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Consolatio : or, Comfort for the afflicted online

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reverence. Nay, more, we must remember that
it is not we who would draw God down to our
low wants ; He has descended Himself to the last
level of our weakness. He is in Christ the God-
man. His manhood is the basis of our trust for
sympathy ; his Godhead is our confidence for
power and help. As man, there is no sorrow
which we can feel, that does not touch Him ; as
God, there is no cry which we can make for help,
which He is not Almighty to answer. Whilst in
His almightiness, " He telleth the number of the
stars, and calleth them all by their names;" in
His meek and tender compassion, "He healeth
the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds."

The love of God, all satisfying.

The good which we receive from believing in
the love of God, manifested in Christ Jesus, is
analogous to that which we receive from believ-
ing in the worth and kindness of a human friend,
•only that the one is as nothing in comparison
with the other ; it is nothing else than the enjoy-
ment of God in Himself and in His creatures. It
is not any thing that we get on account of our
loving Him ; but it is the happiness of loving


Ilim, and knowing ourselves to be loved by Him;
it is a dwelling on, and in His high perfections:
it is giving Him our perfect sympathy, and re-
ceiving His : it is knowing Him as the infinite
God, and yet as an affectionate Father ; as a
friend that sticketh closer than a brother. It is
the assurance which the heart draws from
His love in giving His Son, and perhaps from
some more special and personal tokens of that
love, that He will never leave us nor forsake us ;
that He will never cease to love us with a love
which will be, and must be, our satisfying, and
filling, and delighting portion, through all eternity.
It is the joyful and confident anticipation of the
day when the mystery of God shall be accom-
plished, and the glory of the Lord shall be reveal-
ed, and when the children of God shall be glad,
and rejoice for ever in the new heavens and the
new earth which their Fathor shall create. It is
the discovering that all the works of creation, —
all events, time and space, eternity and infinity,
every thing is full of that God who loved us, and
gave himself for us; and who, in giving us Him-
self, freely gives us all things.


Godh moral training of us ; and self-crucifixion.

"Count it all joy when you fall into divers trials,
for the trial of your faith giveth it endurance ; " ^
that is, works the Divine principle into the
very substance of the mind. This surely is the
great purpose of Providence in the appointment
of events with regard to individuals. Not "a
sparrow falleth to the ground without God, and
not an event happens without a particular refer-
ence to the state and character of the person to
whom it happens. We have thus every day of
our lives many direct and special messages from
God to our souls. They are messages from God,
and surely we show Him small respect if we
treat His messages as trifling things. They are
full of importance ; they are opportunities given
to us of dying unto self, and living unto God, and
holding communion with Him. In every one of
them God says to us, "Seek ye my face;" and
we ought to be ever ready with our answer,
" Thy face. Lord, will we seek." With what an
awakenedness of attention should we live, if we
really believed that every event is a voice from
God, and an opportunity of dying unto self,
which cannot be neglected without great guilt,
and great loss to our souls. My dear reader, allow

* James, i. 2.


me to repeat this to you. Every event that liap-
pens to us strengthens either the love of God or
the principle of self within us, because on every
event we exercise our judgment or our feelings ;
and this we must do either according to the will
of God, or according to our own will.

Thus we can never stand still for a moment ;
there is no rest from the conflict ; we are con-
tinually taking part either with God or against
God. There are but two ways in which man can
walk towards eternity ; the narrow way, which
leads to life ; and the broad way, which leads to
destruction. The first is the way of self-forget-
ting, and God-pleasing ; the second is the way of
self-pleasing and God-forgetting. He is either
resisting self or not. He may be doing nothing
decidedly wrong, according to the world's esti-
mate of duty ; but unless he is systematically
denying himself, and taking up his cross daily,
he ctiiinoi be Christ's disciple ; for there is no room
for Christ's love in a heart which refuses to give
up self. Oh ! if wo felt as we ought, that that
only is good which draws us near to God, and
that self is indeed the great bar which divides us
from God, and keeps us at a distance from Him,
how easily should we be reconciled to those events
which cross and thwart the principle of self, see-
ing that they weaken the bar which separates us
from God, our only real good ; we should then


know that there is no evil but sin, and that every-
thing else must be a blessing, if it is received in
the spirit of prayer.

The lessons taught, ly God's delay, in answering our

The lesson taught us by the woman of Canaan^
has many aspects, of which the first, perhaps, is
this; that by every mark and token which the
stricken soul can read, He to whom she sought is
the only true portion and rest of every human
heart; that He would teach us this by all the dis-
cipline of outward things; that the ties of family
life are meant thus to train up our weak affections
till they be fitted to lay hold on Him ; that the
eddies and sorrows of life are meant to sweep us
from its flowery banks, that in its deep strong
currents we may fly to Him ; that for this end
He opens to us little by little the mystery of
trouble roinid us, the mystery of evil within us,
that we may fly from others and* ourselves, to

There is this further lesson also, that He will
most surely be found by those who do seek after

1 Matthew, xv. 23.


Him ; and tliis is taught us here, not by a mere
general assurance that we shall be heard, but in a
way which enters far more practically into those
difiiculties with which every one who has striven
to pray earnestly, finds earnest prayer beset ; for
here we see why it often happens that really
earnest and sincere men seem, for a time at least,
to pray in vain ; why their " Lord, help me," is
not answered by a word. It is not that Christ is
not near us ; it is not that His ear is heavy ; it is
not that the tenderness of His sympathy is blunt-
ed ; it is a part of His plan of faithfulness and
wisdom. He has a double purpose herein ; He
would bless by it both us and all^ His Church.

How could His Church have been taught always
to pray, and not to faint, better than by such a
narrative as this? How many a fainting soul has
gathered strength for one more hour of patient
supplication, by thinking on this Canaanitish
mother, on her seeming rejection, on her blessed
success at last I

And for ourselves, too, there is a special mercy
in these long-delayed blessings ; for it is only by
degrees that the work within us can be perfected;
it is only by steps, small and imperceptible as we
are taking them, yet one by one leading us to
unknown heights, that we can mount up to the
golden gate before us. The ripening of these pre-
cious fruits must not be forced. We have many


lessons to learn, and we can learn them but one
by one ; and much are we taught by these delay-
ed answers to our prayers. By them the treasure
of our hearts is cleared from dross, as in the fur-
nace-heat ; our earthly will is purified and bowed ;
the passionate fervency of unchastened prayer is
deepened into the strong breath of humble suppli-
cation ; we " wait upon the Lord who hideth His
face ; " the frowardness of our hearts is checked ;
patience has her perfect work ; we are kept look-
ing up to Christ; we watch Him by faith, and by
His grace, even as we hang upon Him, we grow
like unto Him ; His secret work goes on in us ;
we see Him as once we saw Him not, amidst the
shadows of this busy life of trifles ; we hear His
voice, for we are used to watch for it; we dwell
in Him and He in us.

Nor can we ever pray in vain, if we will but
persevere in praying. When we gain not our
suit at once, we are ever too ready to desist ;
therefore is it that the Lord withholds the answer,
that we may learn to persevere in asking ; that
we may grow to trust His love, to know what
He is to us, yea, what He is to all who wait upon

He would but teach us to come to Him at once
for all, and not to leave Him until we have won
our suit. He would but have us know that we
may thus deal with Him : that we want no Inter-


cesser with Him, who is Himself the true and
only Intercessor; that nothing is to be interposed
between our souls and Him; that He is tiie por-
tion of those souls, and that we may go straight
to Him.

Only let us, then, deal tiius with Him ; let us
open to Him our grief, our sin, our shame, our
difficulties ; let us show Him our need ; tell Him
where, "at home," hidden from the rude eye of
the world, but known to Him, is the " young
daughter grievously afflicted;" plead with Him
by His covenant of tears ; and, even as we enter
with Him into that cloud, on us too shall come
forth the sense of a presence which this world
knows not ; and a voice shall speak to us which
the world cannot hear; and we shall be alone
with Him ; and He shall call us by our name,
and we shall be His,

TJie sleep of Death, and the absence of Jesus.

"Our friend Lazarus sleepeth." ' What a
sweet title is here, both of death and of Laza-
rus ! Death is a sleep; Lazarus is our friend.
Lo, He says not "my friend," but ours; to

'John, xi. 11.


draw them first into a gracious familiarity and
communion of friendship with Himself: for what
doth this import but " Ye are my friends, and
Lazarus is both my friend and yours;" our
friend. O meek and merciful Saviour, that dis-
dainest not to stoop so low as that, whilst Thou
thoughtest it no robbery to be equal with God,
Thou thoughtest it no disparagement to match
Thyself with weak and wretched men ! Our
friend Lazarus ! There is a kind of purity in
friendship. There may be love where there is
the most inequality ; but friendship supposes
pairs ; yet the Son of God says of the sons of
men, "Our friend Lazarus." Oh! what a high
and happy condition is this for mortal men to as-
pire unto, that the God of heaven should not be
ashamed to own them for friends. Neither saith
He now abruptly, " Lazarus our friend is dead,"
but " Lazarus our friend sleepeth."

O Saviour ! none can know the estate of life
or death so well as Thou, that art the Lord of
both. It is enough that Thou tellest us that death
is no other than sleep; that which was wont to
pass for the cousin of death, is now itself All
this while we have mistaken the case of our dis-
solution : we took it for an enemy, it proves a
friend; there is pleasure in that wherein we sup-
posed horror. Who is afraid, after the weary toils
of the day, to take his rest by night? or what is


more refrcsliing to the spent traveller than a sweet
sleep? It is our infidelity, our impreparation, that
makes death any other than advantage. Even so,
Lord, when Thou seest I have toiled enougli. let
me sleep in peace ; and when Thou seest I have
slept enough, awake me as Thou didst thy Laza-
rus : " but I go to awake him."

The absence of our Saviour from the death-bed
of Lazarus was not casual, but voluntary; yea,
He is not only willing with it, but glad of it; "I
am glad for your sakes that I was not there."
How contrary may the affections of Christ and
ours be, and yet be both good ! The two worthy
sisters were much grieved at our Saviour's ab-
sence, as doubting it might savour of some neg-
lect. Christ was glad of it, for the advantage of
His disciples' faith. 1 cannot blame them that
they were thus sorry ; I cannot but bless Him,
that He was thus glad. The gain of their faith
in so Divine a miracle, was more than could be
countervailed by their momentary sorrow. God
and we are not the like affected by the same
events: He laughs where we mourn; He is an-
gry where we are pleased.

The difference of the affections arises from the
difference of the objects which Christ and they
apprehend in the same occurrence. Why are the
sisters sorrowful ? Because upon Christ's absence
Lazarus died. Why was Jesus glad He was not


there? For the benefit which He saw would
accrue to their faith. There is much variety of
prospect in every act, according to the several in-
tentions and issues thereof; yea, even in the very
same eyes. The father sees his son combating in
a duel for his country: he sees blows and wounds
on the one side ; he sees renown and victory on
the other ; he grieves at the wounds, he rejoices
at the honour. Thus doth God in all our afflic-
tions : He sees our tears, and hears our groans,
and pities us ; but withal He looks upon our pa-
tience, our faith, onr crown, and is glad that we
are afflicted. O God ! why should we not con-
form our diet unto thine? When we lie in pain
and extremity, we cannot but droop under it ; but
do we find ourselves increased in true mortifica-
tion, in patience, in hope, in a constant reliance
on thy mercies? Why are we not more joyed in
this, than dejected with the other? Since the
least grain of the increase of grace is more worth,
than can be equalled with whole pounds of bodily

The blessedness of acting as in God's presence.

He who is conscious of no witness but his fel-
low-men, and who feels that he has no part to act
but in the eyes of the world, has lost all cheering


motive to right conduct, when cut off by circum-
stances from human converse. In sleepless nights
and days of languor upon his couch, he has no
employment but to count the hours ; no com-
panions but restlessness and pain. All worth
living for to him has fled ; his occupation is gone :
a burthen to himself, and still left to himself, when
"in the night he communes with his own heart,
and searches out his spirit;" what can he find
there but the mournful conviction, that he is
"clean forgotten, as a dead man out of mind;"
that he is " become like a broken vessel ? "

How different is the experience of that man
who knows that he is a " fellow-citizen with the
saints, and of the household of God!" Though
cast into the deepest shade of what the world calls
solitude, he is never less alone than when alone:
he is cheered by the consciousness that God is
"about his path, and about his bed, and spieth
out all his ways : " he has a never-failing and
animating motive for the right performance of
every, the most trifling action; for all is done in
the presence of that Being " in whose favor is
life," and whose smile is the sunshine of the world
of spirits. In the chamber of disease, in silence,
and in darkness, he has still his duties to perform,
his part to act, his battles to fight, and victories
to gain; and all this not only in the sight of God,
but in the view of that cloud of witnesses, before


whom every candidate for an immortal crown
runs his heavenward race. He feels that no silent
submission to his cross, no patient endurance of
his pain, no tear of penitence, or sigh that breathes
towards heaven, is forgotten before God : nay, he
is assured that if God approves, angels and min-
istering spirits rejoice in witnessing how his
"light afflictions, which are but for a moment,
work for him a far more exceeding and eternal
weight of glory."

Such is the only solitude which the man of
faith and prayer can know ; such are the scenes
which open to his view in the loneliness of his
closet; such the stars and constellations which
appear when the light of this world is withdrawn,
and its sun goes down.

The fruitfulness of the Iranch in Christ increased by

"Furthermore, we have had fathers of our
flesh, who corrected us, and we gave them rever-
ence ; shall we not much rather be in subjection
unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they
verily for a few days corrected us, after their own
pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be
partakers of His holiness." ^ There is a rever-

> Heb. xii. 9.


ence due to earthly parents, and children are
required to submit to their correction, although
herein they often consult their own will and
pleasure more than their children's profit. And
is not greater reverence due to the Father of
our spirits, and shall we not submit to His cor-
rections, especially since His design in them
is to promote the greatest dignity and highest
happiness of His children, even to make them
partakers of His holiness ? for to partake, is not
only to give them a title to, but also to give them
possession of, to communicate, to have fellowship
with Him, to share with Him His holiness. And
the Heavenly Husbandman, purposing to make
the branches very fruitful, has provided eifectual
means; among which the chief is His fatherly
correction. This He sends to all His children,
and in the tendercst love. He would have them
to bring forth much fruit, that herein He may be
glorified; holy fruit, produced by His care and
culture, and ripened by daily communications of
His grace; therefore, He appoints many heiivy .
trials and crosses, by which He designs to bring
them not only to believe in His love, but also to a
growing enjoyment of it. He would communi-
cate to them an increase of its blessings: He
would have them nearer to Himself, and more
like to Himself; holy as He is Iioly — not in de-
gree, but in likeness: He would teach them more


submission to His will, for which he wisely and
mercifully suits the cross: He would improve
their love to Him, which He does by manifesting
His to them ; therefore, He sends his cross to
deaden their hearts to other love, that He may
give them a happier sense of His; and His chil-
dren have found suffering times blessed times;
they never had such nearness to their Father,
such holy freedom with Him, and such heavenly
refreshments from Him, as under the cross : it
only took away what stopped the increase of His
happiness, which thereby was made more spirit-
ual and exalted. The cross, thus sanctified, is
the greatest blessing on this side heaven, because
by it the Father keeps His children in the closest
communion that they have with Him upon earth :
by it He purges them, makes them fruitful, and
partakers of His holiness : by it He crucifies the
life of sense, deadens them to the world, mortifies
their lusts and passions ; and by it, as the out-
ward man perisheth, the inward man is renewed
day by day. Most blessed renewal ! Daily, the
Father communicates (and by means of the cross)
new life, new strength, and new comfort, to the
inward man. By the right spirit renewed within
him, he learns the necessity of the daily cross ; he
sees the merciful appointment of it, to teach resig-
nation to the Father's holy will, — to work a con-
formity to the first-born among many brethren,


both ill sulTeriiig and by sufTeritig, — to bring in
sensible experience of the Father's support and
comfort. What blessings are these? How great!
how precious ! to be branches in the vine, and to
have the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ the
husbandman, who grafts them into Him. Oh,
what an infinite mercy is this ! And to be under
His special care, faithfully watched over, in
order to remove every thing hurtful, and to be-
stow every thing usct^il, this love passcth under-
standing. And to have this love to feast upon,
in the absence of other comforts ; to have them
taken away only to make room for this ; to enjoy
this most plentifully, even under troubles and
afflictions; and to be only purged by them in
order to bring forth much fruit: these are tri-
umphs of Divine love.

The hrclhren of Christ, men of sorrow. Perfection,
through suffering.

Nothing so likens us to the example of Christ,
as sulfering. It seems to be an inevitable law
arising out of the fall of the old, and the perfect-
ing of the new creation; first, that the second
Adam should be " a man of sorrows : " and, next,


that we should be conformed to Him in this as-
pect of His perfection: "It became Him for
whom are all things, and by whom are all things,
in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the
Captain of their salvation perfect through suffer-
ings." And it is not more in relation to sanctity
than to sufferings, that St. Paul says that we
were predestinated " to be conformed to the image
of His Son, that he might be the first-born among
many brethren ;" and therefore, " What son is he
whom the father chasteneth not!" and argues
that to be free from chastisement, is an awful
exception, ratber to be feared than coveted, as
clouding the bright though keen tokens of son-
ship, which are seen in them that suffer. There
is a breadth and universality in this reasoning
which seems to force upon us the conviction, that
no true member of His body, who was made per-
fect through sufferings, shall pass out of life with-
out at some time drinking of tlie cup that He
drank of, and being baptized with the baptism
that He was baptized with. And, indeed, if we
look into the lives of His saints, we shall see that
this is simply true. All that suffer are not there-
fore saints. Alas ! far from it, for many suffer
without the fruits of sanctity ; but all saints, in
some one time, and some way and measure, have
entered into the mystery of suffering. And this
throws light upon a very perplexing thought in


which we sometimes entangle ourselves: I mean
the wonderful fact, that oftentimes the same per-
sons are as visibly marked by sorrow as by sanc-
tity. We often see the holiest of Christ's servants
afflicted with a depth and multiplication of suffer-
ings beyond other men. They seem never to
pass out of the shadow of affliction : no sooner is
one gone off than another has come up; "the
clouds return after the rain ;" sorrow gathers unto
sorrow; sickness gives way before sickness; fears
are thrust out by fears; anxieties are only lost in
anxieties ; they seem to be a mark for all the
storms and sorrows of adversity; the world
esteems them to be '' stricken, smitten of God,
and afflicted:" even religious people are perplexed
at their trials. When we see eminently holy per-
sons suddenly bereaved, or suffering sharp bodily
anguish, and their trials long drawn out, or mul-
tiplied by succession, we often say, " How strange
and dark is this dispensation ! Who would have
thought that one so pure, so patient, and resigned,
should have been so visited and overwhelmed by
strokes? If they had been slack, or lukewarm,
or backward, or self-willed, or entangled in world-
ly affections, we could better reach the meaning
of this mysterious trial; but who more earnest
and useful in all good works ; who so advanced
in holiness, so nigh to the kingdom of heaven as
they 7" And yet all this shows how shallow and


blind our faith is; for we know little even of those
Ave know best; we readily overrate their charac-
ters ; at all events, it is far otherwise in the esteem
of God than in our judgment: our thoughts are
not His thoughts ; we set up a poor, dim, depress-
ed standard of perfection ; and we should miser-
ably defraud even those we love most, if it were
in our power to mete out their trials by our
measures : we little know what God is doing, and
how can we know the way? And we often think
the sorrows of the saints are sent for their punish-
ment, when they are sent for their perfection.
Either way we are greatly ignorant. They may
need far more of purification than we think; they
may be suffering for an end higher than purifica-
tion, — for some end which includes purification
and unknown mysteries besides. We forget that
Christ suffered, and why; and how He learned
obedience, and what that obedience was. He
was all-pure ; suffering could find no more to
cleanse, than sin could find to fasten upon. The
Prince of this world "had nothing" in Him, yet
whose sorrow is like unto His sorrow, " where-
with the Lord afflicted" Him '• in the day of his
fierce anger?" — and that, (great as the mystery
must ever be,) not only and altogether as a vica-

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