P. H. Greenleaf.

Consolatio : or, Comfort for the afflicted online

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ease 7 Were the sworn soldiers of the cross to live
softly 7

Our Lord, too, who bore the cross for us,
preached the cross ; hear Him ! " He that taketh
not his cross, and followeth after me, is not
worthy of me." (Matt. x. 38.) "Then said he
to his disciples. If any man will come after me,
let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,
and follow me." (Luke, ix. 23.)

Would any know how to begin bearing the
cross? Some crosses God, from our very child-
hood, has in His goodness provided for us, that
in them we may learn, what of ourselves we
should have had no courage to begin. We speak
of the "crosses" of daily life, and forget that our
very language is a witness against us; how
meekly we ought to bear them, in the blessed
steps of our Holy Lord; how, in "every cross
and care," we ought not to acquiesce simply, but
to take them cheerfully, — not cheerfully only,
but joyfully; yea, if they should even deserve
the name of tribulation, to "joy in tribulation"


also, as seeing in them our Father's hand, our
Saviour's cross. So walking on earth, we may
be in heaven: the ill-tempers of others, the slights
and rudenesses of the world, ill health, the daily
accidents with which God has mercifully strewed
our paths, instead of ruffling or disturhing our
peace, may cause the peace of God to be '"shed
abroad in our hearts through the Holy Ghost
which is given to us."

The cleansing of the clouds of life.

"And now men see not the bright light which
is in the clouds; but the wind passeth and cleans-
eth them."^ So speaks Elihu, in the solemn and
sublime address which he makes to Job. " Now
we see through a glass darkly ;" so writes the
Apostle to the early converts at Corinth, when
telling them of the character of their state and
calling. The "now" of Elihu is the present
hour, the present day, the present month or year;
the "now " of the Apostle is the whole scope of
the present chequered life. Of both, the same
great truth is justly to be predicated. "VVe live in
constant twilight; wc cannot see by the clear

' Job, xxxvii. 21.


broad light of day the exact colour and character
of God's providences : some small part is re-
vealed, but a far larger is hidden: we see the
clouds, but we cannot understand them, we can-
not interpret them ; they have a meaning, but we
cannot tell exactly what it is; it is an enigma, a
riddle, a mystery; and it must continue to be so
until time draws up the veil of the future, and
God, the revealer of secrets, displays to His wait-
ing, wondering,- adoring servants, the glory and
the beauty of all this mysterious dispensation.

" The wind," says Elihu, " passeth and cleans-
eth them." "Then," says the Apostle to the
Corinthians, " then shall v/e see face to face."
The clouds of Providence shall be dispersed at
last; the wind shall clear and cleanse the dark-
ened sky : we shall see face to face ; the day-
dawn of another world shall succeed to the long
and laborious gloom of this ; the shadows shall
flee away; and as God Himself sees, so almost
shall we see in open vision His unclouded glory.

It was to explain to the uneasy and anxious
mind of Job, or if not to explain, at least to illus •
trate the character of God's dealings, that Elihu
spoke these words. Let us ask and wait for the
aid of the Holy Spirit, while we endeavor to
expand their meaning.

First, and generally, they, place before us a
moral truth imder a natural appearance. They


bid us look at the clouds that hang heavily over
the landscape. How dark and gloomy they
seem ! They are like a great curtain let down
and drawn before us ; they seem to shut out all
light, to exclude all hope, to veil and almost to
extinguish all beauty. We can scarcely believe
but that all that is behind them is as melancholy
as they are themselves; it seems as if heaven (I
mean the natural heaven) were all cloud; as if,
pierce deep as we might into its bosomed gloom,
we should still find nothing but cold, and dark-
ness, and mist. We may have seen the blue
depths of the vaulted heaven a thousand times
before ; we may have rejoiced in their azure
glory ; we may have felt the strange and myste-
rious charm of their power upon our souls; but it
is all now as if it had never been; we only see
the rolling world of clouds that swim above us,
and that fill our minds as well as our sight, and
seem to blot out every trace of former sunlight,
and almost to destroy every possibility of future

It is in words like those before us that we are
thus taught a moral lesson by a natural type.
"Look at those clouds," (so the Holy Spirit
would seem to speak to us by Elihu;) "look at
those clouds, so deep, so dark, so continuous, so
overspreading the wjiole face of the sky; they are
not what they appear; they arc neither so deep


nor so abiding as they seem. It is true they have
hung there all the day, and perhaps for many
days longer they shall continue to hang there:
but they shall not be perpetual, — a time shall
come when they shall be scattered and removed.
It is also true that they may be unbroken, and
that their darkness may seem unrelieved by a
single ray of sunshine; but it is not so: there is
light in their bosoms ; they carry an inward
glory; they are the hiding-places of the sun's
burning rays; there are rainbow glories moving
and playing like the fire among the cherubim of
Ezekiel, all through their wondrous depths. Go
to some tall mountain, on whose bright summit
the sunshine lives; up which the clouds cannot
climb, it is so high : look down upon those very
clouds that appear to you so impenetrably gloomy,
and they seem like one swelling sea of silver
waves; it is glory, and brightness, and beauty,
in one continuous and wonderful extent and suc-
cession. You see not now, as the text tells us,
" the light that is in them;" but though you do
not see it, it is there. It is your weakness, your
low and abject condition, your earthly station,
that makes you see nothing but the gloom of a
sad day in that welkin which, within it and
above, is all burning with beauty and glory.

Such is the natural truth ; such is the reality
of that picture which the clouds present to us,


when examined and considered. But what does
this tell us about ourselves? This is our great
concern. What does it reveal to us of the world
of Providence, or of the world of grace ?

It tells us that, as there are clouds in the natu-
ral world, so will there be dark shadows on the
heart of man. They are necessary. God would
not bring them over His people if they were not
so, for " He doth npt afflict willingly." They
are indispensable for the carrying on of His great
scheme of grace. They are necessary for those
whom He is bringing to the knowledge of Him-
self on earth ; and they are equally indispensable
for those, whom having brought to this knowl-
edge of Himself on earth. He is bringing to the
sight and to the enjoyment of Himself in heaven.
They are necessary first to soften the heart; they
are equally necessary afterwards to sanctify the
heart. The reason and the necessity of these
clouds is, that if the world were all sunshine,
unconverted men would, humanly speaking,
never leave it for God; they would " dote and be
mad upon their idols." The further reason and
necessity is, that men, vitally renewed, might be
too contented with the traiKinil How of an easy
life; they would make no great struggles for
virtue; they would offer no strong prayers for
holiness; they would dwell in the region of a
torpid contentment; they would not press and


soar to the upper region of a glorious and seraphic
existence, " It is through much tribulation that
we must enter into the kingdom of God," because
it is through much tribulation, and through many
clouds, that we must be made fit to enter.

But where, you will ask, is the bright light?
Behind these clouds it is that the light is dwell-
ing. It is the dark side of the moral and the
spiritual cloud which we now see; but there is a
bright, and a beautiful, and a blessed light, on its
upper and its heavenly side. How happy were
the children of men, could they but believe this!
It is so, whether they believe it or not; their
happiness, their peace, their present and eternal
interest, is to believe it. Look at that sorrowful
man going on in darkness of soul, and in dark-
ness of fortune, his goods daily diminishing, or
his health declining, or family sorrows shaking
with successive blows his agitated heart: it is
cloud above, around, within : all life seems
dreary, all hope wears the livery of despair.
Where is the light in his many clouds? Where
is the bright light which the text speaks of? It
is in the intention of God; it is in the method
which God is taking to lead him to Himself. Let
this knowledge burst upon his soul, and all at
once is changed. The gloomy cloud " turns forth
its silver lining on the night." He sees God's
hand-writing; and as clearly as if a Daniel were


there to interpret it, he can understand all its
meaning, and discover all its mercy.

But if it be thus with him whom God is bring-
ing to Himself, it is especially so with every faith-
ful child already brought. Their Father has
taught them to read His own hand-writing; they
have been in His school ; they have learned
heaven's holy alphabet ; they can see now earth-
ly sorrow is the heavenly name for joy, and
bodily pain for spiritual improvement, and the
present wounding of the heart for its healing and
eternal cure.

When we see, therefore, a saintly soul bowed
down by affliction of heart, or tried by the long
and heavy trial of some tormenting disease, we
are able at once to solve the great riddle of sufler-
ing holiness; we see the "light in the cloud.''
we gather the meaning of the mystery, we see
that God is taking (so to speak) the greatest pains
to make His child a holy son.

"Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth;" the
heart of the sutTerer owns the truth; it leaps
even in the midst of its pain, and joyfully con-
fesses it : —

" The eye that looks at iliings aiight
Sees through the clouds the dec]) blue light;
And from the hank, all mire and wet,
Plucks the fresh blooming violet."


He has, moreover, a deep inner thought which
ever consoles him. " Tliou art my portion, O
Lord." This is his heart-music. In the midst
of sorrow he can say and sing it. "And if it be
so, why my very portion is my chastener; it is
the indwelling Spirit that is correcting me ; it is
myself, my better, my heavenly self, that is lay-
ing on the smarting rod. Could I look behind,
could I see the bright and silver side of things,
I should confess, without the smallest hesitation,
that there was not a single pang with which my
heart was quivering that was not necessary for
my sanctification."

But these clouds shall not always remain on
the heart. "The wind passeth and cleanselh
them." The cloud is cleansed ; it is a beautiful
and expressive term; its dark parts are taken
away, its bright parts remain. All the saints
have found it so. Noah, Daniel, Job; even in
this life the cloud passed away from each, and
only the bright light of ten thousand happy
beams of joy, and love, and grace, remained. So
shall it be to you, sons of God, and servants of
Him on whom in this life the sunbeams of hap-
piness never fell ! Even in this world (have you
not already experienced it 7) heaviness has often
endured only for a night, — joy has come in the
morning. But should no bright after-piece suc-
ceed to the darkness that now oppresses you ;


should no noon-day sun burst through the rolling
clouds of your present sorrow; should the heavy
gloom continue during all the circling hours of
your life's long day, yet still " at eventide it shall
be light." The sunset and the evening of this
present world shall be the type of the morning of
the other ; you shall lie down quietly in the faith
of Christ, and " wake up in His likeness, and be

Conquest of temptation, deliverance from the
power of evil habits, and a ready compliance with
the will of God, in answer to prayer, are much
better proofs of his favorable presence than joyous
feelings. The latter may be mistaken, but the
former are as sure marks of the Divine operation
and blessing, as that a plentiful crop of corn has
had the benefit of rain and sunshine.

Songs in the night.

It is thy title, O Lord, and only thine, that
thou givcst "songs in the night." (Job xxxv. 10.)
The night is a sad and dolorous season ; as the
light, contrarily, is the image of cheerlulness.
(Eccl. xi. 7.) Like as it is in bodily pains and


aches, that they are still worst towards night ;
so it is in the cares and griefs of the mind ; then
they assault us most when they are helped on
by the advantage of an uncomfortable darkness.
Many men can give themselves songs in the day
of their prosperity, who can but howl in the night
of their affliction; but for a Paul and Silas to
sing in their prison at midnight (Acts xvi. 25) ;
for an Asaph to "call to remembrance his song in
the night" (Ps. Ixxvii. 6) ; this comes only from
that Spirit of thine, whose peculiar style is " the
Comforter;" and surely, as music sounds best in
the night, so those heavenly notes of praise which
we sing to Thee, our God, in the gloomy darkness
of our adversity, cannot but be most pleasing in
thine ears. Thine Apostle bids us (which is our
ordinary wont) when we are merry to sing; when
afflicted to pray ; but if, when we are afflicted,
we can sing ; as also, when we are merriest, we
can pray ; that song must needs be so much more
acceptable unto Thee, as it is a more powerful
effect of the joy of Thy Holy Ghost.

O my God, I am conscious of my own infirmi-
ty : I know I am naturally subject to a dull
heaviness, under whatsoever affliction. Thou,
that art the God of all comfort, remedy this heart-
less disposition in me ; pull this lead out of my
bosom: make me not patient only, but cheerful,
under my trials : fill Thou my heart with joy,


and my mouth with songs, in the night of my

As there is a perfect union betwixt the glorious
saints in heaven, and a union (though imperfect)
betwixt the saints on earth, so there is a imion
(partly perfect and partly imperfect) between the
saints in heaven and the saints below upon earth;
perfect in respect of those glorified saints above,
imperfect in respect of the weak returns we are
able to make them again. Let no man think, that
because those blessed souls are out of sight, far
distant in another world, and we are here toiling
in a vale of tears, that we have therefore lost all
mutual regard to each other; no, there is still, and
ever will be, a secret but unfailing correspondence
between heaven and earth. The present happi-
ness of those heavenly citizens cannot have
abated aught of their knowledge and charity, but
must needs have raised them to a higher pitch
of both. They, therefore, who are now glorious
comprehensors, cannot but in a generality retain
the notice of the sad condition of us poor travel-
lers here below, panting towards our rest together
with them, and in common wish for the happy
consummation of this our weary pilgrimage, in
the fruition of their glory^ That they have any
perspective whereby they can see down into our
particular wants, is that which we find no ground
to believe. It is enough that they have an uni-


versal apprehension of the estate of Christ's
warfaring Church upon the face of the earth,
(Rev. vi. 10), and, as fellow-members of the same
mystical body, long for a perfect glorification of
the whole.

As for us wretched pilgrims, who are yet left
here below to try with many difficulties, we can-
not forget that better half of us which is now
triumphant in glory. O ye blessed saints above,
we honor your memories so far as we ought; we
do with praise recount your virtues ; we mag-
nify 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 examples; we 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.

If ever thou look for sound comfort on earth,
and salvation in heaven, imglue thyself from the


world, and the vanities of it; put thyself upon
thy Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; leave not till
thou findest thyself firmly united to Him, so as
thou art become a limb of that body whereof He
is the Head, a spouse of that husband, a branch
of that stem, a stone laid upon that foundation.
Look not, therefore, for any blessing out of Him :
and in, and by, and from Him, look for all bless-
ings; let Him be thy life, and wish not to live
longer than thou art quickened by Him ; find
Him thy wisdom, righteousness, sanctification,
redemption : thy riches, thy strength, thy glory.
Apply unto thyself all that thy Saviour is, or
hath done. Wouldst thou have the graces of
God's Spirit? — fetch them from His anointing.
Wouldst thou have power against spiritual ene-
mies? — fetch it from His sovereignty. Wouldst
thou have redemption? — fetch it from His pas-
sion. Wouldst thou have absolution? — fetch it
from His perfect innocence. Freedom from the
curse? — fetch it from His Cross. Satisfaction?

— fetch it from His sacrifice. Cleansing from
sin? — fetch it from his blood. Mortification?

— fetch it from His grave. Newness of life? —
fetch it from His resurrection. Right to heaven?

— fetch it from His purchase. Audience in all
thy suits? — fetch it from His intercession.
Wouldst thou have salvation? — fetch it from
His session at the right hand of Majesty. Wouldst


thou have all? — fetch it from Him who is "one
Lord, one God and Father of all, who is above
all, through all, and in all." (Eph. iv. 5, 6.)
And as thy faith shall thus interest thee in Christ,
thy Head ; so let thy charity unite thee to His
body the Church, both in earth and heaven.
Hold ever an inviolable communion with that
holy and blessed fraternity. Sever not thyself
from it either in judgment or affection. Make
account there is not one of God's saints upon
earth but hath a property in thee, and thou may-
est challenge the same in each of them, so that
thou canst not but be sensible of their passions;
and be freely communicative of all thy graces,
and all serviceable offices, by example, admoni-
tion, exhortation, consolation, prayer, beneficence,
for the good of that sacred community.

And when thou raisest up thine eyes to heaven,
think of that glorious society of blessed saints
who are gone before thee, and are now there
triumphing, and reigning in eternal and incom-
prehensible glory; bless God for thetn, and wish
thyself with them; tread in their holy steps, and
be ambitious of that crown of glory and immor-
tality which thou seest shining on their heads.


Admirable directions for a sick person to follow.

When these things are taken care for, let the
sick man so order his affairs, that he have but
very little conversation with the world, but wholly
(as he can) attend to religion, and antedate his
conversation in heaven, always having intercourse
with God, and still conversing with the holy
Jesus; kissing His wounds, admiring His good-
ness, begging His mercy, feeding on Him with
faith, and drinking His blood; to which purpose
it were very fit (if all circumstances be answer-
able), that the narrative of the passion of Christ
be read or discoursed to him at length, or in brief,
according to the style of the four Gospels ; but, in
all things, let his care and society be as little secu-
lar as is possible.

Now we suppose the man entering upon his
scene of sorrows and passive graces. It may be
he went yesterday to a wedding, merry and brisk,
and there he felt his sentence that he must return
home and die ; then he must consider that all
those discourses he hatii heard concerning patience
and resignation, and conformity to's suffer-
ings, and the melancholy lectures of the,
must, all of them, now be reduced to practice, and
pass from an effective contemplation to such an
exercise as will really try whether we were true


disciples of the cross, or only believed the doctrines
of religion when we were at ease, and that they
never passed through the ear to the heart, and
dwelt not in our spirits. But every man should
consider God does nothing in vain ; that He
would not, to no purpose, send us preachers, and
gives us rules, and furnish us with discourse, and
lend us books, and provide sermons, and make
examples, and promise His Spirit, and describe
the blessedness of holy sufferings, and prepare us
with daily alarms, if He did not really purpose to
order our affairs, so that we should need all this,
and use it all. There were no such thing as the
grace of patience, if we were not to feel a sick-
ness, or enter into a state of sufferings ; whither,
when we are entered, we are to practise by the
following rules.

At the first address and presence of sickness,
stand still and arrest thy spirit, that it may, with-
out amazement or affright, consider that this was
that thou lookedst for, and wert always certain
should happen : and that now thou art to enter
into the actions of a new religion, the agony of
a strange constitution ; but at no hand suffer thy
spirits to be dispersed with fear or wildness of
thought, but stay their looseness and dispersion
by a serious consideration of the present and
future employment. For so doth the Libyan,
spying the fierce huntsman, first beats himself


with the strokes of his tail, and curls up his
spirits, making them strong with union and recol-
lection, till, being struck with a Mauritanian spear,
he ruslies forth into his defence and noblest con-
tention, and either escapes into the secrets of his
own dwelling, or else dies the bravest of the forest.
Every man, when shot with an arrow from God's
quiver, must then draw in the auxiliaries of rea-
son, and know that then is the time to try his
strength, and to reduce the words of religion into
action. Let Him set his heart firm upon this
resolution : " I must bear it inevitably ; and I will,
by God's grace, do it nobly."

Bear, in thy sickness, all along the same
thoughts, propositions, and discourses, concerning
thy person, thy life and death, thy soul and reli-
gion, which thou hadst in the best days of thy
health ; and when thou didst discourse wisely
concerning things spiritual. Consider, when you
were better able to judge and govern the accidents
of your life, you concluded it necessary to trust
in God, and possess your souls with patience.
Think of things as they think who stand by you,
and as you did when you stood by others : that it
is a blessed thing to be patient ; that a quietness
of spirit hath a certain reward ; that still there is
infinite truth and reality in the promises of the
Gospel ; that still thou art in the care of God, in
the condition of a son, and working out thy salva-


tion with labour and pain, with fear and trem-
bling; that now the sun is under a cloud, but it
still sends forth the same influence.

Do not choose the kind of thy sickness, or the
manner of thy death ; but let it be what God
please, so it be no greater than thy spirit or thy
patience, and for that you are to rely upon the
promise of God, and to secure thyself by prayer
and industry ; but in all things else let God be
thy chooser, and let it be thy work to submit in-
differently, and attend thy duty. Be importunate,
that thy spirit and its interest be secured, and let
Him do what seemeth good in His eyes. And as,
in the degrees of sickness, thou art to submit to
God, so in the kind of it (supposing equal degrees)
thou art to be altogether incurious whether God
will call thee by a consumption or an asthma, by

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Online LibraryP. H. GreenleafConsolatio : or, Comfort for the afflicted → online text (page 8 of 14)