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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 30 - 1 Thessalonians 5:14 - Mr. Feeblemind Comforted Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




Mr. Feeblemind Comforted.


"Comfort the feeble-minded."-1 Thessalonians 5:14.



     The word 'feeble-minded' is taken, like many other of Paul's peculiar expressions, from the Old Testament, in which it has several shades of meaning, all of them more or less bearing on weakness, fearfulness, depression, and trouble of spirit. Let me note a few of these:-'The soul of the people was muck discouraged because of the way,' Numbers 21:4; 'Faint, yet pursuing,' Judges 8:4; 'His soul was grieved for the miseries of Israel,' Judges 10:16 (strange that this word should be applied to God; but see Genesis 6:6); 'His soul was vexed unto death,' Judges 16:16; 'My spirit was overwhelmed,' Psalm 77:3; 'Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Fear not,' Isaiah 35:4; 'The Lord hath called thee as a woman grieved in spirit,' Isaiah 54:6; 'To revive the spirit of the humble,' Isaiah 57:15; 'He fainted, and wished in himself to die,' Jonah 4:8; 'The people shall weary themselves for very vanity,' Habakkuk 2:13.

     Thus the word expresses everything that can come under the word, feeble-minded, from whatever cause arising; fear unbelief, doubt, sorrow, vexation, opposition from without. So that it is not possible for any one to say, Mine is a peculiar feeble-mindedness; mine is a sinful feeble-mindedness; mine is a deep-seated feeble-mindedness, I dare not hope to be comforted under it, or to be delivered from it. The Holy Spirit says, 'Comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak.' The apostle, in choosing a word connected with so many various scenes and characters in Old Testament history, evidently meant to comprehend them all; and wishes us to understand that every state of mind which that word can be supposed to describe, is included in the exhortation, 'Comfort the feeble-minded.' What weak and fearful heart is there which that word excludes? Who amongst us is weak and fearful? Here is a message to him from the Divine Comforter. Do not puzzle yourselves by the inquiry as to whether your feeble-mindedness is of the right kind, and springs from a right source. Take the word as you find it. Are you feeble-minded? To you is the word of this strength and comfort sent.

     This is only one out of many passages intended for the same class, and containing words of cheer and sympathy, words which express God's tender pity and gracious condescension to the feeblest and sinfullest. Let us note a few of these:-'Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not:' Isaiah 35:3,4. 'Lift up the hands which hang dozen, and the feeble knees.' Hebrew 12:12. 'A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench:' Isaiah 42:3. 'He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength:' Isaiah 40:29. 'When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them:' Isaiah 41:27'. 'He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted:' Luke 4:18. 'I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick:' Ezekiel 34:16. 'He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom:' Isaiah 40:2.

     The feeble-minded form a very large class; and hence so much is spoken to them by way of cheer. They are to be found everywhere. They are the fearers and doubters, the dark and troubled ones, they in whom perplexity and uncertainty prevail, who are all their lifetime subject to bondage. Among them are many single-minded. Christians, whose faces are Zion ward, but whose steps are feeble, and whose eyes are dim; who are in sore bondage and uncertainty; in whom unbelief prevails sadly over faith, and keeps them bowed down and weary.

     There are some who would treat these feeble-minded ones as unbelievers, and speak to them the words of harsh rebuke. Not so the Lord. His hardest words are, 'O ye of little faith, wherefore did ye doubt?' He is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. He is touched with the feeling of their infirmities. He yearns over them; has long patience with them; bearing all things, and never failing in His loving-kindness. He has not a harsh word for them, not an unkind look, though He seems long in hearing their cries. He deals with them more gently than the gentlest of earthly friends. For wise ends He does not all at once bring them into light; He lets them know, also, that their unrest is the fruit of their sin and unbelief. But still He watches over them, and cares for them, and leads them by a way that they knew not.

     Bunyan seems to have sympathized deeply with these sorrowful ones, and to have entered into the mind of the Master regarding them. They form, comparatively, the most numerous characters in the Pilgrim's Progress. There is Mr. Little-Faith, Mr. Feeble-mind, Mr. Fearing, Mr. Ready-to-Halt, Mr. Despondency, and his daughter Much-afraid. There is surely no one of the class we are speaking of that is not met by one of these characters. These are mirrors, in which many amongst our selves may see their own faces. The words of comfort which Bunyan writes down for these are very precious; but it is the deep and tender interest which he seems to have taken in them that touches the heart and ministers consolation. He shows the spirit of his Master, the affection of the good Shepherd, the love of a father to a sick and weakly child.  Bunyan seems never to have forgotten the gracious and sympathizing words, 'Comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.'

     (1.) God's care for the feeble-minded.-He is the Almighty, the Lord God Omnipotent; yet He despises not the weak; He overlooks not the weakest; but His tender mercies are over them, and He heareth the cry of the destitute. He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. Specially is all this true of Jesus, who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; who knows what a bruised reed is, and what the smoking flax; who can have compassion on the ignorant and on them that are out of the way. No man, no minister, no friend, no parent is half so tender and pitiful as He. His very strength but makes Him more pitiful to the weak. How gently does He deal with the feeble-minded!

     (2.) The Church's care for the feeble-minded.-It is to the Church at large that the apostle speaks, 'Comfort the feeble-minded.' He expects his saints to be sons of consolation, true children of Barnabas. When one member suffers, let all suffer; when one is weak, let all be weak. Care for the troubled and the tempted, the weary and dark and faint. God careth for them. 'They that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.'

     (3.) The use of the feeble-minded.-What purpose do they serve? Many purposes. To show that the righteous are scarcely saved (saved 'with difficulty'); that the spiritual state even of true saints is sometimes very low; that our help is not in ourselves. Man's helplessness, and God's almightiness, are thus made manifest. In these feeble ones God gets an opportunity of displaying His resources.

     (4.) The consolation for them.-Words of grace and cheer innumerable has God spoken to them. While He says to us, 'Comfort the feeble-minded,' He comforts them Himself. He does so by His gospel; by His providences; by His Spirit, the Comforter. He sustains and strengthens them. He tells them of His love; of the grace of Christ; of the propitiation on the cross; of the fullness of the Mediator; of the peace through the blood; of the living water; of the freeness of all blessing; of the simple way of obtaining it, by the acceptance of His testimony regarding Jesus Christ His Son.