much naturalty in us to pity both, yet we will get no thanks for it from God: for it's both a promise and a prophesie, that the righteous shall rejoyce when he sees the vengence, and shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked, (Psal. lviii. 10.) In what cases then is sympathie a dutie? I answer, it is a duty in these cases,
1. When multitudes of people are perishing for want of the knowledge of God - that s a kindly case of sympathie. (Rom. 9:2) When the Jews were perishing, and would not receive the gospel, sympathie rose in the apostle Paul to as great a height as ever it was in a sinful man, which made him say, "I have continual sorrow and heaviness in my heart, and could wish I were accursed for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." So we may see it in Christ, when the people were standing white befor him, and there were none to stryken and cutt down the harvest, (Matth. ix. 36, 37;) wherefore it s said, "He had compassion on them, because they fainted as sheep without a shepherd."
2. Another case is, - the personal sufferings of God's people, either inward in soul exercise or else, outward and bodily trouble on their person, name, goods, or interests; wherefor, (Job ii. 11,)" When Job's three friends heard of the evil that was come upon him, they made ane appointment, and caine together to murn with him, and to comfort him."
3dly, A third, and the great case is, the sufferings of the Church of God. When it fairs ill with Zion, that's the case in all the world that we are most oblidged to sympathise in, and in which the saints have ever been most in sympathising; and these being the cases wherein we are called to sympathise, if ye consider them, ye will find this is the season, if any of these cases call for sympathie, much more when they all concurr in our condition, as after we may hear. But,
2dly, Ye would know that there are degrees of sympathie according as the case requires; some cases require more sympathie, some cases require less sympathie, and sometimes the saints have engrossed one degree of it, sometimes another; but when all the three cases runs together, and when they are together in such a height, sympathie in all the steps we named befor is called for, and to want sympathie at such a time, and in such a concurrence of cases, speaks out a bad condition. And,
3dly, You would know that every time is not fitt for all expressions of sympathie, for to vent sympathie in all its effects; sympathie hath its own times and places for the expressions of it; as for instance, sympathie requires that I should look sad from a heart inwardly affected, but when I meet with a profain lown that's blaith to hear of the trouble of God's people, it were a sin to look sad and not my duty, for in so doing, I should make his heart glad which God would have made sad; and, therefor, at such a time, I am to evidence that I believe that God is the light of the countenance of his people, and to bod well, and to look out blyth; for as sympathie hath its degrees and measures as the case calls for, and every case calls me not to be dead to my injoyments, so wisdom is to dwell with prudence, and order sympathie in the expressions and venting of it.
The second thing I proposed to be spoken to is, What be these bonds that do oblidge and ty us to this sympathie, as the case requires?
1. There is the command of God, (Rom. xii. 15,) "Rejoyce with them that do rejoyce, and weep with them that weep." (Heb. xiii. 3,) "Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them ;" that's ane obligation lying on all.
2dly, There is a likeness to God as in other things, so in this, which we are bound to study - God hath much sympathie. In all his people's afflictions he is afflicted, (Isa. lxiii. 9.) His soul was grieved for the miserie of Israel, (Judges x. 16;) he pities the righteous and the unrighteous, and we are bound to study to be like him in that.
3dly, The communion of saints is a great tye and obligation; we have all one common profession, interest, stockpurse; we sail all in one bottom, we have all one head and husband, all are members of one body, and may not all these amount to ane obligation to syinpathie?
4thly, There is the expectation of help in our own trouble that should engadge us: if we do not sympathize with others in their trouble, how can we expect that others shall sympathise with us in ours? for with the same measure we mett to others, it shall be measured to us again.
The third thing I proposed was this, Why are the people of God so litle in this deutie of sympathie? what can be the reasons of it? I answer,
1. Self-love is one of the greatest causes of it. Self-love makes folk forget all other bodies trouble if it be well with themselves. The disciples were at this time well themselves, and had neither sore limb nor lith, and forgot the poor woman and the trouble her daughter was under, and this was it that made them say, "It is good for us to be here: let us build tabernacles;" and they had no mind of the poor folk that were doun in the valey, nor of the world about, that were dying in ignorance. Readily ye will find that there is litle syinpathie where there is much self-love; and where there is much self-denyal there is much sympathie.
2. Another cause is, litle love to Christ: for except we take the people as bearing his image, and on that ground love them, we will not sympathise with them; and where there is no love to Christ there is no sympathie.
3. Folks even forget what they have been, and what they may be, and that hinders sympathie; hence is that exhortation, (Heb. xlii. 3,) "Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them that are in adversity, as being yourselves in the body;" as if he said, sympathise with others in their trouble, for ye wot not what may overtake yourselves ere all the play be played: ye would remember what ye have been, and may be, and do as ye would be done to; otherwise, forgetting of that will marr your sympathie.
4. The Lord suffers it to be so, that the vast difference that is betwixt the large heart of Christ in sympathie, and the narrow parts of his people, may appear, and be the more conspicuous; he is much afflicted in all the afflictions of his people, when we are litle afflicted in all their afflictions; therefor is there so litle sympathie among us.
Use 1. From what hath been said, know that this is the true season and time of your sympathie. How so? Because (as we hinted before) all the three cases wherein sympathie is called for, concurs in our present condition.
1. The world is like to be drouned in the ignorance of God; not only those parts of the world where the light never was, but many parts where it was have darkness instead of divination.
2. Many of the precious people of God are under personal sufferings.
3. The precious interests of Christ are trampled and trode upon, and the Church of God at a great loss in all her priviledges and injoyments; and if this be our case, then certainly God calleth for sympathie; and, therefore, a word or two to great or small, gentle and semple, rich and poor, young and old of you, that are not about this dutie, are not plying sympathie with the Church, and suffering people of God: whoever ye be, ye have more nor reason to doubt whether ye are of the body whereof Christ is the head; and here I make another use of that place, Heb. xiii. 3, "Remember them that are in bonds, as hound with them; and these that are in adversitie, as being yourselves in the body;" mind this duty of sympathie, else it's ane argument ye are not in the body, as the minding of it is ane argument ye are of the body. If ye mind it not, ye have a great objection against your interest in Christ, and your being members of his body. I confess there are degrees of sympathie, and one may have it in one degree and not in another; but if ye be not pointing, studying, and bending to be at it, ye whose exercise it is not to be at sympathie, ye have more nor reason to suspect that ye are not of the body.
2. Ye that are not about this duty, ye have more nor reason to expect some sad stroak from the hand of God, that sayes this much to you, that ye shall go captive with the first of them that go into captivitie, as it is threatened against them that were at ease in Zion, and remembered not the affliction of Joseph, (Amos vi. 7.) Ye that will rant and rove, drink and be merry, laugh and mock, and take your sport and pleasure, as if nothing but halchion dayes were to be expected, ye have reason to fear some heavie stroakes.
3. Whenever the stroak comes, resolve to bear it your alone; none shall be to bear it with yow. God hath said it, "What measure yow met to others, it shall be measured to yow again ;" because ye sympathized not with others, none shall be to sympathize with yow; ye shall ly under your burden alone, and never body shall be to help yow.
Use 2. It serves to sett all of yow on work to try yourselves whether or not ye have this sympathie. How shall ye know? Ye will know it by what I have spoken of sympathie and the effects of it.
1. Do ye mind the sufferings God's work and people are under? Yes, that ye do; but it's only when ye spear news. Alace! that is no true token of sympathie. If the chain that is on others were hanging about your neck, ye would mind it oftner, and in another manner.
2. How do ye use your liberties and injoyments? Can ye now use them at the fall rate? Can ye rant, and dance, and sing, and play as cheerfully? Can ye eat and drink as liberally? Can ye swagger it out in your apparel and other things as prodigally, as no distress were upon the Church? That tells ye are void of sympathie, that the plague of God is lying on yow, and that the woe is at your door.
3dly, Are ye pained and grieved for the afflictions of God's people? How many are there of yow that dar not, for your souls, say that ever it was your pain and grief all the dool and woe that hath come, or is coming, on the Church and people of God? Therefor, ye have no sympathie, and the plague of God is upon yow; and,
4thly, I need not speak of prayer to yow, nor of the fifth effect, which is being in a readiness to do for the releif of the Church and people of God, although ye will be ready to say that ye will be content to ware your person and estate in the cause; ye lie; ye will never do grace to God's people, nor his work, if ye mend not your manners.
Use 3. Is it so that sympathie is so cold and weak among God's people at this time, when so much of it is called for? Then I would have yow drawing these three conclusions from it.
1. When anything ails yow, pray much for yourself; I assure yow ye will get litle help of others.
2. As yow would lippen litle to other folks prayers, so ye would make meilde use of Christ's intercession. These prayers are litle worth that flow not from sympathie; and,
3. Reckon all your receipts to be free favour, and neither the return of your own or other folks prayers. I do not forbid yow to pray yourself; nor to seek the help of other folks prayers, nor do I judge yow or them void of sympathie, but I would have yow lippening less to them, and making more use of Christ and his intercession.
Use 4. Is to regrate that in a season of sympathie, when so many things concur to call for it, there should be so litle sympathie; sure there was never a time which called for more sympathie. And how lamentable is it there should be so litle of it! And to the end ye may see how far ye are in the wrong, I shall shortly point at a few things that will both clear the grounds of sympathie, and will aggrege this sin of the want of sympathie.
1. They are the best of the people of God, and the best places in all the world, that are suffering, and so are the object of your sympathie. The places that are now suffering were the places in the world where God was most honoured, where he had most precious servants and people, and this day these places are lying desolate and waste, and many oppressed in their consciences, bodies, and estates; the shepherds are smitten, and the flocks scattered.
2. The sufferings of these are sufferings wherein the head suffers; they are such sufferings as in elude the ruine and overthrow of his ordinances, or interest and kingdom, so that the sufferings that are the object of your sympathie are not personal only, though that would oblidge yow to sympathie, but such as reach also the head, and all his precious interests; and, therefor, undutiefull are we that have no more fellow-feeling and sympathie.
3. Consider that the sufferings that others are under are such as threaten to be our sufferings, and which will very quickly be at our door ere it be long; and if we have no sympathie in such a case, do ye imagine that ever ye shall have sympathie in your time?
4. Consider that for this very end, that we might sympathise with others, God has forborn us; and is there not reason, then, that we should interpose and sympathise with the suffering saints and people of God? May I not say as Mordecai said to Esther, "Who knows but thou art come to the kingdom at this time foi this very end ?" so who knows but we are spared for this very end, that we might interpose and sympathize with others?
5. Consider that besides all the obligations and tyes that lye upon yow to sympathize with others, there is one supervenient tye and obligation, and that is the solemn obligation and oath of God in the Covenant. Did we not swear to the Lord in that Covenant that we should never give ourselves over to a detestable indifferency and neutrality in the cause, but that the case of one should be the case of all? And when we think on these things, alace, how deeply are all of us involved in perjury! They have been headed and hanged that were dear to God, and we never troubled our head nor our heart with it more than our heel. How many are suffering this day in these nations, and how litle does it touch our heart? God knows if the case of one be the case of all here; and whether or not this looks like indifferency and neutrality.
6. I shall only add this one thing further to provoke us to the study of sympathie: The longer and further we are from sympathie, the nearer we are unto complyance; and I know we shall all comply ere it be long, and then there will be no sympathie at all: for as complyence comes in, sympathie will go out; yea, as thou complys, thou shall be plagued of God with the want of sympathie; and, 0! what a great discouragement is it to the people of God, and how ready to make them dispond under suffering, to find others void of sympathie with them. It was a sore tryall to this poor woman, and a special piece of discouragement she met with when the disciples bade send her away; and had not the mightie hand of God supported her she had succumbed under it. And so must it be to others of his people in trouble to know that others in ease lay it not to heart. Therefor, let the consideration of all these things put yow to study more the duty of sympathie with the work and people of God, as ye would have ground to expect others to sympathize and bear burden with yow in your trouble.

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