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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 2 - Verse 18
Verse 18. For in that he himself, etc. Because he has suffered, he is able to sympathize with sufferers.
Being tempted. Or, being tried. The Greek word here used is more general in its meaning than the English word tempted. It means to put to the proof; to try the nature or character of; and this may be done either
(1.) by subjecting a person to afflictions or sufferings, that his true character may be tried—that it may be seen whether he has sincere piety and love to God; or
(2.) by allowing one to fall into temptation—properly so called—where some strong inducement to evil is presented to the mind, and where it becomes thus a trial of virtue. The Saviour was subjected to both these in as severe a form as was ever presented to men. His sufferings surpassed all others; and the temptations of Satan (Mt 4) were presented in the most alluring form in which he could exhibit them. Being proved or tried in both these respects, he showed that he had a strength of virtue which could bear all that could ever occur to seduce him from attachment to God; and at the same time to make him a perfect model for those who should be tried in the same manner.
He is able to succour, etc. This does not mean that he would not have had power to assist others if he had not gone through these sufferings, but that he is now qualified to sympathize with them from the fact that he has endured like trials.
"He knows what sore temptations mean,
For he has felt the same."
The idea is that one who has himself been called to suffer, is able to sympathize with those who suffer; one who has been tempted, is able to sympathize with those who are tempted in like manner; one who has been sick is qualified to sympathize with the sick; one who has lost a child, can sympathize with him who follows his beloved son or daughter to the grave; one who has had some strong temptation to sin urged upon himself, can sympathize with those who are now tempted; one who has never been sick, or who has never buried a friend, or been tempted, is poorly qualified to impart consolations in such scenes. Hence it is, that ministers of the gospel are often—like their Master—much persecuted and afflicted, that they may be able to assist others, Hence they are called to part with the children of their love; or to endure long and painful sicknesses; or to pass through scenes of poverty and want, that they may sympathize with the most humble and afflicted of their flock. And they should be willing to endure all this; for
(2.) they are thus enabled to be far more extensively useful. Many a minister owes a large part of his usefulness to the fact that he has been much afflicted; and for those afflictions, therefore, he should unfeignedly thank God. The idea which is here expressed by the apostle; that one is enabled to sympathize with others from having himself suffered, was long since beautifully expressed by Virgil:—
"Me quoque per multos similis fortuna labores.
Jactatam, hac demum voluit consistere terra.
Non ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco."
AEn. I. 628.
"For I myself, like you, have been distressed,
Till heaven afforded me this place of rest:
Like you, an alien in a land unknown,
I learn to pity Woes so like my own."
Jesus is thus able to alleviate the sufferer. In all our temptations and trials let us remember
(1.) that he suffered more—infinitely more—than we can do, and that in all our sorrows we shall never reach what he endured. We enter no region of trial where he has not gone beyond us; we tread no dark and gloomy way where he has not gone before us.
(2.) Let us remember that he is to us a brother, for he "is not ashamed to call us brethren." He had a nature like ours; he condescended to appear as one of our race, with all the innocent propensities and passions of a man. What matchless condescension! And what an honour for us to be permitted to address him as an "elder brother," and to know that he feels a deep sympathy in our woes!
(3.) Let us then, in all times of affliction, look to him. Go not, suffering Christian, to philosophy; attempt not to deaden your feelings by the art of the Stoic; but go at once to the Saviour—the great, sympathizing High Priest, who is able to succour you—and rest your burdens on him. \-
"His heart is made of tenderness,
His soul is fill'd with love.
"Touched with a sympathy within,
He knows our feeble frame;
He knows what sore temptations mean,
For he has felt the same.
"Then let our humble faith address
His mercy and his power;
We shall obtain delivering grace,
In every trying hour."
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