P. H. Greenleaf.

Consolatio : or, Comfort for the afflicted online

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})art. And the obscurity of our knowledge will,
no doubt, suggest to any mind, exercised upon
this subject, modes and ways, in which all its
dilliculties shall be solved. At times, there seems
to be such a nearness of the departed to the sur-
vivor, as that he can almost hear the rustling of
the plunic, in the deep silence, which surrounds

' Luke, xvi. 23.

2 See Bp. Heber's letter to Miss Stowe. Hcb. Trav. vol. 2.
(Lond. lidit.) p. 3J0.


him. At times, and specially in that near contact
of the finite with the Infinite, the meeting of the
two worlds, the line of boundary between the
revolted province of Earth, and the kingdom of
our Father, which is touched and felt at the Altar
of the Holy Communion, there seems a communi-
cation opened between us and them, and Christ
bridges over the space, and " living and dead but
one communion make." But, still, all these feel-
ings have no solid Scripture to rest upon, except
the union of the soul with Christ, and the solem-
nities of Christian worship, because of the pres-
ence of Christ,! atj(j because of the angels.2 And
though our hopes and theories are pleasant and
plausible, yet from the imperfect revelations upon
the subject, we must rest satified with the know-
ledge, that memory and consciousness and love
are still exercised by the departed, and that per-
haps they are, indeed, very near to us.

But, if they know what we are doing and can
take knowledge of our souls, only as spirit can
know spirit, even as the Infinite Spirit is capable
of communion with our minds, do they know all
that befalls us, the evil that happens to us, our
woes, our sorrows, or our weakness? Would not
such a knowledge be a "troubling" of those, who
have escaped from trouble? But, here is a

* Matth. xviii. 19,20. ^ 1 Cor. xi. 10.


serious difficulty. If they do know all, then
must their views of things be so elevated, and
their knowledge of the Divine purposes and plans
so intimate, and their minds so conformed to the
Divine will as to say, in all, and through all,
" Even so. Father, for so it seemeth good in thy
sight : " or else, they must be pained, in that
place of the departed, where pain should have
end; and their sympathies be painfully aroused
by our strugglings. I see no way to solve the
difficulty, but in the faith that their comminiion
with lis, is in and through the LordJesvs Himself;
and of course that it is by Him, adapted to their
circumstances and ours.

That they know something, seems to be evident.
St. Paul, writing to the Hebrews, (Heb. xii.)
exhorts them to activity by the thought of the
great cloud of witnesses, with which they are
surrounded. The figure is borrowed from the
games and combats of the Roman amphitheatre :
where, it should be noted, that a special seat was
assigned to those, who had been crowned in
former contests. How the thought of their pre-
sence would stimulate a combatant ! How he
would feel the discriminating eye with which
they would regard him ! how they would under-
stand the merits of his practice ; appreciate his
skill; or mourn over his failure. It is true that
"witness" may mean only witness in the sense


oi 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
applies 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 bufiets?
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 loould do lis service, or give
them happiness to knov).

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.


Bat 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 con-
ception of their state previous to the great consum-
mation to imagine of it that it can only tolerate
happiness. When they were upon earth, they
deeply felt our dillicultics. It was owe of their
greatest privileges, and they felt it to be so, to
energize in prayer for those they loved, when
those beloved ones we?'e in sadness or in difficulty.
May we not imagine that the same feelings of this
kind of pleasurable, though not passionate energy,
may still be theirs 7 ^ They are not weighed

' " They which first found this part of the article ia the Creed,
and delivered their exposition to us, have made no greater enlarge-
ment of this communion, as to the saints of heaven, than the society
of hope, esteem, and imitation, on our side, of desires and supplica-
tions on their side,

" What is now taught hy the Church of Rome is, as an unwar-
rantalile, so a novilions interpretation."— /i/) Pearson on the Creed.

" Why do we not run with eager haste to see our country ? A
great multitude of lielovcd ones, parents, brethren, children, await


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 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

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 Bp. Pearson.

" I believe, O most holy Jesus, that thy saints here below have
communion with the saints above ; they praying for us in heaven,
■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 rejoicing in their happi-
ness, 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 Name,
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.


when the winds are high, battling almost with
the clouds ; so may we imagine those blessed
heavenly ones that have gone from lis, 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 perfectly evident that it might be easily car-
ried too far. This, however, is our safety, that
all communion 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
them on earth ; He Himself being the centre of
all such 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 tirst
instance, to conflict with the all-sufliciency of His
prevailing mediation. AVhy 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
evident 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
departed 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 consum-

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 imder the altar ^ shows us this:
it was a cry of weariness at the long-continued
sufferings 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
imagine Him to have described Dives as caring
for his brethren, if those that sleep have no care
at all for those that are alive and remain.

1 Rev. vi. 9.


There is sometliing 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 do we 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 com-
mon Spirit through this means doth beget a per-
fect communion ; nay, as the whole Church, in
her daily or weekly services, holds blessed sym-
pathetic communion by the means of this common
reading of God's Word, and by united prayer, so
do we, looking up in like manner to Jesus, com-
municate our thoughts, our feelings, our regrets,
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 un-
scriptural to believe, that He, our common Friend,
may communicate 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 hallelujahs 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 sigh-
ing or sad, or in difficulty, and pine after the love
of those that were once our friends and our coun-
sellors ; is it contrary to Scriptural analogy that
He should communicate these sorrows of ours to
them, and give them new opportunities of inter-
ceding for us? If the souls under the altar cry
out in compassion and sympathy for their sufier-
ing brethren, may we not believe that they who
are also there, — our friend, our brother, our
parent, or our child, implores for us? Or if 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,
communicates 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 seemg


to Others, so too often it will seem to ns. 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 fre-
quented, the walks He used to take, and the
pursuits He followed. 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 communicate all that I say
of right and true, to my friend that now lies ia
His bosom, and is with Him as a chosen dis-
ciple 7

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, hke the Head, is but One.

If we required a visible Head, as the Romanists
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 hira 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 Iiini by letter. There is —
and we should expect in that dispensation that
has brought life and inunortality to light, that
there must be, that which is analogous to all this
in our communion with the saints that rest. We
always knoio where to find them^ for they are in
Christ. We shall go to .them when duty permits,
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 communi-
cate nothing that would break their rest, and
every thing that would pour balm into their hearts
and into ours.

AVe 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 cor-
relative there ; and if the body be, therefore, as we
believe it to be, One: then our correspondence and
communion with them in linn, 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 Cathohc 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.^

1 This faith of the early Church is strikingly illustrated in the
monumental inscriptions, brought to light from the recesses of the
Catacombs at Rome. They have been uncovered to the number of
more than three thousand, and, both Pagan and Christian, ranging'
in antiquity as far down as to the fourth century, are now placed in
a hall of the Vatican; and they are interesting in the contrast of the
light of life and hope, breathed by the Christian mourner through
the tears of surviving affection, to the darkness and despair of the

" O relentless fortune ! " writes the Roman mother in her grief for
the loss of her child. " Thou, whodelightest in cruel death, why is
Maximus so early snatched from me ? "

"Valeria sleeps in peace," writes the Christian mother, "borne
away by angels on the Ides of January." " You have already,"
writes another over the infant, sealed in holy Baptism, ' begun to be
among' the innocent ones."

The Pagan inscribes upon the tomb of his friend : " Balnea, Vi-
num, Venus corrumpunt corpora : sed vilam faciunt." — The Chris-
tian writes, as Placas over his wife Albaua : " Jaces in pace : sapore
merita: resurgis temporalis libi data requetio." " Vidalio in Christo

The oneness of the body of Christ, the dead with the living : hope
of life and reunion beyond the grave ; these characterize the sepul-
chres of the early Christians: and they evidently looked through
the days of bloody persecutions, in which so many sealed their faith
in Christ, to that " Communion of Saints," whose full fruition could
only be had in the " many mansions above."



Thus it is that we think of the departed as still
living; still sharing with us a common life; and
having that life with God, though 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 with those who seemed once
so separated from them merely because they lived
here long ago; but who were, in fact, all their
lives, tiieir companions 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 Melchisedeck, and the veil is removed from
the hidden history of Adam and Eve. In such

' I am fully persuaded of this as of a necessary and infallilile truth,
that such persons as are truly sanctified in the Church of Christ,
while they live among the crooked ueneraiions of men, and struggle
with all the miseries of this world, have fellowship with God the
Father, God tiie Son, and God the Holy Ghost, dwelling with them,
and taking up their hahitaiions in them : that heside the external
fellowship which they have in the Word and sacraments with all
the members of the Church, ihey have an intimate union and con-
junction with all the saints on earth as the living memhers of Christ :
nor is this union separated hy the death of any ; hut as Christ, in
whom we live, is the Landi 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 gocth. — Pearson on the Creed.


society we may feel confident they are moving, —
where, exactly, we do not know; and it is an
almost bewildering thought, that they who talked
with us but a few hours ago, are now perhaps far
beyond the stars and the sunlight; but such is the
infinitude of the power of God, and such is the
majesty of our destiny !

" As there is a perfect union," says Bishop
Hall, "betwixt the glorious saints in heaven, and
a union (though imperfect) 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 re-
spect 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 correspondence be-
tween 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 j
they, therefore, who are now glorious comprehen-
sors, 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 con-
summation of this our weary pilgrimage, in the
fruition of their glory.

O ye blessed saints above, we honour your
memories so far as we ought ; we do with praise
recount your virtues: we magnify your victories;
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 exam-
ples ; \ye long and pray for a happy consociation
with you ; we dare not raise temples, dedicate
altars, direct prayers to you; we dare not, finally,
offer any thing to you which you are unwilling 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 part) desire
and strive to aspire; that our heads and shoulders
are above water, whilst the other limbs are yet
wading through the stream."

Therefore, with angels and archangels, and
with all the company of heaven, we laud and
magnify thy glorious Name ; evermore praising
Thee, and saying, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God
of Hosts, heaven and earth are full of thy glory.
Glory be to thee, O Lord most High."


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