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CONSOLATION IN CHRIST
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, December 2nd, 1860,
At Exeter Hall, Strand.
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies.”—Philippians 2:1.
THE LANGUAGE OF MAN HAS received a new coinage of words since the time of his perfection in Eden. Adam could scarce have understood the word consolation, for the simple reason that he did not understand in Eden the meaning of the word sorrow. O how has our language been swollen through the floods of our griefs and tribulations! It was not sufficiently wide and wild for man when he was driven out of the garden into the wide, wide world. After he had once eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, as his knowledge was extended so must the language be by which he could express his thoughts and feelings. But, my hearers, when Adam first needed the word consolation, there was a time when he could not find the fair jewel itself. Until that hour when the first promise was uttered, when the seed of the woman was declared as being the coming man who should bruise the serpent’s head, Adam might masticate and digest the word sorrow, but he could never season and flavour it with the hope or thought of consolation, or if the hope and thought might sometimes flit across his mind like a lightning flash in the midst of the tempest’s dire darkness, yet it must have been too transient, too unsubstantial, to have made glad his heart, or to soothe his sorrows. Consolation is the dropping of a gentle dew from heaven on desert hearts beneath. True consolation, such as can reach the heart, must be one of the choicest gifts of divine mercy; and surely we are not erring from sacred Scripture when we avow that in its full meaning, consolation can be found nowhere save in Christ, who has come down from heaven, and who has again ascended to heaven, to provide strong and everlasting consolation for those whom he has bought with his blood.
You will remember, my dear friends, that the Holy Spirit, during the present dispensation, is revealed to us as the Comforter. It is the Spirit’s business to console and cheer the hearts of God’s people. He does convince of sin; he does illuminate and instruct; but still the main part of his business lies in making glad the hearts of the renewed, in confirming the weak, and lifting up all those that be bowed down. Whatever the Holy Ghost may not be, he is evermore the Comforter to the Church; and this age is peculiarly the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, in which Christ cheers us not by his personal presence, as he shall do by-and-bye, but by te indwelling and constant abiding of the Holy Ghost the Comforter. Now, mark you, as the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, Christ is the comfort. The Holy Spirit consoles, but Christ is the consolation. If I may use the figure, the Holy Spirit is the Physician, but Christ is the medicine. He heals the wound, but it is by applying the holy ointment of Christ’s name and grace. He takes not of his own things, but of the things of Christ. We are not consoled to-day by new revelations, but by the old revelation explained, enforced, and lit up with new splendour by the presence and power of the Holy Ghost the Comforter. If we give to the Holy Spirit the Greek name of Paraclete, as we sometimes do, then our heart confers on our blessed Lord Jesus the title of the Paraclesis. If the one be the Comforter, the other is the comfort.
I shall try this morning, first, to show how Christ in his varied positions is the consolation of the children of God in their varied trials; then we shall pass on, secondly, to observe that Christ in his unchanging nature is a consolation to the children of God in their continual sorrows; and lastly, I shall close by dwelling awhile upon the question as to whether Christ is a consolation to us—putting it personally, “Is Christ a present and available consolation for me.”
I. First, CHRIST IN HIS VARIED POSITIONS IS A CONSOLATION FOR THE DIVERS ILLS OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD.
Our Master’s history is a long and eventful one; but every step of it may yield abundant comfort to the children of God. If we track him from the highest throne of glory to the cross of deepest woe, and then through the grave up again the shining steeps of heaven, and onward through his meditorial kingdom, on to the day when he shall deliver up the throne to God even our Father, throughout every part of that wondrous pathway there may be found the flowers of consolation growing plenteously, and the children of God have but to stoop and gather them. “All his paths drop fatness, all his garments which he wears in his different offices, smell of myrrh, and aloes and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby he makes his people glad.”
To begin at the beginning, there are times when we look upon the past with the deepest grief. The withering of Eden’s flowers has often caused a fading in the garden of our souls. We have mourned exceedingly that we have been driven out to till the ground with the sweat of our brow—that the curse should have glanced on us through the sin of our first parent, and we have been ready to cry, “Woe worth the day in which our parent stretched forth his hand to touch the forbidden fruit.” Would to God that he had rested in unsullied purity, that we his sons and daughters might have lived beneath an unclouded sky, might never have mourned the ills of bodily pain or of spiritual distress. To meet this very natural source of grief, I bid you consider Christ in old eternity. Open now the eye of thy faith, believer, and see Christ as thine Eternal Covenant-head stipulating to redeem thee even before thou hadst become a bond-slave, bound to deliver even before thou hadst worn the chain. Think, I pray thee, of the eternal council in which thy restoration was planned and declared even before thy fall, and in which thou wast established in an eternal salvation even before the necessity of that salvation had begun. O, my brethren, how it cheers our hearts to think of the anticipating mercies of God! He anticipated our fall, foreknew the ills which it would bring upon us, and provided in his eternal decree of predestinating love an effectual remedy for all our diseases, a certain deliverance from all our sorrows. I see thee, thou fellow of the Eternal, thou equal of the Almighty God! Thy goings forth were of old. I see thee lift thy right hand and engage thyself to fulfil thy Father’s will—"In the volume of the book it is written of me, ‘I delight to do thy will, O God.’” I see thee forming, signing, and sealing that eternal covenant by which the souls of all the redeemed were there and then delivered from the curse, and made sure and certain inheritors of thy kingdom and of thy glory. In this respect Christ shines out as the consolation of his people.
Again, if ever your minds dwell with sadness upon the fact that we are at this day absent from the Lord, because we are present in the body, think of the great truth that Jesus Christ of old had delights with the sons of men, and he delights to commune and have fellowship with his people now. Remember that your Lord and Master appeared to Abraham in the plains of Mamre under the disguise of a pilgrim. Abraham was a pilgrim, and Christ to show his sympathy with his servant, became a pilgrim too. Did he not appear also to Jacob at the brook Jabbok? Jacob was a wrestler, and Jesus appears there as a wrestler too. Did he not stand before Moses under the guise and figure of a flame in the midst of a bush? Was not Moses at the very time the representative of a people who were like a bush burning with fire and yet not consumed? Did he not stand before Joshua—Joshua the leader of Israel’s troops, and did he not appear to him as the captain of the Lord’s host? And do you not well remember that when the three holy children walked in the midst of the fiery furnace, he was in the midst of the fire too, not as a king, but as one in the fire with them? Cheer then thy heart with this consoling inference. If Christ appeared to his servants in the olden time, and manifested himself to them as bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh, in all their trials and their troubles, he will do no less to thee to-day; he will be with thee in passing through the fire; he will be thy rock, thy shield, and thy high tower; he will be thy song, thy banner, and thy crown of rejoicing. Fear not, he who visited the saints of old will surely not be long absent from his children to-day; his delights are still with his people, and still will he walk with us through this weary wilderness. Surely this makes Christ a most blessed consolation for his Israel.
And now to pursue the Master’s footsteps, as he comes out of the invisible glories of Deity, and wears the visible garment of humanity. Let us view the babe of Bethlehem, the child of Nazareth, the Son of Man. See him, he is in every respect a man. “Of the substance of his mother” is he made; in the substance of our flesh he suffers; in the trials of our flesh he bows his head; under the weakness of our flesh he prays, and in the temptation of our flesh he is kept and maintained by the grace within. You to-day are tried and troubled, and you ask for consolation. What better can be afforded you than...