P. H. Greenleaf.

Consolatio : or, Comfort for the afflicted online

. (page 12 of 14)
Online LibraryP. H. GreenleafConsolatio : or, Comfort for the afflicted → online text (page 12 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sons : " " Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers
of Christ's sufferings!" And hear how His
children have replied, " Before I was afflicted I
went wrong; but now have I kept thy word."

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 especial 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 sun-
shine, so long as He s^es 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 to go down in darkness, — if the


clouds gather over it in gloom, still we are witii
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 often-
times 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 rich-
ly in the truest consolation ; and the sharp edge
of earthly anguish grows into the severe reality
of heavenly joy.

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

Sorrow, an angel to be entertained.

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
welcome; cherish it as a heavenly visitant, as a
messenger sent from God with healing to tiiy
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, 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 lay 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 us up.

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


Trust lightens load.

What an oppressive burden is taken off a
Christian's shoulders by his privilege of leaving
all consequences, while in the path of duty, to
God ! He has done with, " How shall / bear
this trouble?" " How shall / remove this diffi-
culty 7 " " How shall / get through this deep
water?" — but leaves himself in the hands of

Delay in succour, the means of refinement.

Divine relief comes not always 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 de-

* * -li^ * *

St. Paul prayed thrice for the removal of that
rude thorn tothellesh (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 duriug 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-
fests that, as no degree of distress is unrelievable
by His power, so no extremity of it is inconsist-
ent with His compassion, no, not with His friend-
ship. 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.^

' 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 cauldron containing the
metal, and separates the dross from the pure gold or silver ; he con-
tinues 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 notecase to fan the flame and remove the dross,
until He sees His own image reflected in His tried and afiiicted


The Jubilate of Nature.

To the unenlightened man the world and his
own kind may appear like a reed shaken by the
wind ; by the sensaal man every thing may be
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
thanksgiving to its Creator. Hallelujah is the
sound of the waves ; and the mountains reply,
Hallelujah ! Hallelujahs float along in the mur-
muring 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 Halle-

' This extract was the last made by the suffering hand, which
traced these pages, and is here given, as well because it was her
last, as because in its beautiful chorus, it forms a fitting close to her
work. " Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord from henceforth :
Yea, saith the Spirit that they may rest from their labors, and their
works do follow them."



The Communion or " fellowship" ^ of the
children of God, both dead and living, with each
other, and with their Father, and his blessed Son,
formed topic of the great Intercessional prayer of
the Redeemer : ^ and was beautifnlly exemplified
in the practice of the primitive Church. Where-
ever the enemy of the Cross of Christ turned his
eyes, he beheld men of every kindred, " Par-
thians, Medes, and dwellers at Mesopotamia," as

1 The following article, upon a subject of common interest is
added to the work, as kindred to its purposes ; and as forming
suitable topic for Christian thought, while suffering under the dis-
cipline of pain or sorrow from the hand of our Heavenly Father.
The writer has aimed, in its preparation, not so much to saj' some-
thing new, as to arrange for practical benefit, that which has already
been said. And as he has already drawn largely from the article
on this subject, prepared by the English editor, he will hold himself
responsible chiefly for the manner of its execution.

2 1 Cor. i. 9. Acts, ii. 42. 1 John, i. 3, 6, 7. 2 Cor. siii. 14.

3 " Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall
believe on me, through their word : that they all may be One ; as
thou. Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be One
in us." John, xvii. 20, 21.


well as Jews, Greeks, and Romans banded to-
gether in a common society, having " one Lord,
one Faith, one Baptism:" they were "members
one of another;" they of Antioch sending relief
to their brethren in Judea; Corinthians to Mace-
donians; Phillippi to Thessaly. The waters, first
smitten at the Holy City, spread and circled in
undulations of love over the whole earth. And
wherever subsisted members of the great company
of the Baptized, they were saluted as " fellow-
heirs of the same grace ; " sharers of the same
hope; " very members incorporate in that mysti-
cal body, which is the blessed company of all
faithful people." ^

Nor was this fellowship confined to the living
only. There was a communion with the de-
parted, as still members of the same body, having
borne the Cross first with the Church miUtant, to

' This unity of Communion, and the strong terms in which the
ancient disciples spake of the sin of schism, furnish topic of serious
thought in these days. St. Paul's questinn : " Is Christ divided?"
remains slill to be pondered : and it is difficult to see how Chris-
tians can he made " perfect in one," and " one body in Christ," and
" members one of another," uAtil there is a return to the fellowship
and intercommunion of the days, when " though every city has its
own Church, it is one in all."

This remarkable unity and fraternity has given rise to the opinioD
of a filiatioa between the early Christian Church, and those secret
Associations for benevolent and other purposes, which, under Mason-
ic and other names, have subsisted from a remote age ; and the
ancient " Tesserae hospitales," and the mysteries atlending the
Eucbaristic feast, have been adduced as proofs.


wear the Crown afterward, with the Church
triumphant. " The general assembly of the
Church of the First-born" embraced the "spirits
of just men made perfect; " and it was not with-
out reason that the Dead in Christ, hke the
"souls under the Ahar" whom St. John saw^
were beheved to subsist in full consciousness,
memory and love of the Church on earth, and
were commemorated in Christian assemblies, as
partakers of the same blessedness.^

This communion is something more than a
mere external bond, however essential to its vital-
ity " the outward and visible sign" may be con-
sidered. It is a real One-ness, which no rupture
of the visible bond can destroy. It is a commu-
nion, which, because it is based upon Christ, can
never die. It is felt by the dead, who have gone
beyond the pale of an external body, as well as
by the living, whose hearts swell and throb in the
sympathies of a common brotherhood. It is the
sharing of a common life, one with another, all
with Christ; and. because it is a life, whose pul-
sations are derived from Christ, the communica-
tion must be interior and secret ; it must be a
partaking of the same circulation of feeling, the
same holiness, the same love ; just as the distant
vine-leaf on the trellis partakes, by the instrumen-

1 Rev. vi. 10.

2 Bingham's Antiq. Christian Ch. book 23, c. 3, s. 12, 13.


talities of a visible connection of the life from the
interior and unseen root.^ Christ is, indeed, " Head
over all things to the Church, which is His body :^
but the vitality of the membership in that body
lies in the secret communion with Him, and from
Him ; and the fellowship of one branch with an-
other, and one member with another is dependent
on the fact, that both can trace their life to the
same source and fountain-head, finding that " all
its fresh springs are in Him." ^ And therefore,
when a Christian leaves the communion of the
Church below, he docs not leave Christ, for the
communion is interior and spiritual. The Body
of which Christ is Head, is a mystical body, of
which the dead, no less than the living, are "mem-
bers incorporate." The company of the Saved is
that "great multitude," made white in the blood
of the Lamb;"** and the same life, which beats
in the Christian soul, olTering itself at the altar of
faith, is that which quickens the Dead in Christ,
who "never die,"^ and constitutes their perfect
communion with Christ and with us.

Now. it is when the outer life has departed, and
when those, with whom we took sweet counsel,
leave the circle of a visible communion of saints,
and go down to the dust, that this inner life and
communion becomes most precious. The heart

* " I am the Vine ; ye are the Branches." John xv. 5.

'' Eph. i. 22. " Ps. IxTxvii. 7. * Rev. vii. 14. * John, xi. 2C.


craves its wonted companionship. Death seems
to have cast a broad shadow between us and
them. Tiiey have departed from us, and we feel
the loneHness. And in its desolation, the mind
turns to the revealed Word of God, and the dis-
closures and traditions of the Christian faith, to
learn Iioio Christ is their Resurrection and life ;
and where is that sympathy, and communion, and
love, which the dead still maintain towards the
living ; and u-herein our buried ones are " gone,
but not lost." It is natural that we should seek
to know, where they are; what their life; and
how they are employed. We ask, do they live
near us ? are they yet with us ] can they know
our sorrows for them ? do they love us, still? and
God permits us to suffer from such unsatisfied
longings and inquiries, proposing to our faith only
this — that they live in Christ, and that in Him,
we should seek them, and shall know them. But
we do not sorrow as those without hope.

Something is known of their destiny. And it
is written in the records of that Gospel, which
reveals the life of the soul, that when Christ shall
come again, He will bring back those, who sleep
in Him.i They are not dead. Thej sleep. And
they sleep 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

1 1 Thess. iv.


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 " /o depart,''^ and "to be with
Christ,'^ is one and the same thing.

It is upon such texts as these, that we ground
our strong assurance of the conscious happiness
and blessedness of the Dead in Christ. They are
with him : and they are therefore blest, and our
faith that they are conscious of this blessedness
is world-wide expressed in those funeral prayers
of the Anglican communion, which are known
and read wherever the language of our Father-
land prevails. " 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 171 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 Thee, that it may please Thee,
of thy gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish
the number of thine elect, and to hasten thy king-
dom ; that we, with all those that are departed in
the true faith of thy holy name, may have our
perfect consummation and bliss, both in body
and soul, in thy eternal and everlasting glory ;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."


The coffin is lowered : dust is committed to
dust : we have lost sight of the object of our
heart's tenderest affections : the cold grave seems
to possess that which was once ours, and which
we long to recover, and to mock any words of
resurrection and hope, which can be said over
the dead. But our faith tells us it is not so :
Christ is still our life and theirs : our brother, or
our sister; our mother, or our child, is not there.
The dews of heaven shall descend, the showers
shall fall, and the storms 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 ear-
nestly 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, which our
Master has prepared in the many mansions of our
Father's house.^

There is a peculiar expression of the Apostle

1 John, xiv. 2.


St. Paul ill relation to this inner and immortal
life, which deserves note. He says " Ye are
dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." i
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 aud keeping of
Christ. Bat 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 was with Him before: it is
not therefore changed in locality : it remains
where it was, in blessedness and in bliss.

If, then, I am in Christ, my life is with Him :
the lives of those whom I have lost are with Him:
and so shall ever be with the Lord. The body,
indeed, is laid down; but the life is where it was
before, only exalted through the struggle well and
safely passed, and now perfectly purified. They
live, no matter how or where, with Christ, in the
place of the departed. My imaginings, sanctified
by faith and prayer, may enable me to see some-
thing of them and their employments, but nothing
distinctly. I sec but darkly. Yet if I, by faith,
by prayer, by holy obedience, draw nearer to
Him now, surely in thus doing I draw nearer to
them. He is their centre ; He is mine also; the

' Col. iii. 3.


shorter the radius of my distance from Him, the
shorter the diameter of my separation from them.
" Thus draw we nearer day by day each to the
other, all to God." ^

^ " The saints of God, living in the Cliurch of Clirist, are in com-
munion 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 botli 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 tiie living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and an
innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church
of the first-born, 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 ihe saints alive.
For if I have communion with a saint of God, as such, while he
liveth here, I must still have communion with him when he is de-
parted 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
another, all the members living and increasing by the same influence
which they receive from Him. But death, which is nothing else
but the separation of the soul from the body, makeih 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 commuaion with



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
Son of Man, the new Head of humanity, has
declared His presence by sensible tokens.

The agreement of the two on earth ; ^ the as-
sembly of the two or three in His name ; - and
especially the receiving by a lively faith of His
body and blood in the Lord's Supper : ^ these
mark His mystical presence.

But if I thus truly meet Him — if I thus really
feed on Him, in whose presence my departed
friends live, and if / have His mystical presence,
and they His actual presence, have I not a sensi-
ble 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 sacrament of the Holy Com-
munion is, that it is the most marked symbol, as

the saint tloparting; and the saints surviving, cease to have further
fellowship with the hypocrite dying. Hut the true and unfeitjned
holiness of man, wrought liy the powerful influence of the Spirit
of God, not only remnineth, hut also is improved after death ; as the
correspondence of the internal holiness was the communion be-
tween their persons in their life, they cannot he said to he divided
by death, which had no power over that sanctity hy which they
were first conjoined." — Bishop Pearson on. the Creed.
' Malth. xviii. 19. ^ Matlh. xviii. 20. ' Matth. xxvi. 26, 28.


well as the most efficacious 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 speci-
ally, as well as most significantly, enjoy commu-
nion 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 special, lively, and
faithful intercommunion of us the members with
Him the Head.

We stand before the face of the Lord, though
we do not see each other. And just as two
friends, far distant from each other, can gaze, at
the same moment, upon the same planet, upon
the same star, and the beams of light from both
shall meet in the same focus : so Christ looks, at
once, upon me and the loved one I have lost ; and
at the same moment, our forms and figures are in
the mirror of His beautiful countenance, as much
as we were ever together on the earth; perhaps
far more so : for here^ flesh and blood, sin and


mortality darken, defile, deface every thing ; they
are the great separation walls between the trnest
and the tenderest hearts: but tlicre^ all barriers
are removed : all is true, and clear, and open.

But, do those whom we love, and who have
gone before us into the world of spiritual realities,
actually know what we are doing ? Tlie Scriptures
intimate, that in part they do : Their brethren
and their father's house, as they have still place
in their affections, have, also, a place in their
knowledge. They know that still they have
brethren, if they know not how much need there
is to testify unto them; i and as they love them,
we cannot suppose they would omit any means,
in their power, to gain knowledge of them and to
benefit them.- But the nature, and the amount,
and the power of that knowledge are hidden from
ns. Now, we see but darkly; and know only in

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14

Online LibraryP. H. GreenleafConsolatio : or, Comfort for the afflicted → online text (page 12 of 14)