A ■WOUNDED SPIRIT.
Prov. xviii. 14.—"A wounded spirit who can bear?"
A WOUNDED SPIRIT:—we inquire naturally what it is; what causes produce it; what makes it difficult to bear it; and what, if any, are the remedies for it. To these four points your attention will now be directed.
I. What is meant hy a wounded spirit? A few words only will be necessary to explain this to those who have not experienced it, if there are any such ; to those who have, no explanation is necessary. We are so made that we are capable of experiencing two kinds of pain—that of the body, and that of the mind, the soul, the heart. With the former we are more conversant, not perhaps because there are more sufferers, but because the symptoms are more apparent; the sufferer is more willing that the disease should be known ; the remedy is more easily applied. These sufferings lay the foundation for the skill of the physician, who professes to have little to do with the mind, and who in fact refers to this much less frequently than the perfection of his own art would require. The pains of the body and the soul are distinct in their origin and their nature; they differ in their symptoms, and they differ as much in their remedies. It is true that such is the intimate connexion between the body and the soul—the one often travels over into the department of the other, and the sorrows of the mind prostrate the powers of the body; or a diseased nervous system makes a war of desolation on the healthful operations of the soul; but still these diseases and remedies pertain to different departments of our nature, and are designed to be distinct expressions of the Divine displeasure against the crime of the apostacy.
I am concerned now, as Christian ministers mainly are, with the latter—the disease of the mind. I have no concern with the former—the diseases of the body—except to suggest considerations which will teach submission when they come upon us; to show why they are sent upon men; and except so far as the influence of the gospel may keep from the vices that engender disease, and which lead to pain and death. When we speak of a wounded spirit, and especially as contrasted, as it is in our text, with " infirmity,"—" the spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear ?"—we refer to the sickness of the heart; the disease of the soul; the anguish which mind can be made to suffer; the mental derangements, the sorrows resulting from disappointments, and losses, and chagrin, and remorse, and the numerous kindred woes to which the soul is subject.
Between these sufferings and those of the body, we may remark the following points of difference as" more clearly illustrating their nature. (1.) Much of the suffering of a wounded spirit is almost unavoidably concealed. It lies deep in the soul, while a disease of the body may be so apparent in a prostrate frame, in a sunken eye, in pallid features, or in the flush of fever, that it cannot be hidden. God has given to the soul no such certain indications of the existence of its diseases as he has to the body. The body may be healthful, and everything may indicate the appearance of a man sound in body and in soul, even when the mind is in anguish. (2.) Much of the pain and anguish of the soul is concealed of design. We would not have all the world know what we suffer in the soul, or all the pain that the heart feels. What we feel from disappointed affection or ambition ; from abortive plans and frustrated hopes; from chagrin, neglect, and slander; and especially what we feel from recollected guilt, we would not have the world at large know, and there is much of that which we suffer in regard to which we do not choose to invite the sympathy of a friend. We should have a strong reluctance, it may be, to let our most intimate friends know how much we suffer by being slandered, and what is the actual pain we experience when a rival has been more successful than we have. We feel that our own self-respect is involved in not appearing even to our friends to suffer, and in bearing up under such trials as though they produced no effect on us. It is not so with the pain of the body. We feel that there is no disgrace in the headache, in the pain of pleurisy, or in the hectic on the cheek, or in a raging fever; but that such sufferings rather have a claim to sympathy, and we are willing that they should be known. (3.) A third remark is, that the sufferings of the soul often force themselves upon the body, and prostrate its powers, and reveal themselves when we have sought to conceal them. The eye not sufficiently disciplined in guilt will betray him who has done wrong. Or the bloom of beauty leaves the cheek, and the youth pines away apparently without disease, and dies as the result of a wounded spirit. Or the anguish of disappointment■, and chagrin, and guilt, become too great to bear; and the sanguinary deed of a moment shows that the fires had long raged within, and that the wounded spirit could no longer be endured, and the sufferer rushes to evil that he " knows not of."
These remarks are, I trust, all that is needful to explain what is meant by a wounded spirit, in order to prepare the way for what I have yet to say. The amount of what I have said is, that the sorrows of a wounded spirit are such as result from disappointment, ingratitude, losses, slander, chagrin, and remorse ; from things which go to make the mind sad and prostrate, or to overwhelm it with the recollections of guilt.
II. I proceed, in the second place, to state more particularly the causes of this—the things which operate to produce a icounded spirit. Probably the idea of Wrong done to us, or of our having done wrong to others, is always connected with the■sorrow of a wounded spirit ; or the essential cause of it ia wrong that has been in some way perpetrated, and that is leaving its bitter results on the soul. But this idea operates most subtilly, and we often allow ourselves to be influenced as if wrong had been done when none such existed, or was intended. A rival outsteps us, and we feel as if he had done us wrong; or as if the community had, by bestowing honours on him which we sought for ourselves. We are disappointed in business ; we fail in our plans and expectations; our fields are blasted, or our vessel sinks in the deep, and we allow ourselves almost to feel as if the floods and streams and waves had conspired against us to do us wrong, and with a wounded spirit we sink into sadness and complaining. With this general explanatory remark we may observe, that the causes of a wounded spirit are such as the following:—
(1.) Long cherished, but ungratified desire; or deep, but disappointed affection. We seek honour, but it is withheld; we desire the reciprocal affections of friendship or love, but they are not bestowed; we fix our hopes of happiness on the attainment of some, to us, endeared object, and we cannot grasp it; there is some one whose friendship we deem to be essential to our welfare, but it is a prize which we cannot make our own. The smile that we sought gladdens the hearts of others, but not ours; the presence of the object diffuses happiness on all else except on our desolate souls. To all others there are warm beams of sunshine in the presence of the object; to us there is the coldness and darkness of an eclipse. Unrequited and unreciprocated affection makes the heart sad. " Concealment, like a worm in the bud, feeds on the damask cheek." The heart "pines in grief," and the wounded spirit sinks in melancholy. There is a secret feeling that a wrong has been done ; that such ardour of love should have met with a response, and that there was a claim to reciprocal affection.
(2.) Disappointment in business, or in the pursuits of ambition. We enter on the career of life with many others. We start together from the goal. They have no advantage in the time of starting, or in the smoothness of the way, or in the cheering plaudits of those who are lookers on at the race, or in the favour of those who are to distribute the prizes. But soon we begin to lag in the rear, and their success stimulates them to new efforts, and our want of success depresses us. A rival outstrips us. He has better health or better talents, or finds better friends ; or facilities of success are open to him which are denied to us; or the world seems partial to him, and we begin to feel that it is disposed to do us injustice. We even feel almost that he has done us some injustice, and we begin to envy him and to wish him out of the way, as disappointed and sad, we suffer under the tortures of a wounded spirit. Disappointment thus meets many an aspirant after fame, wealth, and pleasure. It occurs in all professions and callings of life, and in every attempt to find pleasure in objects that are not designed by the Great Author of all things to produce it. No one can gather up and record the disappointments that have been met in the career of ambition, or in the social or in the festive circle. No one can record the secret sighs that have been heaved when pleasure has been sought in vain; or write down the account of the tears that envy, and chagrin, and mortification have caused the sons and daughters of gaiety to shed when they have gone from their places of amusement to sad and sleepless pillows. So we seek more intimacy with a friend than we have a right to look for or expect; we calculate on attentions to which we have a very slender claim; we attempt to make our way into society where our presence is not particularly sought, and are not successful, and the spirit is wounded. There are the mingled feelings of mortified pride, and chagrin, and disappointed ambition; the feelings resulting from neglect, and from the rebuke which the coldness of others has given us,—and we feel that wrong has been done us, and the soul pines in sadness.
(3.) The spirit is wounded by attempts to injure our name. Our richest inheritance is a good name. To a man in private life it is his comforter and joy; to a man in professional or public life it is his capital, his all. To each one of us it is the best inheritance which we expect to leave to our children—an inheritance which we believe will be to them of more value than if we could leave them the gold of Ophir; nay, we feel that it would be a worthless inheritance could we bequeath to them the wealth of Croesus, if it descended with a name covered with infamy. There is no one of us but would wish to have some kind word cut on the humblest stone that may mark the place where we sleep, or that would not wish the stranger to hear that our character was upright, if perchance he should walk where we slumber in the dust.
Now there is nothing that pierces so deep into the soul as slander, " whose breath outvenoms all the worms of Nile." The robber may take my purse, but he has taken only " trash, which teas mine, is his, and has been the slave of thousands. But he who takes away my good name, robs me of that which not enriches him, but makes me poor indeed." "When a man charges me with a base and dishonourable action; when he accuses me of dishonesty or falsehood; when he pers?veres in the accusation even in the face of a life of undisputed integrity; when he expresses no doubt about its truth, and he has the power of making many others believe that what he says is true; and when—as may happen—I may lack just the kind and degree of evidence which I need to make all clear, I need not say that then a deeper wouud will be made in the spirit than would bo made by the loss of property, or the death of a friend. If to all this there should now be added the circumstance that he formerly enjoyed my friendship; that he ate at my table, slept under my roof, was in my family, heard me speak in the openness of unreserved confidence, and was permitted to look into my very soul, he does me a deeper wrong. He adds not only to cruelty the sin of ingratitude—a sin that pierces deeper than any other; but he adds the power of doing me a deeper injury-—for he speaks as one who may be supposed to know. Such were the wounds of the soul which David, and after him He who was " the root and offspring of Davi*," experienced. " Mine own familiar friend in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me," Psa. xli. 0. " It was not an enemy that reproached me ; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: but it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company," Psa. lv. 12—14.
(4.) The spirit is wounded by the recollection of guilt—of the wrong which we have done in days that are past. Probably this is the main, as it is the most important idea in the text. God has endowed us with a conscience; and it is a part of his arrangement that man shall be self-punished, and shall bear about with him the means of self,correction and rebuke. The severest of all the punishments, therefore, which visit the sinner, are those which spring up from the soul itself, and the torture which man is constrained to inflict on his own heart. It consists of sin brought to recollection, though long since forgotten; of the pangs of remorse; of the remembrance of inj uries which we have done, over which years have rolled away, and on which many, many a sun has risen and set. I will not say that there is anything like caprice in the manner in which these sins are brought to the recollection; I will not say that it is by no regular law that it is done—for all the operations of the Spirit of God on man are in accordance with settled law t but there is much in the manner in which it is done that strongly resembles power exerted withmt rule, or acting by laws which we cannot trace. Now you remember some word spoken, or deed done, that injured one long since dead, and of which a voice from the tomb almost seems to remind you. Now sins that seemed to have faded from the memory, or whose lines were so obliterated that you could hardly trace them, revive, and all the faded colours are restored, and they stand out to view as if written in letters of " living light." Now one single sin seems to stand before the mind black as night. You see it everywhere. It meets you in every pathway, and in every place of solitude. You go to your counting-room, and it is there; you awake at night, and it is before you. The ghost of a murdered man is not apparently more omnipresent; nor the stain of blood on the hand more visible to a guilty eye, and you wonder what has given that prominence to that single sin just now. And now sins come in groups and clusters, and all the evils and errors and follies of your whole life stand out to view, and face you every step you take. Your spirit is wounded,—you have the feelings of a guilty man. It is not so much that you are in danger,—it is that you have done wrong—that your life has been a life of guilt. There is no effort then to cloak or conceal the offences of the past life. They are seen and confessed to be wrong. There is no attempt to ward off the appeals of truth,—to palliate the neglect of prayer or religion,—to excuse unbelief or impenitence,—or to substitute the claims of external morality for what God requires. In the most absolute and unqualified sense the soul confesses its guilt, and feels that dust and ashes become one whose whole life has been wrong. This is that state of mind which is characterized in the Bible as " a broken and a contrite heart," or as a " bruised reed"—the state of mind which David experienced when there was brought to his remembrance his great acts of guilt, when he said, " A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise," Psa. li. 17. It is this sadness which is felt at the remembrance of guilt that the gospel is designed to heal, and this wound of the soul to a greater or less degree always precedes true conversion to God.
(5.) There is a wound of the spirit which only the children of God feel; or such as is found among those who give to others, if not to themselves, every evidence that they are sincere Christians, and are heirs of eternal life. It may assume with them the form of recollected guilt; or the form which exists when they see no evidence that their sins are pardoned; or the form of the hiding of the Divine countenance; or the form arising from the feeling that they are forsaken both by God and man— a form which exists when everything seems to be against us, and disappointment sits gloomily, like an ill-omened bird, on all that we undertake. This is often charged on religion itself when it should not be, for such cases often arise from the want of religion, and because the soul fears that it has no religion; and in the seasons of deepest sadness which such persons feel, as in the case of David Brainerd and Payson, religion, " instead of being the cause of gloom, is the only refuge from its overwhelming effects." This is often made an objection to religion by scoffers and revilers, and the sorrows of the souJ in religion are made the subject of unseemly merriment; but with a heart of true sensibility, no matter what the source of sorrow, it will not■ be so—for,
" With a soul that ever felt the sting
Of sorrow, sorrow is a sacred thing."
" There are minds so delicately strung that they cannot escape the most distressing attacks of melancholy. Friendship, philosophy, and even religion, as it exists in imperfect man, cannot oppose a complete barrier to its influence." With those who feel it most, as in the case of Uowpcr, there are united often some of the most delicate and lovely traits of character ; a warmhearted philanthropy; a humanity that would not needlessly " set foot upon a worm ;" a general cheerfulness of manners ; an exquisite humour ; a disposition to find pleasure anywhere and everywhere,—in a flower, with a pet rabbit, with children, in the quiet walks of nature, and above all, in sweet communion with God. But you cannot argue against nerves; you cannot heal the maladies of the bodj- by moral influences; you cannot guard the sufferer who has such a temperament from the sorrows which may thus find their way to the soul. " The best of men have occasionally groaned under this pressure. It made Job ' weary of his life;' and that pensive, tender-hearted prophet who seems to have been made to weep says, ' When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint within me.'" It is not fancy ; it is not imagination ; it is not that such persons are worse than others ; it is not that they have no true piety— no amiable traits—no cheerful hours: it is to be traced often, perhaps always, to something else than moral causes, and the blame of it should not be thrown upon religion, nor should they who are thus afflicted suppose that they have no true piety.
" 'Tis not as heads that never ache suppose,
Forgery of fancy, and a dream of \voe9;
Man is a harp whose chords elude the sight,
Each yielding harmony, disposed aright;
The screws reversed (a task which, if he please,
God in a moment executes with ease),
Ten thousand thousand things at once go loose,
Lost, till He turn them, all their power and use.
No wounds like those a wounded spirit feels,
No cure for such, till God, who makes them, heals."
If there is a soul that should meet with sympathy on earth, it is such a soul; if there is one that does meet with sympathy in heaven in its sufferings, it may be presumed to be such an one. Yet there is often sorrow without sympathy ; anguish of spirit which no one understands but he who feels it; a depth of distress for which no balm is found in human things; and an exquisiteness of mental woe which,—while it is looked upon with indifference by men, or excites their smile, or provokes their reproaches, as if the subject of this sorrow were cast off by God, or as if religion were to bear all the blame for what human nature ever suffers,—can be met only by the Great Healer of the spirit—by that Redeemer who sympathizes with all forms of grief. How little sympathy is often felt for it; how true to the life is the manner in which it is met, is described by one who experienced it as keenly as man ever did:—
" This, of all maladies that man infest,
Claims most compassion, and receives the least;
Job felt it when he groan'd beneath the rod,
And the barb'd arrows of a frowning God;
And such emollients as his friends could spare—
Friends such as his for modern Jobs prepare.
Blest—rather curst—with hearts that never feel,
■ Kept snug in caskets of close-hammer'd steel;
With limbs of British oak and nerves of wire,
And wit that puppet prompters might inspire,
Their sovereign nostrum is a clums}■ joke,
On pangs enforced with God's severest stroke."—Cowpee.
That all these sorrows of the spirit are to he traced, in one way or other, to sin, there can be no reason to doubt; for how can we conceive of suffering that is not somehow connected with this ? But let not a man write " bitter things against himself" on account of these sorrows of the spirit; let him not say in his heart that " God has cast off for ever; that he has forgotten to be gracious; that he has in anger shut up his tender mercies; that he will be favourable no more." Let him not say that there is no " balm in Gilead, and no physician there." Let him not say that no good can ever come out of this to his own soul. What a bright day rises after the darkness of midnight; what a beauty there is in nature after a tempest; what a charming bow of the covenant there is bent on the departing cloud; what exquisite happiness there is after pain; what a sense of the value of redemption after the night of gloom passes away; what qualifications for usefulness are given to those who pass through fiery trials; what a bright home is that heaven where thero shall be no tears; and what comfort can that God impart of whom it is said by Elihu in the book of Job, with so much beauty, " He giveth songs in the night!" Job xxxv. 10.
III. The third general remark to which I proposed to direct your attention was, that it is difficult to bear the affiictions of a wounded spirit. The text is, " The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity : but a wounded spirit who can bear ?" The meaning of this is, that when the body is pained, the mind, if sound and pure and healthful, will enable us to sustain the sorrows of bodily sufferings as a faithful ally. It can uphold the sinking frame. It is a helper that may be relied on then. But if the mind itself be wounded, all support is gone. What will sustain that ? The body cannot be depended on to come to the rescue, and the man sinks in despair. This is the point which is now to be illustrated.
Of one fact here adverted to, that, if the mind be sound and the heart whole, bodily pains can be borne, the world has furnished abundant illustrations. We know that disease and pain can be endured without murmuring; and the history of the church has furnished not a few beautiful illustrations of the fact that the pains of the rack, the horrors of impalement, and the agony of flame at the stake, can be all endured with a calm and tranquil spirit. A good conscience ; a belief that we are right; a conviction of duty ; unwavering confidence in God the Saviour, and the aid of his Holy Spirit, enable the suffering martyr to endure all that the malice of men can inflict on the human frame.
But when the mind is diseased—when the spirit is wounded, the case is changed. Then the prop is taken away, and the anguish of such a spirit who can bear ? In illustrating this, I may observe, (1.) That this anguish of spirit often occurs when the body is feeble and prostrate. A disordered nervous temperament ; or a tendency to depression and sadness; or a succession of external calamities, may prepare the way for the inexpressible tortures which the mind may be made to endure. Then a mental sorrow ; an unkind remark of one who ought to be a friend; an unguarded and almost unmeaning word used by him who is really your friend; an instance of neglect or the want of due attention; the detraction of a slanderer; or ingratitude in a child or in one who should be your friend, comes with a force which would scarcely be felt if the body were sound, and the nervous system braced to bear the rebuffs of life. (2.) It ia intolerable, because suffering from this quarter strikes at all a man's comforts and hopes. A man has a reputation. It has been to him the fruit of many a hard year's toil. It is worth more to him than all the wealth of Ophir; and there is not a monarch so rich that the brightest gem in his diadem could purchase it, or make him willing to part with it. It is all his capital, his hope, his stay, and the only inheritance that he is likely to leave to his family. The cold, unfeeling slanderer; the false friend; the rival; the man that you have befriended, and that you would befriend again, strikes the envenomed fang into that character, calumniates your name, prostrates your reputation as far as he can ; and who can bear it ? Far from me and my friends be a spirit that would not feel on such an occasion—a heart which would not bleed. (3.) Again, a spirit wounded by the remembrance of guilt, who can bear it ? Many an illustration has the world furnished of this, and will still furnish. The remembrance of wrong done, of duty neglected, of privileges abused, of mercies disregarded; the remembrance of the days when the imagination gave loose to the reins of impure conceptions, or the tongue to words of blasphemy; the remembrance of the times when the mercy of God was disregarded, and the appeals of eternal love slighted, comes with withering power over the soul, and rests like a horrid incubus upon the crushed and tortured spirit; and who can bear it? All the wrong that the soul ever did; all the forgotten deeds of night; all the long-concealed transgressions of other days; all the visions of an impure and licentious imagination that had seemed to have flown away for ever, seem now to come back and arrange themselves before the eye of the soul,—a dark and horrid brood, and the eye can neither close itself on them, nor can it turn away. This is conviction of sin,—the anguish which the wounded 6pirit feels at the remembrance of past deeds of guilt. (4.) This agony of spirit has one of two issues. In one case it leads to the true source of relief,—the balm of Gilead—the blood of the Redeemer,—and the soul is made whole. The state of anguish becomes so intolerable that the soul can bear it no longer, and it gladly flees to pardoning blood. In the other case it leads to despair and to death. The anguish of remembered guilt becomes insupportable, and the wounded spirit, ignorant of a way by which peace can be found, or unwilling to accept of the peace which the gospel furnishes, seeks to fly from life as if to escape from the guilt that haunts it by day and by night. Under this heavy pressure the man closes his own life, and the wounded spirit rushes uncalled into the presence of God.
IV. It remains only, in the fourth place, to inquire whether for the wounded spirit there is no relief—whether a merciful God lias appointed nothing which shall serve to relieve the anguish. Medicine is provided by his hands for the pains of the body; is there no medicine thus provided for the deeper sorrows of the soul? Long since this question was asked with deep solicitude by suffering man. Cicero, in the Tusculan Questions, * inquires with earnestness " why it is that since so much care has been shown to heal the body, a like care has not been evinced to discover some remedy for the soul—for the diseased, the enfeebled, the troubled mind ?" He attempts to answer the inquiry. " Philosophy" says he, " is the medicine for the soul." This is, indeed, the best answer that the world, unaided by revelation, could furnish, but we know that it does not meet the case. Philosophy may teach me to blunt my sensibilities, but that is not to impart consolation, or to heal the " wounds which sin has made" in the soul. I want some security that the wound is healed; I want something that shall make the wounded part live, not that which shall consign it to the torpor of death.
What, then, are the remedies for a wounded spirit? How shall we be taught to bear it ? With reference to the somewhat * Lib. iii. § 1.
mixed causes of a wounded spirit, to which I have referred, I shall suggest in conclusion, and hy way of a practical application, a few of those remedies, or a few considerations to those who thus suffer.
(1.) I have spoken of the wounds which the spirit feels from the envenomed tongue of slander, the efforts of others to injure our character and hlast our reputation. To meet this, I need only suggest the following considerations:—(a) God will ultimately take care of a man's character, and give him the reputation which he ought to have, if he aims to do right, and to keep a good conscience. (6) It is possible for a man to have such a character that the calumniator cannot well injure it. A man who has been known for a dozen or twenty years in a community as a man of truth, and honesty, and industry, and straightforward dealing, and piety, is not likely to be permanently injured by the voice of detraction. The world does not judge thus hastily of the character of a man; and the community regards his character as too valuable to be sacrificed by the voice of a slanderer. I can tell you what man is likely to be injured by a slanderer, or what character is likely permanently to suffer by evil reports. It is the man whose life is one of crooked policy; who is timeserving and changeable ; who is inconsistent in his walk; who makes a profession of religion, but who gives slender evidence of sincerity and piety; who is never seen in connexion with religion but at the communion table ; who indulges in double-meaning and inuendoes in his conversation; who stands aloof from the cause of temperance, and speaks of the over-heated zeal of the friends of that cause; who can partake of a social glass with the world with as much joyousness and hilarity as those who make no pretensions to serious piety; and who is unsettled, unsteady, and vacillating in his plans. Such a man is just the one for the slanderer. The community is half prepared to believe the first suggestion of a departure from honesty and purity of life; and there is no way by which such a man can live down the calumny. But there are men against whose character you would not believe a word if an angel from heaven should proclaim it, and become the accuser. Have such a character, and your spirit need not be wounded by the voice of the slanderer.
(2.) I have spoken of those whose spirit is wounded by neglect and disappointment; by receiving a smaller measure of public favour and regard than they supposed themselves entitled to ; by not being elevated to offices which they wished ; by not receiving praises and commendations and appointments which they desired ; and by seeing laurels which they wished to entwine around
their own brows encircle the heads of others. I admit that
there is sometimes real cause of pain here, and that the world is
sometimes slow to bestow the due measure of reward on those
who deserve its smiles. But the remedy for a wounded spirit
here is easy and simple. It is to be found in the consciousness
of doing right; in an effort to please God. I may add further, i
it is to be found in a subdued frame of mind, and in moderated
desires. He that will be willing to occupy the place for which
he was designed by his Creator, content with the small measure
of notice which is due to an individual, and willing that all. »
others should occupy the place which God designed, will not
usually find the world inclined to do him injustice. Water finds
its proper level, and so does man. To be willing to occupy the
place which God in his providence assigns us, however humble
or low that place may be, is one of the ways to heal a spirit
wounded by mortified pride.
(3.) I have spoken of the wounds which sin has made in the soul; of remembered guilt; of a troubled conscience. Compared with this, all other wounds are trifles; and for this, and for all other sorrows of the soul, arising from disappointment, and chagrin, and envy, and slander, the gospel has provided a remedy. I need not here state as a matter of information what this remedy is; it is alluded to only to persuade the wounded in spirit to apply to it. It is the mercy of God in the Redeemer ; the healing balm of the gospel of peace ; the forgiveness of sins, and the health and life that flow in upon the soul, so beautifully expressed in the language of Jeremiah: "Is there no balm in Gilead ? Is there no physician there ? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered ?" Jer. viii. 22. It is this of which the Saviour spake when he said, " The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that aro bound ; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness," Isa. lxi. 1—3. It is this that is referred to when it is said of him, " A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench," Isa. xlii. 3. It is this of which David sang when he said, " Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name:—who forgiveth all thine iniquities; ■who healeth all thy diseases," Psa. ciii. 1, 3. " He healeth the hroken in heart; he bindeth up their wounds," Psa. cxlvii. 3. To many, perhaps very many of my readers, I need not say one word to describe the way by which healing is thus imparted to a wounded spirit. They who are Christians will recognise what they themselves have experienced in the language of one who keenly felt the wounds which sin has made in the soul:—
" I was a stricken deer, that left the herd
Long since. With many an arrow deep infix'd
My panting side was charged, when I withdrew
To seek a tranquil death in distant shades;
There was I found by One who had himself
Been hurt by the archers. In his side he bore,
And in his hands and feet, the cruel scars.
With gentle force soliciting the darts,
He drew them forth, and heal'd, and bade me live."
Cowper, Task, b. iii.
Wounded spirit! that same soft and gentle hand can remove every poisoned arrow with which sin has smitten thy soul, and that great Healer of mankind can make you also live. Nor have I any other remedy to mention,—nor do I believe you would elsewhere find it. There are wounds in the soul made by sin, by conscious guilt, by remembered ingratitude and evil affections, which nothing earthly can heal, and which can be remedied effectually and for ever only by the healing balm of the gospel of Christ.
" Deep are the wounds which sin has made;
Where shall the sinner find a cure I
In vain, alas, is nature's aid—
The work exceeds all nature's power.
And can no sovereign balm be found ?
And is no kind physician nigh,
To ease the pain and heal the wound
Ere life and hope for ever fly ?
There is a great Physician near,—
Look up, 0 fainting soul, and live;
See in his heavenly smiles appear
Such ease as nature cannot give.
See in the Saviour's dying blood,
Life, health, and bliss, abundant flow;
'Tis only this dear sacred blood
Can ease thy pain, and heal thy woe."—Steele.