C. E Kennaway.

Consolatio, or, Comfort for the afflicted online

. (page 13 of 17)
Online LibraryC. E KennawayConsolatio, or, Comfort for the afflicted → online text (page 13 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and images, and veils, all drawn before the real and
the true. In that real and true we are living
living quite as much as they that are no longer
clouded by this unreal world. We stand before the
face of our Lord, though we do not see each other.

We may give a familiar illustration of this :
If two persons stand before a third, and the eye
of that third is open upon them ; if he could
look upon both at once, the images of the two
would be formed close together in the retina of the
eye of the third. But Christ looks at once both
on me and on my loved and departed friend, and
therefore both our images are formed together in
Him. Pleasant thought! we are together; together
not in what may seem to be only an imaginary
locality, like the space behind a looking-glass,
but in that which in reality is our only true place
of being, and of spiritual existence ; our forms,
faces, figures, are in the mirror of His beautiful
countenance and calm deep eye, as much as we
were ever together on earth ; perhaps far more
so : for there, all is true, and clear, and open ;
here, corruption, and deceit, and mortality, and
the flesh, cloud and darken, and deface and defile
every thing ; they are great separation -walls be-
tween the truest and the tenderest hearts.

But do they who have gone before, know actually


what we are doing ? The Scriptures would suggest
that in part they do : that they know all that re-
lates to us, we cannot imagine. There are the two
following great difficulties in the way of conceiving
that they do. For, in the first place, their know-
ledge must come either by the means of personal
witness, or through the channel of the commu-
nication of angels, or through that of the Lord
Himself. But if they look upon us, we can
scarcely suppose but that they must be near us ;
and if they are near us, how can they be also
resting in that presence which we believe to con-
stitute the very element, as well as the perfection of
Paradise ? It is not to be denied that modes may
be suggested whereby, in some degree, this diffi-
culty may be met. Indeed, the very obscurity of
our knowledge in regard to all the accidents of the
state of the departed, would facilitate the sugges-
tion of such modes ; for you may make what
figures you please out of clouds, or in moonlight ;
but still all such must be hypothetical and ima-
ginary, in the most unsatisfying sense of the

But, in the second place, if we give up the idea
of the near and personal presence of the departed,
and still hold to the notion of their knowing all
that relates to us, there is something so full of
difficulty in this hypothesis, that we can scarcely
retain it long. Can we believe either the holy


angels, or the Lord Himself, to communicate to
the departed, the bad and the indifferent circum-
stances that happen to us our woes, our sorrows,
our weakness ? Would not such communication
be a " troubling " of those who have escaped from
trouble ?

This, indeed, is the difficulty which always
meets us when we think of the departed having
communion with us in any way except through the
Lord Jesus Himself. It is impossible to believe
that they can be allowed to be harassed by the
knowledge of all the sad deeds and mixed feelings
of those whom they have left behind ; such know-
ledge would destroy their peace.

But then the Scriptures would lead us to be-
lieve that they know something, St. Paul, writing
to the Hebrews, chap, xii., exhorts them to acti-
vity by the thought of the great cloud of witnesses
with which they are surrounded. Now, the figure
is taken from the games and combats in the
Roman amphitheatre or stadium : and it must be
particularly remarked, that at the time of the games,
a special seat was assigned to those who had been
crowned in former contests. Now, we can ima-
gine how the thought of their presence would sti-
mulate a combatant : he would kno w and feel the
discriminating eye with which they would regard
him ; how they would understand the merits of
his practice ; how they would appreciate his skill ;


how they would mourn over his failure. It is true
that "witness" may mean only witness in the
sense of martyr ; but this meaning would neither
satisfy the figure nor the reasoning. Taking it in
the other, which we may conclude to be the true
sense, it satisfies both ; and then see how it ap-
plies to us as Christian gladiators. "We believe
those that have gone before us, the conquering,
triumphant dead, to be spectators of our contest.
Here is the limit, they are witnesses to the way
in which we are carrying on the great battle, but
not of any thing else. But are they witnesses of all
our falls, our wounds, our blows, or buffets ? If
sometimes we are smitten down by the great
enemy ; if sometimes our own evil hearts lead us
astray ; if we fall aside, do they see us then ? If
at their departure from us we are weighed down
with overmuch sorrow, do they see that? The
question is difficult, and I would thus venture to
answer it. We may believe that Christ communi-
cates to them all that it would do us service, or give
them happiness to know.

If, therefore, we are growing in faith, deepening
our repentance, waxing more valiant in fight,
turning to flight, as we have never done before,
the armies of the lusts that are aliens to our peace ;
then we may really believe that all these blessed
symptoms of our spiritual state are communicated
to them : and it is a right rejoicing thing to think


how their souls may bathe in new delight as they
receive the blessed intelligence.

But can this be all that they know ? We can
scarcely believe so, and for this reason : a sym-
pathy, only in success, is a very imperfect sym-
pathy ; it is not the sympathy of the Son of Man :
but if it be not His sympathy, and if they are one
with Him, we can scarcely conceive it to be theirs.
Real communion does evidently imply something
more than this.

But then the objection arises, that more than this
might interrupt their rest. Now, in answer, it may
be observed, that it is perhaps a low conception
of their state previous to the great consummation
to imagine of it that it can only tolerate happiness.
When they were upon earth, they deeply felt our
difficulties. It was one of their greatest privileges,
and they felt it to be so, to energize in prayer for
those they loved, tchen those beloved ones were in sad-
ness or in difficulty. May we not imagine that the
same feeling of this kind of pleasurable, though
not passionate energy, may still be theirs ' ? They

1 "They which first found this part of the article in the Creed,
and delivered their exposition to us, have ma*le no greater en-
largement of this communion, as to the saints of heaven, than the
society of hope, esteem, and imitation, on our side, of desires and
tvpplications on their side.

"What is now taught by the Church of Rome is, as an unwarrant-
able, so a noritious interpretation." Bp. Pearson on the Creed.

" Why do we not run with eager haste to see our country ? A


are not weighed down now by the body of death ;
they can pray as " angels that excel in strength,"
flying on wings that never tire. And to pray
thus, to wrestle like him who was a " Prince with
God " in prayer, may be a part of the privileges of
their triumphant condition. Passive rest is not that

great multitude of beloved ones, parents, brethren, children, await
our arrival : the thick and thronging crowd regret our absence
secure of their own safety, they are solicitous for our salvation."
St. Augustine, Sermon 181, quoted by Sp. Pearson.

" I believe, O most holy Jesus, that thy saints here below have
communion with the saints above ; they praying for us in Leaven,
we here on earth celebrating their memorials, rejoicing at their
bliss, giving Thee thanks for their labours of love, and imitating
their examples; for which all love and glory be to Thee."
Bishop Ken, Practice of Divine Love.

" Nor have we communion only with the saints on earth, but
are of one city, and one family, with such as are already got safe
to heaven. Doubtless, they exercise that communion towards us,
by loving and praying for their brethren, whom they have left
behind them. And we are to exercise it towards them, not by
addressing petitions to them, which we are neither authorized to
offer, nor have any ground to think they can hear ; but by re-
joicing in their happiness, thanking God for the grace which He
hath bestowed on them, and the examples which they have left
us, holding their memories in honour, imitating their virtues, and
beseeching the Disposer of all things, that, having followed them
in holiness here, we may meet them in happiness hereafter; and
become, in the fullest sense, fellow -citizens with the saints, and of
the household of God ; having, with all those that are departed in
the true faith of His holy Same, our perfect consummation and
bliss, both in body and soul, in His eternal and everlasting glory,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen" From Archbishop
Seeker's Lectures on the Catechism.

p 2


which we can imagine to be the happiness of a soul
even in the separate state. As the sky-birds whirl
and soar with a kind of joyous energy when the
winds are high, battling almost with the clouds ;
so may we imagine those blessed heavenly ones
that have gone from us, to wrestle in prayer, and
meet and contend with the sorrow-clouds that
darken and distress us, whom they so deeply love.
There is nothing derogatory to the high-priestly
intercession of Christ in this, although it is per-
fectly evident that it might be easily carried too
far. This, however, is our safety, that all commu-
nion of the saints, whether on earth or in heaven,
is through the medium of Christ. It is not, as the
Romanists say, that they (the saints and the
blessed Virgin) are between Christ and our souls ;
but that Christ, the perfection of mercy, may very
probably allow them in heaven the great privilege__
of intercession which He gave themj)n_eartlL; He
Himself being the centre of aUjjuch communion.

For, consider again : When our Lord gra-
ciously commands us, by His Apostle, to pray one
for the other, this would seem, in the first in-
stance, to conflict with the all-sufficiency of His
prevailing mediation. Why does it not ? Simply
because no prayer made for our brother or our
sister here upon earth can be availing, unless it be
made through Him.

But why is this kind of intercession enjoined ?


Most evidently to bind up ALL the members of
Christ's body in the communion of a most holy
and perfect sympathy. That this sympathy does
exist in the bosoms of those that are gone, is evi-
dent from various parts of Scripture.

When Moses and Elias appeared on the trans-
figuration mount, the theme that filled their souls,
was the sufferings and the kingdom of Christ.
That which fills now the souls of the saints de-
parted must be the same ; and their interest in the
saints on earth must be all based on their interest
in that same kingdom of Christ, and be connected
with the share which they (that is, we) are taking
or should take in this great consummation.

But then there is more than this general interest ;
there is a feeling and a compassion connected with
our sufferings, our dangers, and our trials. The
cry of the souls under the altar l shows us this : it
was a cry of weariness at the long-continued suf-
ferings of the saints in general.

But if there is this general interest, may we not
conclude that there is a special anxiety about the
state of those they love ? The parable of Dives
and Lazarus shows us this incidentally. We can-
not imagine our Lord to have put a case which
had not a foundation of truth. We cannot ima-
gine Him to have described Dives as caring for his

1 Rev. vi. 9.


brethren, if those that sleep have no care at all for
those that are alive and remain.

There is something to a sorrowing heart very
soothing in these thoughts. We look to Jesus as
our common centre. As friends at a distance hold
communion by looking each night at some bright
meridian star, so we do look at the face of Jesus,
and know that our departed friend is gazing too.
As friends read the same passage of Holy Writ at
a certain hour, and believe that the common Spirit
through this means doth beget a perfect com-
munion ; nay, as the whole Church, in her daily
or weekly services, holds blessed sympathetic
communion by the means of this common read-
ing of God's Word, and by united prayer, so
do we, looking up in like manner to Jesus,
communicate our thoughts, our feelings, our re-
grets, or our gratitude, in respect of those our
friends that are with Him. Can we believe that
He makes no communication of what we are doing
to them ?

If we have ever neglected or injured them, and
desire that they should know that we are lying on
our bosoms, and smiting upon them in deep soul-
penitence, would not such penitence give them a
serious joy ? Or, if we look back at their graces
and their virtues, and call them daily to mind,
and thank God that we have seen and known, and
loved and honoured them ; is it unscriptural to


believe, that He, our common Friend, may commu-
nicate this to them as they now lie in His bosom ?
Can we not imagine that they would strike their
lyres to new tunes of praise, and sing fresh halle-
lujahs to Him who had enabled them, to glorify Him
by obedience when they were here, and to leave
the bright legacy of their examples behind them ?
Or, if we are sighing or sad, or in difficulty, and
pine after the love of those that were once our
friends and our counsellors ; is it contrary to Scrip-
tural analogy that He should communicate these
sorrows of ours to them, and give them new
opportunities of interceding for us ? If the souls
under the altar cry out in compassion and sym-
pathy for their suffering brethren, may we not
believe that they who are also there, our friends,
brothers, sisters, parents, husbands, wives, im-
plore for us ? Or if (for we may put many cases)
we arrive in our daily reading at some passage of
Holy Writ, which we remember to have given them
instruction or comfort, when they were with us ;
and if such passage come to us with a fresh and
sensible power, when we connect it with their
memories ; may we not well imagine, yea, believe,
that He, in whose presence they dwell, commu-
nicates the fact and the feeling, and so brings
a new wave of satisfaction over their beatified
spirits ?

How soothing are these thoughts! We are


bereaved, it may be ; we walk on earth in silence
and in solitude ; we live a lonely life ; so it seems
to others, so too often it will seem to us. But
then, think of the communion of saints. We are
all of us together in the great circle of which He
our Head is the centre ; yea, all of us are together,
both living and dead. When, therefore, I seem
alone in my chamber, or alone on the hills, or
alone on the sea-shore, or alone in the crowd, I
am not really alone ; I have companionship, both
earthly and heavenly ; I am with Christ, whom
I know as a brother, for I am acquainted with
Him as the Son of Joseph, the poor carpenter ; and
I remember Him as the lonely man who walked by
the Lake of Tiberias, and used to cross over Kedron,
and to wander about Mount Olivet. I remember
Him, therefore, as I would remember and think of
a dead friend, by the places He frequented, the
walks He used to take, and the pursuits He fol-
lowed. But my earthly friend whom I have lost
is with that lowly lofty Man ; they talk together,
as He once talked with John, or Peter, or James,
or Philip, or Levi. And do they not talk of me ?
And if I speak to Him, exalted as He now is in
power and omnipresent Majesty, will He not com-
municate all that I say of right and true, to my
friend that now lies in His bosom, and is with Him
as a chosen disciple ?

The reason that these thoughts may seem strange


to some is twofold. The first is, the Romish abuse
of the doctrine of communion of saints ; the other
is, the forgetfulness of men, that the body, like the
Head, is but One.

If we required a visible Head, as the Homanists
do, this twofold Headship, that on earth and that
in heaven, would almost preclude, or at least would
sensibly interfere with the communion of the saints
through the One only true Head and centre of
union. But we do not want this earthly Head ;
it goes to destroy this oneness of the body : it
separates the Church below from the Church
above, by giving to the former a distinct head of
union on earth. We believe the Body to be One
all through the universe ; and the unseen state to
be as real as the visible ; and both together, to
make up this great Church Catholic, of which
Christ alone is the Head. Thus we live, looking
not at the things that are seen, but at the things
that are not seen ; holding communion with the
saints departed, as well as with the saints alive ;
with those that are absent in heaven, as well as
those that are distant and absent on earth.

And this feeling of the reality of this commu-
nion, helps us wonderfully in submitting to death's
cold and dark separation.

If we are removed from a friend on earth, we
know ordinarily that we can find him at any time ;
and, if we have the means, and if duty permits,


that we can go to him ; or at any rate, that we can
correspond with him by letter. There is and
we should expect in that dispensation that has
brought life and immortality to light, that there
must be, that which is analogous to all this in
our communion with the saints that rest. We
always know where to find them, for they are in
Christ. We shall go to them when duty per-
mits, for we shall go when God, the Lord of duty,
calls us : and until we go, we can correspond ;
for Jesus will communicate every letter of holy
love we write, or pray, or sigh. He is (so to
speak) the centre of our correspondence ; He will
communicate nothing that would break their rest,
and every thing that would pour balm into their
hearts and into ours.

We must remember that earthly things and
earthly relationships are but patterns of heavenly
things and heavenly relationships. All that there
is of a blessed character here, has its perfect corre-
lative there ; and if the body be, therefore, as we
believe it to be, One ; then our correspondence and
communion with them in Him, now that they are
gone, is the same as it was with them before their
departure : the Body, as we have observed above,
is as strictly One as the Head is One.

And this was beautifully signified by the habit
which for a long time prevailed in the Church,
of celebrating the Holy Communion on the death


of any eminent saint. It figured forth the truth
of the oneness of the body of Christ. It repeated
to the Church the truth of its Catholic incorpora-
tion. It told the members that dwell on earth
that they were members with those who had gone
to heaven. It told the quick that they were still
one with the dead ; for they were partakers of one
life, and that life was Christ.

And this would lead us by a reflex power to a
more realizing sense of the position of the departed;
for, by believing ourselves to be sharers of the
same life with them, we attain a more perfect con-
viction of their state of life. We think of them as
still living, and having their being in God, though
in another great chamber from that in which we
remain, and disencumbered of the bodies which we
bear with us : we are both and all in the same great
temple, but they have passed within its veil ; we
that are here are in the outer court, they are
in the heavenly chancel ! : there they converse

1 " Every one may learn from hence what he is to under-
stand by this part of the article, in which he protesseth to believe
the communion of saints; for thereby he is conceived to express thus
much : I am fully persuaded of this as of a necessary and infal-
lible truth, that such persons as are truly sanctified in the Church
of Christ, while they live among the crooked generations of men,
and struggle with all the miseries of this world, have fellowship
with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost
dwelling with them, and taking up their habitations in them :
that beside the external fellowship which they have in the word
and sacraments with all the members of the Church, they have


with those who seemed once so separated from
them, merely because they lived here long ago ;
but who were, in fact, all their lives, their compa-
nions in sympathy and hope : they mingle among
the early saints ; they salute Abel, and Enoch, and
Abraham, and Moses, and the prophets, and the
Apostles, and the saints, and the martyrs : they
see the mysterious form of the kingly Melchi-
sedec, and the veil is removed from the hidden
history 'of Adam and Eve. In such society we
may feel confident they are moving, where ex-
actly, we do not know ; and it is an almost bewil-
dering thought that they who talked with us but
a few hours ago are now perhaps far beyond the
sunlight and the stars ; but such is the infinitude
of the power of God, and such is the majesty of
our destiny !

We will conclude these thoughts with the fol-
lowing beautiful extract from the works of Bishop
Hall :-

" As there is a perfect union betwixt the glorious
saints in heaven, and a union (though imperfect)

an intimate union and conjunction with all the saints on earth as
the living members of Christ : nor is this union separated by the
death of any ; but as Christ, in whom we live, is the Lamb slain
from the foundation of the world, so have they fellowship with
all the saints which, from the death of Abel, have ever departed
in the true faith and fear of God, and now enjoy the presence of
the Father, and follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. And
thus I believe the communion of saints." Pearson on the Creed.


betwixt the saints on earth ; so there is a union
(partly perfect and partly imperfect) between the
saints in heaven and the saints below upon earth ;
perfect in respect of those glorified saints above,
imperfect in respect of the weak returns we are
able to make them again. Let no man think, that
because those blessed souls are out of sight, far
distant in another world, and we are here toiling
in a vale of tears, that we have therefore lost all
mutual regard to each other. No, there is still,
and ever will be, a secret but unfailing correspon-
dence between heaven and earth. The present
happiness of those heavenly citizens cannot have
abated aught of their knowledge and charity, but
must needs have raised them to a higher pitch of
both ; they, therefore, who are now glorious com-
prehensors, cannot but in a generality retain the
notice of the sad condition of us poor travellers
here below, panting towards our rest together with
them ; and in common wish for the happy consum-
mation of this our weary pilgrimage, in the frui-
tion of their glory. That they have any perspective
whereby they can see down into our particular
wants, is that which we find no ground to believe.
It is enough that they have an universal appre-
hension of the estate of Christ's warfarin g Church
upon the face of the earth (Rev. vi. 10), and, as
fellow-members of the same mystical body, long for
a perfect glorification of the whole. As for us


wretched pilgrims, who are yet left here below to
be tried with many difficulties, we cannot forget
that better half of us which is now triumphant in
glory. ye blessed saints above, we honour
your memories so far as we ought ; we do with
praise recount your virtues ; we magnify your vic-
tories ; we bless God for your happy exemption
from the misery of this world, and for your estate
in that blessed immortality ; we imitate your holy
examples ; we long and pray for a happy conso-
ciation with you ; we dare not raise temples, dedi-
cate altars, direct prayers, to you ; we dare not,
finally, offer any thing to you which you are un-
willing to receive, nor put any thing upon you
which you would disclaim as prejudicial to your
Creator and Redeemer. It is abundant comfort
to us, that some part of us is in the fruition of
that glory whereto we (the other poor labouring

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17

Online LibraryC. E KennawayConsolatio, or, Comfort for the afflicted → online text (page 13 of 17)