Without tenderness of spirit the most intensely righteous, religious life is like the image of God without His beauty and attractiveness. It is possible to be very religious, and stanch, and persevering in all Christian duties, even to be sanctified, and be a brave defender and preacher of holiness, to be mathematically orthodox, and blameless in outward life, and very zealous in good works, and yet to be greatly lacking in tenderness of spirit, that all-subduing, all melting love, which is the very cream of Heaven, and which streamed out from the eyes and voice of the Blessed Jesus.
Many Christians seem loaded with good fruits, but the fruit tastes green; it lacks flavor and October mellowness. There is a touch of vinegar in their sanctity. Their very purity has an icy coldness to it. Their testimonies are straight and definite, but they lack the melting quality. Their prayers are intelligent and strong and pointed, but they lack the heart-piercing pathos of the dying Jesus. The summer heat in them is lacking. They preach eloquently and explain with utmost nicety what is actual and original sin and what is pardon and purity, but they lack the burning flame, that interior furnace of throbbing love, that sighs and weeps and breaks down under the shivering heat of all-consuming love.
Divine tenderness of spirit has a behavior to it which is superhuman and heavenly. It instinctively avoids wounding the feelings of others by talking on unpleasant things, wrangling in an argumentative way, by referring to painful and mortifying subjects. It carries its point by ceasing to contend and wins its opponent by seeming to let him have his way. It cannot scold, or scowl, or threaten; it has lost the power of quarreling. Tenderness of spirit makes its home in the bosom of Jesus, and from that Holy Castle, looks out upon all other creatures, good and bad, through the hopeful, pleading medium of the Heart that was pierced on the cross. It feels all things from God’s standpoint, and lives but to receive and transmit the spotless sympathies and affections of Jesus. It understands the words of the Holy Ghost, “Be ye tender hearted, forgiving one another.” Tenderness must be in the very nature, and forgiveness is but the behavior of that nature.