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Consolatio, or, Comfort for the afflicted online

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For what a character does this truth stamp
upon them ! They are indeed, we know, the
consequence of sin ; perhaps we may even be able
to trace them up to some sin of our own in years
long past, and in this there must be bitterness.
But, then, what joy is there in this thought (which
is the privilege of every believer in Jesus), they
are not the strokes of anger ; they are the blessed
remedies of the most kind and skilful of Physi-
cians ; they have ever formed the thorny hedge
which at some period of their lives has shut in the
path along which God's chosen ones have been
led on to glory ; they are proofs that we are under
training ; they show that we have a part in the
Covenant ; they give us good reason to hope that
the blessed Spirit has not left us ; nay, that He is
striving with us, and perfecting for us His blessed


work ! With what words, therefore, of love does
He uphold us in our sharpest sufferings : " Whom
the Lord loveth He chasteneth :" " God dealeth
with you as with sons l :" " Rejoice, inasmuch as ye
are partakers of Christ's sufferings 2 ! " And hear
how His children have replied, "Before I was
afflicted I went wrong ; but now have I kept thy
word 3 ."

And here is the true secret of peace in this world
of trouble to yield ourselves always meekly, as
the redeemed of Christ, to the hand of God, as of
a loving Father ; to know that this is the espe-
cial character of our lives, that we are not under
a grinding rule of blind necessity, nor under a
harsh rod of vindictive infliction, but in a process
of restoration ; that joy and sorrow are mingled
for us, as He sees best for us ; that our joys are
but His love, our sorrows but the deeper tones of
that same love ; that we are safe whilst He bids
the sun still to shine around us, for that we are
His ; and that He will keep us in the dangerous
sunshine. Nor do the clouds on the horizon
trouble us, for they cannot dim that sunshine, so
long as He sees that it is best for us to walk with
Him in its glad brightness. It may be He will
accept our quiet waiting on Him, and so teach us
through it, that we shall hardly need the rougher
discipline of sharp affliction. Or if our sun threaten

i Heb. xii. 6,7. 2 1 Pet. iv. 13. 3 Ps. cxix. 67.


to go down in darkness, if the clouds gather over
it in gloom, still we are with Him ; and to be with
Him is, for every child of His, the most really to
be at peace. In the storm, He whom we love
more than life comes oftentimes the closest to us ;
and by the blessed power of that Divine Presence,
the world, when it is the barest to the eye of sense,
abounds the most richly in the truest consolation ;
and the sharp edge of earthly anguish grows into
the severe reality of heavenly joy.


16. What is misfortune ? Whatever separates
us from God. What a blessing? Every means
of approximation to Him. T. ADAM.


When sorrow and the cross come upon thee,
seek not with the world to distract it ; drive it not
away with fresh sources of sorrow, but bid it wel-
come ; cherish it as a heavenly visitant, as a mes-
senger sent from God with healing to thy soul ;
and thou shalt find that thou " entertainest angels
unawares '." Thou shalt find the bow in the cloud,
His light arising out of darkness, His form upon
the troubled waters ; and if He hush them not,
1 Heb. xiii. 2.

CECIL. 191

He shall say to thy soul, "Fear not, for I am
with thee '." He shall make it gladlier to thee to
lie down in trouble and anguish, while He is with
thee, than ever any of the joys of this world were
while He was less present with thee, or wherein
thou forgattest Him.

The blessed lot is not to live joyously in the
world undisturbed by sorrow or suffering, having
our good things in this life, left to our own ways ;
it is to lie low, (well is it for us if it be of our own
accord, yet any how to lie low,) under His cross ;
though for a time it lie heavy upon us, it is not
so heavy as sin; though it wound us, they are
"the wounds of a friend;" though its nails pierce
us, they are but to let forth the disease which
would consume us ; though it bow us to the earth,
it places us not so deep as we deserve to be ; it
casts us down only, that when we have learnt to
lie there in silence and humiliation, He may raise


Something must be left as a test of the loyalty
of the heart : in Paradise, the tree ; in Israel, a
Canaanite ; in us, temptation.


1 Isa. xli. 10.

192 BOYLE.


What an oppressive burden is taken off a Chris-
tian's shoulders by his privilege of leaving all con-
sequences, while in the path of duty, to God ! He
has done with, " How shall / bear this trouble ?"
" How shall I remove this difficulty ? " " How shall
/ get through this deep water ? " but leaves him-
self in the hands of God. R. CECIL.


Divine relief comes not alwaj^s when it is most
desired, but when it is most fit ; and when that is,
He that hath at once all present, past, and future
things in His possession, is fittest to determine.


St. Paul prayed thrice for the removal of that
rude thorn to the flesh (whatever that may mean) ;
nay, of the Blessed Virgin Mother herself, her
Divine Son would not be found till the third day,
though she sought Him sorrowing : and Lazarus,
to whom, even during his sickness, He vouchsafed
(a title to which all Caesar's were but trifles) the
style of friend, was permitted, not only to lie
a-dying, but to" die, his rescue being deferred till
it was thought impossible, and was so indeed to
any less power than Omnipotence ; which mani-

BOYLE. 193

fests that, as no degree of distress is unrelievable
by His power, so no extremity of it is inconsistent
with His compassion, no, not with His friendship.
He whose Spirit inspired the prophets, is in the
last of them represented under the notion of a
refiner ; and it is not the custom of refiners to
snatch the beloved metal out of the fire as soon
as it feels the violence of that purifying element,
nay, nor as soon as it is melted by it ; but they
let it long endure the brunt of the active flames,
actuated by exciting blasts, till it have stood its
due time in the fire, and then obtained its full
purity and splendour '.

From " Seraphic Love," by Hon. Robert Boyle.


To the unenlightened man the world and his
own kind may appear like a reed shaken by the
wind ; by the sensual man every thing may be

1 The great accuracy of the simile of the refiner (Mai. iv. 3,
" He shall sit as a refiner,") has been very beautifully shown by
a reference to the known practice of persons engaged in that
trade. The refiner places himself before the caldron containing
the metal, and separates the dross from the pure gold or silver ;
he continues the operation until he can see his own image clearly
reflected in the burning ore. It is thus that God puts those
whom He would refine into the crucible of affliction : their " trial
is much more precious than that of gold or silver." He sits like
a refiner before them, and He does not cease to fan the flame and
remove the dross, until He sees His own image reflected in His
tried and afflicted servant.


194 HAKE.

regarded as the means and fuel of luxury ; but to
the Christian, whose eye has been purged, the
sphere of whose vision has been enlarged by faith,
the world is as a prophet that tells him of God ;
and he hears all nature, animate and inanimate,
joining in the choral hymn of adoration and thanks-
giving to its Creator. Hallelujah is the sound of
the waves ; and the mountains reply, Hallelujah !
Hallelujahs float along in the murmuring of the
streams, in the whisperings of the grove and
forest ; yea, even in the silent courses of the stars,
his spirit hears the mystic Hallelujahs '.

J. Hare, Prophet in the Wilderness.


To Christ, the incarnate God, our relations are
wholly personal. He is not a notional abstraction,
not an idea of the mind, enthroned in a logical
vacuum. We are bound to Him by all our deepest,
strongest, most personal feelings by our personal
consciousness of sin, by our personal need of re-
demption, by gratitude for personal forgiveness, by
love on account of love shown directly, personally
to ourselves. Hare's Victory of Faith.

1 I have inserted these two extracts as well because they were
the last which were made from any English writer by the de-
parted, as because of their great beauty.



THERE are some subjects, the consideration of
which, by a kind of tacit consent, has been in
latter days almost universally abandoned. Of such
subjects, none has suffered more than that which
is before us. Men have well-nigh ceased to inquire
the meaning of the phrase, Communion of Saints.
They have professed their belief in it a thousand
times, but have never troubled themselves to think
what such a profession implied.

It is in seasons of bereavement that this subject
will often first present itself to the mind. It then
challenges attention ; the heart craves something
which the doctrine involved in it seems alone
capable of supplying. "We feel as the Thessalonians
felt. We have lost our friends. Death seems to
have cast its broad shadow between us and them.

1 This essay was written subsequently to the ever to be la-
mented death of the compiler of the volume.

o 2


When, where, how shall we recover them ? Are
they quite gone from us ? Have they any sympa-
thy with us still ? Are their spirits as insensible as
the bodies are, that we have shrouded and buried ?
Or have they still a communion, in their bright
and holy rest, with us whom they have left in this
troubled world ?

We propose considering these questions ; and
in order the better to do it, we would first inquire
why the Church has inserted the article of the
Communion of Saints in the sacred symbol.

The place which it occupies suggests the answer.
It is, that we may believe in the reality of the
connexion which subsists between every member
of the Church Catholic, whether on earth or in
heaven. " I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy
Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints." What
a train of marvels is here placed before us ; and
how beautiful is the connexion in which they lie !

" I believe in the Holy Ghost," i. e. I believe
in the reality of His existence ; and I believe in His
Godhead. But if I believe in his Godhead, I be-
lieve in His Omnipresence, for Omnipresence is a
necessary attribute of Deity. God must be every
where present.

But is there not a speciality about the Omni-
presence of the Holy Ghost ? Certainly there is.
He has His special residence. Just as the Eternal
Son had His peculiar dwelling on earth until the


hour of His ascension : so also, though invisibly,
the Eternal Spirit has His special residence in the
hearts of His people, and within the bosom of His
elect Spouse the Church.

I add, therefore, to this article of my creed
another verity, " I believe in the Holy Catholic
Church." I believe that there is a Church of all
the saints, and that it is a great temple, of which
the Holy Ghost is the inhabitant. " Ye," says
the Apostle, " are the temple of the Holy Ghost :"
not " the temples " in this place, he saith ; but all
of you together, the Church, are the temple of the
indwelling Spirit.

How well and wisely, and in no figurative,
but in the truest sense, we may add the word,
how divinely has this article been added ! The
Apostle undoubtedly declared it in the passage
quoted in the Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor.
iii. 16) ; but on that very account it seems more
important that it should be brought out in perfect
distinctness, as a separate article of faith.

But if this great temple is pervaded by a living
Spirit, (if it be called a temple, because the Holy
Spirit dwells in it,) what are its dimensions ? Are
they limited by the boundaries of the Church on
earth, or do they extend farther ? The next clause
brings this plainly before our minds ; " I believe
in the Communion of Saints." Few have thought
of confining this article of faith to the communion


of those saints that are living here. That we have
communion with them, is a solid and a blessed truth ;
but it is perhaps even a nearer and more intimate
communion, that we enjoy with the saints departed.

What then is that communion ?

1. It is the sharing of a common life. The life
of each saint is a separate individual thing ; the
life of the Church of Christ is that which pervades
all. It is the virtue which goes out of Him and
pervades them : it flows through all the members,
and could we track the life back to its source and
fountain-head, we should find that " all its fresh
springs are in Him."

In this respect we can scarcely separate the
thought of Christ from that of the Holy Spirit ;
for the Spirit is God, and Christ is God ; and the
members of the Church, both above and below,
are inhabited by the Spirit, and lived in by that
life which the "living stone" communicates to
every " lively stone." There is, in fact, a perpe-
tual circulation of life through the mighty whole,
the great Church Catholic, above and below.

And that it must pervade that whole, in a man-
ner, to a great degree, uniform and the same, is
evident from this consideration, the Head is the
same to the Church militant and to the Church
quiescent. Christ does not cease to be the Head to
a saint departed. That saint is still a living mem-
ber of that body whereof He is the Head ; but


that body is the Church mystical ; therefore, the
Church mystical is composed of the quick and
the dead ; in other words, the life that is in the
quick is also in the dead, and therefore they (the
quick and the dead) still have perfect communion
in Christ.

2. But if we believe in this communion, how
may we enjoy it ?

When we think of our departed friends, our
souls seem often lost in the obscurity of their
revealed state. We scarcely know where they
are or what they are engaged in. If they are in
that abode of separate spirits which is called Para-
dise, yet we do not know where Paradise is. Is
it near us, or is it very distant ? Is it, as some
have thought, in the "heart of the earth ?" Are
they the " things that are under the earth ? " or are
they in one of the planets, in the moon, or in the
sun itself? or are they any where within the circum-
ference of that mighty universe which is vaulted by
day with the blue empyrean, and by night with the
glittering concave of the stars ? But that empyrean
seems itself without bound ; and those stars seem
so immeasurably distant, that the thought of either
perplexes us. Are our departed friends beyond
even these ? Ah ! then, how far, how hopelessly
removed ! The idea fills a void heart with nothing
but the perplexity of distress and desire.

But it is not evidently the will of the Most High,
our Father, that His children should suffer from


such unsatisfied yearnings. We may sorrow, but
not as those that are without hope. What, then,
is the hope referred to ? It is the second Advent
of Christ. At that second Advent, He will bring
back those that sleep in Him. (1 Thess. iv.) They
sleep, then, in Him; they are in His keeping;
hidden within the shady hollow of His mighty
heart ; for if He will bring them then, they must
be under His keeping now. St. Paul has in posi-
tive terms assured us of this, when he says, that
" to be absent from the body is to be present with
the Lord ' ;" and no less so when he declares by
implication, that " to depart," and " to be with
Christ V is one and the same thing.

It is upon texts like these that the Church
grounds her strong assurance of the happiness of
the saints departed. She believes, and as she
believes she declares, that the spirits of the just
are at once in the presence of God. The words
of one of the last prayers in the order for the
Burial of the Dead, assure us of this : " Almighty
God, with whom do live the spirits of them that
depart hence in the Lord, and with whom the
souls of the faithful, after they are delivered
from the burden of the flesh, are in joy and
felicity ; we give Thee hearty thanks, for that it
hath pleased Thee to deliver this our brother out
of the miseries of this sinful world ; beseeching

1 2 Cor. v. 8. 2 Phil. 1. 23.


Thee, that it may please Thee, of thy gracious
goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of
thine elect, and to hasten thy kingdom ; that we,
with all those that are departed in the true faith
of thy holy name, may have our perfect consum-
mation and bliss, both in body and soul, in thy
eternal and everlasting glory ; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen."

How cheering are these words to survivors !
We have just seen the coffin lowered ; we have
lost sight of the object of our heart's tenderest
affections ; the cold grave (so it seems at first)
has got what we have possessed, and what we
long to recover. But no ! the words (and they are
the clear, solemn, and unhesitating words of the
Church) tell us that it is not so : our brother or
our sister is not there. The dews shall distil, the
showers shall fall, and the storm shall sweep over
their coffined forms, but they themselves are far
away ; they are at home ; they are in the presence
of Christ ; in the keeping of God : they rest,
happy, happy spirits ! in His presence, " in joy and
felicity." No room, therefore, for our pity : let us
neither pity, nor what we may be more tempted
to do too keenly envy them ; let us bless God who
has delivered them from the miseries of this sinful
world ; and whilst we earnestly strive to follow
and patiently wait to meet them, let us constantly
pray for " that perfect consummation in bliss, both


of body and soul." for them as well as for ourselves,
for which the Church directs us to supplicate.

But there is something peculiar in the expres-
sion of this same Apostle, " Ye are dead, and your
life is hid with Christ in God." The death here
spoken of is the death to sin : he says therefore,
to true Christians, that they are already dead and
buried ; nay, more, that their life is even now in
the company and keeping of Christ. But if this
be the case, death natural can make no alteration
in this respect. The life of a saint departed can
only be with Christ : this is its euthanasia. But
it teas with Him before : it is not therefore changed
in locality ; it remains where it was, in blessedness
and in bliss.

How comforting is this view ! Am I in Christ ?
Then is my life with Him, and the lives of those
whom I have lost are with Him ; and so with my
life also. The body is laid down; it was but a
garment of pain, a torture-robe, a shirt of fire ;
but the life is where it was before, only exalted
through struggle well and safely passed, and now
perfectly purified.

To know this for a verity, without knowing the
mode of its true existence, is a matter of exceeding
comfort, and we might well rest in it ; but the
mind will wander and imagine ; and whence can
the imaginings of a devout soul come, but from
Him who gave the imagination ? When that which


we may well call the pinion of the soul bears us
upwards, we may reasonably trust that the sights it
seems to behold are not all delusive. Now, if the
spirit of the departed saint is with Christ in Para-
dise, and if even before it departed it was with
Him, and if I too am with Him, and if our union
with Him was our closest bond of communion on
earth, so undoubtedly it must be now ; united
with him in Christ, I am just as really in his pre-
sence and society, as I was before he died '.

1 " The saints of God, living in the Church of Christ, are in
communion with all the saints departed out of this life and
admitted to the presence of God. Jerusalem is sometimes taken
for the Church on earth, sometimes for that part of the Church
which is in heaven, to show that as both are represented by one,
so both are but one city of God. Wherefore thus doth the Apostle
speak to such as are called to the Christian faith : ' Ye are come
unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly
Jerusalem, and an innumerable company of angels, to the general
assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in
heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men
made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.'
(Heb. xii. 22 24.) Indeed, the communion of saints in the
Church of Christ with those which are departed, is demonstrated
by their communion with the saints alive. For if I have com-
munion with a saint of God, as such, while he liveth here, I must
still have communion with him when he is departed hence;
because the foundation of that communion cannot be removed by
death. The mystical union between Christ and His Church, the
spiritual conjunction of the members to the Head, is the true
foundation of that communion which one member had with an-
other, all the members living and increasing by the same influence
which they receive from Him. But death, which is nothing else


But then, even on earth, the nearer the saints
draw to their Head, the nearer they draw to one
another. If I, then, by faith and prayer, and all
holy deeds, draw nearer to Him now, in thus
doing I draw nearer to them. He is their centre,
and He is mine also ; and the shorter the radius
of my distance from Him, the shorter the diameter
of my separation from them.

But then the heart sighs involuntarily, Yes, but
there was a sensible communication then ; the
voice, the hand, the eye there is no such com-
munication now. Most true there is not, and yet
there is that which is like it. My Saviour, the
Sou of Man, the new Head of humanity, has

but the separation of the soul from the body, maketh no separation
in the mystical union, no breach of the spiritual conjunction; and
consequently there must continue the same communion, because
there remaineth the same foundation. Indeed, the saint departed,
before his death, had some communion with the hypocrite, as
hearing the word, professing the faith, receiving the sacraments
together ; which being in things only external, as they were com-
mon to them both, and all such external actions ceasing in the
person dead, the hypocrite remaining, loseth all communion with
the saint departing ; and the saints surviving, cease to have further
fellowship with the hypocrite dying. But the true and unfeigned
holiness of man, wrought by the powerful influence of the Spirit
of God, not only remaineth, but also is improved after death;
as the correspondence of the internal holiness was the com-
munion between their persons in their life, they cannot be said
to be divided by death, which had no power over that sanc-
tity by which they were first conjoined." Bishop Pearson on the


declared His presence by sensible tokens: He
enters me verily and indeed, when I communicate
by a living faith in His second holy sacrament.
But if I thus really feed on Him, in whose pre-
sence my departed friends live, and if / have His
mystical presence, and they His actual presence,
have I not a sensible token of their nearness to
me ? Do I not in that blessed ordinance enjoy
in a peculiar manner the communion of saints?
For the very reason why it is called the sacra-
ment of the Holy Communion is, that it is the
most marked symbol, as well as the most effica-
cious and affecting means of communion with
them. It is in that blessed ordinance that Jesus
Christ is most evidently set forth as crucified
amongst us; it shows forth His death until He
come : it is in that sacrament that all the rays of
Divine love and tenderness seem to meet as in the
focus of a burning-glass. If we have (and blessed
be His name we both have and enjoy !) communion
with Him by faith, and in prayer, and in praise,
and in the Word, we specially, as well as most
significantly, enjoy communion in that sacrament,
and do verily and indeed partake His body broken
and His blood poured out : we are very members
incorporate in His mystical body ; we are one with
Him, and He with us ; and that, by a very spe-
cial, lively, and faithful intercommunion of us the
members with Him the Head.


And then let us remember this : the world is a
great phantasmagoria ; it is full of shapes, and forms,

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Online LibraryC. E KennawayConsolatio, or, Comfort for the afflicted → online text (page 12 of 17)