P. H. Greenleaf.

Consolatio : or, Comfort for the afflicted online

. (page 6 of 14)
Online LibraryP. H. GreenleafConsolatio : or, Comfort for the afflicted → online text (page 6 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

rious suffering, but that in the truth of our man-
hood, He might learn " obedience by the things
that he suffered." He was made "perfect" by


sufferings, and that perfection, whatsoever it be,
has an ineffable depth of meaning. It was not
only a sacerdotal perfection, by consecration to
the priesthood of Melchisedec, but something of
which that was the formal expression and mani-
festation ; a great spiritual reality; a perfection
of holiness, knowledge, obedience, will, and sym-
pathy : this was the perfection, in truth and
spirit, of " the one mediator between God and
man, the man Christ Jesus;" and of this perfec-
tion, after the measures of a creature, and the
proportions of our mere manhood, are the saints
mnde to partake ; they are purified, that they
may be perfect: and therefore the sorrows of the
holiest minds are the highest approaches to the
mind of Christ, and are full of a meaning which
is dark to us only from its exceeding brightness.
Our weak faith, which can read the earlier teach-
ing of affliction, goes blind when it follows the
mystery of sorrow upward to the perfection of

And therefore, when we look at the sufferings
of pure and holy minds, let us rather stand ui
awe as being called to behold, as it Avere, a
shadow of our Redeemers sorrows. The holier
they are that suffer, the higher is the end for
which they are afflicted. It may be they are
learning inscrutable things of the same order with
those which the Apostle saw in ecstasy. Even


with bleeding hearts and deep-drawn prayers for
their consolation, let us try to believe that God is
endowing them with surpassing tokens of love,
and with pledges of exceeding glory.

And for ourselves, let us be sure when we
suffer, that for chastisement and for purification
we need more a thousand fold than all He lays
upon us. The heaviest and the sharpest of our
sorrows is only just enough to heal us. "He
doth not ivillmgly afflict." Let us remember,
too, that sufferings do not sanctify ; they are only
seasons of sanctification ; their end will be for
good or ill, as we bear and as we use them: they
are no more than times of invitation to diligent
toil, like the softness of the earth after a keen and
piercing shower : they hold in check, for a time,
our spiritual faults, and prepare our hearts to re-
ceive and to retain deeper and sharper impres-
sions of the likeness of our Lord. Let us count
them precious, blessed seasons, though dim and
overcast ; seasons of promise and of springing
freshness, tokens of His nearness and purpose to
cleanse us for His own. " Blessed are ye that
weep now." He that is greatly tried, if he be
learning obedience, is not far from the kingdom
of God. Our heavenly Father is perfecting His
work in us, laying in the last touches with His
wise and gentle hand. He that perfected His
own Son through sufferings, has brought many


sons to glory by the same rough road, even by
the " way that is desert." He is bringing you
home to Himself. Do not shrink, because the
path is broken and solitary, for the way is short,
and the end is blessed.

The mistakes of suffering.

Let ns learn what is the true point of sight
from which to look at all the trials of life. We
hear people perpetually lamenting, uttering pas-
sionate expressions of grief at visitations which
they say have come upon them unlooked-for, and
stunned them by their suddenness : one has lost
his possessions, another his health, another his
powers of sight or hearing, another "the desire
of his eyes," parents, children, husbands, wives,
friends ; each sorrowing for their own, and all
alike viewing their allliction from the narrow
point of their own isolated being; they seem to
be hostile invasions of their peace, mutilations of
the integrity of their lot, untimely disruptions of
their fondest ties, and the like. Much as we
speak of violent deviations of nature from her
laws, and of the mysterious agency of devastat-
ing powers, so we talk of the destruction of our
fortune, the breaking up of our happiness, the


wreck of our hopes. Now all this loose and faith-
less language arises from our not recognizing the
great law to which all these are to be referred.
It is no more than this: that God is disposing of
what has been offered up to Him in sacrifice ; as,
for instance, when a father or mother bewails the
taking away of a child, have they not forgotten
that he was not their own? Did they not offer
him at the font? Did not God promise to receive
their oblation? What has He done more than
taken them at their word ? They prayed that
He would make their child to be His "own child
by adoption ; " and He has not only heard, but
answered their prayers. Have they not perpetu.
ally, since that day, asked for him the kingdom
of heaven, even as the mother of Zebedee's chil-
dren came and besought that her two sons might
sit, the one on his right hand, and the other on
his left, in his kingdom ? Like them, they knew
not what they asked; they were desiring a high
blessing, awful in its height ; for which, if grant-
ed, they may have to go sorrowing because God
has heard their prayer, and a sword has pierced
through their own soul also. In an especial man-
ner this seems true of the death of infants ; they
were offered up to Him, and He took them to
Himself So that they be His, who dare lament
that He has chosen the place where they shall
stand and minister before Him? Little, it may


be, the glad mother thought as she stood beside
the font, what she was then doing; httle did slie
forecast what was to come, or read the meaning of
her own acts and prayers. And so likewise, when
any true servants of Clirist are taken away, what
is it but a token of His favourable acceptance
of their sclf-obIation7 They liavc been His from
baptism, and He has granted them a long season
of tarrying in this outer court of His temple. But
now, at length, the time is come ; and when we
see them " bow the head, and give up the ghost,"
is it not our slowness of heart that makes even
our eyes also to be holden, so as not to see who
is standing nigh, conforming them to His own
great sacrifice? While they were with us they
were not ours, but His ; they were permitted to
abide with us, and to gladden our hearts awhile ;
but they were living sacrifices, and ever at the
point of being caught up to heaven.

And so, lastly, in all that befalls ourselves, we
too are notour own, but His: all that we call
ours is His ; and when He takes it from us —
first one loved treasure, tlien another, till He
makes us poor, and naked, and solitary — let us
not sorrow that we are stripped of all we love,
but rather rejoice for that (iod accepts us : let us
not think that we are left here, as it were,
unseasonably alone, but remember that, by our
bereavements, we arc in part translated to the


world unseen. He is calling us away, and send-
ing on our treasures. The great law of sacrifice
is embracing us, and must have its perfect work.
Like Him, we must be made "perfect through
suffering. " Let us pray Him, therefore, to shed
abroad in us the mind that was in Christ; that
our will being crucified, we may offer up our-
selves to be disposed of as He sees best, whether
for joy or sorrow, blessing or chastisement; to be
high or low, to be slighted or esteemed, to be full
or to suffer much, to have many friends or to
dwell in a lonely home; to be passed by, or call-
ed to serve Him and His kingdom in our own
land, or among people of a strange tongue; to be,
to go, to do, to suffer, even as He wills, even as
He ordains, even as Christ endured, " who,
through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself with-
out spot to God." Amen.

Ephphatha, the meaning of our Saviour''s sigh.

But why, when He used the word of iiealing,
did He accompany it with that sigh? ' We may
ask the same question at the grave of Lazarus.
Why did He weep when He stood by the dead

1 " And looking up to heaven He sighed, and saith unto him,
Ephphatha."— St. Mark, vii. 34.


man's grave, or sigh when He looked upon the
deaf man's barred ears? Why did He weep
when He was going to make the dead man hve,
or sigh when He was going to make the deaf man

The answer is not a difiicult one. It was His
profound sense of the woes of man that so affected
Him. To us, the restoration of voice or of hfe to
the dumb or the dead is so great a thing, that it
overspreads our souls with the brightest sunshine.
If we have some dear friend visited witii any
grievous defect, and Cod supplies it, we are over-
whelmed with joy : or if one whom we love, per-
haps as life itself, might seem to be hanging over
the grave, and about to drop into it, and then
God should rebuke the disease, and give us good
hope of restoration, our joy would be almost
excessive. How different was .Tesus ! He saw
in His own mind both voice and hearing already
restored to the poor deaf stammerer, yet He sigh-
ed; He saw the flame of life already rekindled
in the death-cold bosom of Lazarus, and yet He
wept. Why, then, again, did He sigh ? and why
did He weep? My brethren, it was not one poor
stammerer that He came to give speech to, nor
one cold corpse that He came to revive. " I am
the Res7irrectio7i and the Life^ " were his own
great words as He stood over the grave at Beth-
any. He looked over the countless dead, whom


sin had slain, and what was the restoration of hfe
to one poor body, of all that host? He looked
over the countless families whom death had made
desolate, and what was the consolation of one
little circle, when so many myriads of mourners
remained 7 Therefore He wept.

" O'erwhelming thoughts of pain and grief
Over his sinking spirit sweep :
What boots it gathering one lost leaf
Out of yon sere and wither'd heap,
Where souls and bodies, hopes and joys,
All that earth owns, or sin destroys.
Under the spurning. hoof are cast,
Or tossing in th' autumnal blast !" i

This was the reason of the tears and the sighs
of the Son of Man.

He looked all down the dreadful stream of
human suffering. He saw, — it was a mighty
part, perhaps the very mightiest part of his Pas-
sion, — He saw clearly before Him the congregat-
ed miseries of man; He saw the strong bowed
down by weakness, the healthy wasting away by
the slow poison-juice of mortality: He saw many
a babe diseased from the very womb, and instead
of the bright eye, and the active limb, and the
quick ear and bell-like voice of childhood, — visit-
ed with the dark orb, tlie crippled member ; deaf,

1 The Christian Year.


or a stammerer. He saw tlie perfection of human
beauty consumed by some dreadful disease, like
a moth fretting a lovely garment. He saw the
solitary chamber, and He heard the stifled sobs
of ten thousand mourners, and the cry of agony
which the poor sufferer could not repress, and the
racking pain which she could not — which she
could scarcely, even with thy mighty aid, O
Jesus, bear ! Such was the dreadful vision which
the Son of Man beheld; a dark, wide, rolling
stream of tears, and sighs, and misery ; a river of
the waters of the blackness of death.

And there is solid comfort in this view of the
character of our blessed Saviour. What made
Him sigh then, makes Him sympathize now.
The heart of Jesus is not changed : He has carried
His human body' to heaven, and there, with His
wounded hands and woimded feet, and pierced
heart flowing down with water and with blood,
He pities, and He pleads for man. He is our
sacrificing and sympathizing Priest; Himself the
sacrifice, for He lies like a Lamb slain upon the
high altar of heaven ; Himself the Priest, that in
the linen garments of our humanity offers up, in
prevailing intercession and perfect sympathy, the
prayers and the tears of His people, and per-
fumes them with the fragrant incense of His own

' See ivlh Article of Religion, in " the Book of Coimnon Prayer."


Oh, what a consolation ! The sigh that rose
that day from the shores of Gennesareth to heaven,
— it is the very panacea for sorrow. No heart
can be perfectly desolate while that sigh is andi-
ble. We may lose every thing we love ; but if
we think of Him who loved what we loved, ten
thousand times better than we could ever love it;
if we think that He possesses what we have lost;
and if we know, (and know we do,) that He looks
now, not up to heaven, but down to earth, and
sends npon our beating hearts the cool wind of
that most tranquillizing sigh ; if we know this all
to be true, all a perfect reality, Jesus to be quite
near us, as near us as our grief is near, and un-
failing in sympathy, and matchless in His heal-
ing power; then, suffer as we may, sigh as we
may, and be as desolate as we can be conceived
to be, yet are our sighs, and our tears, and our
desolation, all but means for our more complete
cure; very avenues of blessing; channels cut out
in the hard rocks of our stony hearts, only that
the grace of His sympathy may more completely
fill and refresh them.

We are told that previously to performing this
cure, our blessed Lord took this poor stammerer

There is a meaning in this for us all. It is in
loneliness, in our solitary chamber, or in some
season of more than ordinary calm and privacy,


that God often deals with the soul. The world
is noisy and feverish, and agitating, and over-
powers us with its many voices, and with the
din and tumult of its stunning cares. We can
scarcely hear the soft whisper of the Son of Man
amid that tumultuous uproar; we can scarcely
distinguish His form amid the pressing crowds
that are about us. It is good to be alone with
God and his Christ; so good, that when we are
too mad for company, He often Himself builds up
some high wall of separation, or puts us in some
lonely house of death, that we may be compelled
to listen.

If such has been His dealing with you; if you
have been taken away for a time by any calami-
ty from the busier hum and haunts of life, it is He
that has thus removed you. Has His object been
answered? Have you felt His finger upon you?
Has healing virtue gone out of His mouth to
bless you '? Have your ears been opened? Has
the string of your stammering tongue been
loosed ? Can you now hear, and speak, and sing
of Christ?

When you go into your silent chamber, ask
Him to bless you, as He did the poor deaf man.
When you go down by the sea-shore, and see
the "little ships" all drawing their lines of light
along its blue bosom, and the fishermen spreading
their nets, think of the sea of Tiberias, and the
boats of Peter and of the sons of Zcbedcc, and of


Jesus, and the crowds that hstened to Him, and
the words He spake, and the wonders He per-
formed. Bring all your maladies to Him. Pre-
sent the cases of your sick friends, or your young,
happy, joyous children to Him. He stands there,
we may almost say, to bless you. He stands
there, that you may come and seek His blessing.
Look earnestly towards Him; try to realize His
presence; court solitude, that you may have His
company; stand apart from the multitude, that
He may come and converse with you ; do not
shrink from a lonely chamber, for He has cleared
it that He may Himself come in ; and if you feel
that you hear but little of the deep harmonies
that fill creation, and if hearing but little, you
only stammer when you attempt to utter them,
look up to Him who stands over you with the
same matchless power, and the same ineffable
love; and He (be assured) as He poured upon the
deaf stammerer's tongue the music of speech, will
fill your souls to their utmost depths with the
harmonies of praise.

If chastisement is a token of God's love, why
should I faint under it, or so much as desire
release from it, till it has done its work? I must
suffer and die ; with the help of God, I ivill suffer
and die.


The Christian in trial, a spectacle.

The Christian prays for fuller manifestations of
Christ's power and glory, and love to Him ; but
he is often not aware that this is, in truth, pray-
ing to be brought into the furnace; for in the
furnace only it is that Christ can -walk with His
friends, and display in their preservation and de-
liverance His own Almighty power; yet, when
brought thither, it is one of the worst parts of the
trial, that the Christian often thinks himself, for
a time, at least, abandoned. Job thought so; but,
while he looked on himself as an outcast, the In-
finite Spirit and the wicked spirit were holding a
dialogue on his case ! He was more an object of
notice and interest than the largest armies that
were ever assembled, and the mightiest revolu-
tions that ever shook the world, consi'Jered merely
in their temporal interests and consequences.
Let the Christian be deeply concerned, in all liis
trials, to honour his Master before such observers.

Prayers for holiness answered hy sorrow.

God's way of answering the Christian's prayer
for an increase of patience, experience, hope, and
love, usually is to put him into the furnace of tri-


bulation. St. James therefore says, " Count it all
joy when ye fall into divers temptations.^^ People
of the world '■'■count it all joy'''' when they are in
ease and affluence, but a Christian is taught to
'■'•count it all joy'''' when he is tried as gold in the

A time of need., a time of prayer., and of refreshment.

When the privations of life have diminished the
objects of social happiness ; when death has dried
up the fountains which run freely with their clear
and salutary waters; when pain and disease have
altered the character of existence, and changed
the scene of hilarity, and buoyancy, and activity,
into the scene of suffering, inactivity, patience,
and abstraction from the previous intercourse of
life ; then to go to the throne of grace, and to
draw closer the ties which no privation, nor suf-
fering, nor vicissitude, can dissolve; this is to con-
nect "a time of need" with the best and brightest
manifestations of mercy and grace to the soul !
Many may be the hours of comparative repinings
and of wounded hopes, and of unhealthy wander-
ings of mind ; but these are sometimes exchanged
for hours passed at the throne of grace, to which
no eye but that of God is witness ; hours when


Christ speaks, and pain and sorrow are forgotten;
hours, when cut off from the din of hfe, and sepa-
rated from friends, and left alone with God, every
murmuring is yet hushed, and every privation is
repaid ! — hours when the manifestation of the
Redeemer's glory to the soul has shed a calm and
a blissful radiance around every prospect, and
proved the earnest of that belter iieritage which
is "incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth
not away."

Believer in Christ ! mark well the grounds upon
which the efficacy of thy prayer depends; thy
very cry of guilt and sorrow is the result of the
Spirit whose habitation thou art. Thou art the
property of God, and under the sure protection of*
Jesus thou wilt reach thy eternal home. Pray
then in faith. Consider thy great High Priest;
think of the virtue of His blood, and of the preva-
lency of His intercession. Come boldly to His
throne of grace; unfold all thy heart; lay bare to
Him its guilt, defilement, weakness and incon-
stancy. Implore mercy with incessant repetition
of anxiety. " In every time of need seek grace to
help." Jesus Christ knows all thy wants, and
"has received gifts," tiiat "out of His fulness
thou shouldst receive grace for grace." He has
opened the way to God ; He has unbarred the
gates of acceptance; He has overcome death, and
hell, and sin. and He bids thee " be of good cheer."


Come, then, with holy confidence, into his sanc-
tuary; attach the highest vahie to prayer ; deem
it to be thy best preservative from sin, and thy
best antidote to sorrow. Expect large and full
relief at the throne of grace. Retreat from the
accusations of conscience, from the stern voices of
the law, from the calumnies of men, from the
malice of Satan, from the fears and inconstancy
of thine own heart; retreat from all these enemies,
and take thy shelter within the sanctuary of the
Lord. Thou hast an heritage in the heart of
Christ; thy name is written there, and "thou
shalt never be forgotten." His love cannot change,
nor can His knowledge of thy case be at any time
obscure. He knows all; He feels all; He will
succour all.

Never canst thou know His inexhaustible kind-
ness. No human conception can grasp the mighty
mystery of His covenant love ! But depend, con-
fide, petition, pray; be ever a suppliant at the
throne of grace. Thou art as much the object of
His tender care as if thou wert His lone child in
the universe of nature ! Cast, then, thy burden
upon Him, and say, with a joy unspeakable, and
full of glory, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall
not want."



Effect of the death and burial of Christ upon deaths
and the place of the dead.

Here, in the grave of Christ, our souls, being
planted in the likeness of His death, shall be
planted in the likeness of His resurrection also;
and it is the same with our bodies. His death is
the life of our souls, and of our bodies also, by His
quickening Spirit. This His body is that seed of
which He spake in the deep groanings of His suf-
fering soul, which, if it die, shall not abide alone,
but bring forth many seeds like unto itself; for
our vile body, if we be buried with Him. shall be
fashioned like unto His glorious body. Here,
therefore, must we come, not only that we may
learn to live, but also that we may learn to die,
and to contemplate with comfort the death of our
friends ; for here may we be not only dead iDith
Him, but in Him also; dead in some sense, with
the faithful departed. It is here with Christ that
we learn to rcllect on the death of our friends,
and on our own, with peace and consolation, and
in the depth of His grave to learn Christian hope.

Here the solemn calm of the great Sabbath hath
already begun. In the deep stillness which is
here exchanged for the anxieties and agonies, and
the feverish passions and excitement of the scene
that has passed, we seem to participate in the


awful calm of death; and as in life we mingle
and blend our sympathies with the condition and
state of our friends, and borrow their feelings, so
in this calm we seem to partake of the stillness of
those souls which are released from the body in
that place, " where the wicked cease from troub-
ling, and the weary are at rest." And if this calm
is so striking, contrasted with that which is past,
still greater is that feeling of stillness in death
when we contrast it with that which is to come,
the great morning of the resurrection ; deep is the
suspense that watches in that awful expectation ;
here is that night of which our Lord spake, where-
in no man can work : He hath done our work for
us; our righteousness is no longer of works, but
we may rest in Him.

Blessed, therefore, is this grave, because we
therein approach to the dead in Christ, and be-
cause this is the home where we ourselves shall
have to dwell; for we, too, shall soon have to
make our bed in the dark, and the grave shall
close its doors about us ; and before then it is the
home of our buried affections, the house of all
.living. Here might one pourtray human nature
itself sitting at a tomb, for our life is a continual
bereavement, and as soon as we begin to know
affection, we begin to mourn the loss of it. No
one can have lived for any time in the Avorld, but
his best treasures and his best affections must be


with the dead ; and there is no reflecting person
who does not find tliat those parts of his Hfe, in
which he sinks most deeply into himself and the
knowledge of his condition, are made iip.of those
hours of stillness and solitude, where he seems to
sit at the grave of those who were once like him-
self, full of the same thoughts, and feelings, and
affections. Stillness and solitude is of itself like
a holy sanctuary, wherein he seems to draw near
to them; it is that in which they are ever foimd ;
and to draw near to them is to draw away from
the world ; for wherever it is that the faithful de-
parted are, we know that to be with them is to be
with Christ.

So much is this contemplation for our soul's
health in the school of Divine wisdom, that in

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryP. H. GreenleafConsolatio : or, Comfort for the afflicted → online text (page 6 of 14)