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a strong consolation," lo xupdv napáxinoiv. (Heb. vi. 17, 18). Other comforts are weak, and of little force, they are not affliction-proof, nor death-proof, nor judgment-proof; they cannot stand before a few serious and sober thoughts of the world to come; but this is strong comfort, that can support the soul not only in the imagination and supposition of a trouble, when we see it at a distance, but when it is actually come upon us, how great soever it be. If we feel the cold hands of death ready to pluck out our hearts, and are summoned to appear before the bar of our Judge, yet this comfort is not the more impeached; that which supported us in prosperity, can support us in adversity; what supports in life can support us in death; for the comforts of the word endure for ever, and the covenant of God will not fail us, living or dying.
3. It is a full comfort, both for measure and matter.
(1.) Sometimes for the measure; the Apostle speaketh of the comforts abounding by Christ (2 Cor. i. 15); and, “The disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost” (Acts xiii. 52); and the Apostle Paul,
Y TEPTEP looEvojau tû xapă “I am filled with comfort, and am exceeding joyful in all our tribulations" (2 Cor. vii. 4). Paul and Silas could sing praises in the prison, and in the stocks, after they had been scourged and whipped (Acts xvi. 25). And our Lord Jesus Christ, when he took care for our comfort, he took care that it might be a full comfort: “ These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John xv. 11). The joy of believers is a full joy, needing no other joy to be added to it. It is full enough to bear us out under all discouragements. If Christians would improve their advantages they might, by their full joy and cheerfulness, entice carnal men, who are ensnared by the baits of the world, and the delights of the flesh, once to come and try what comforts they might have in the bosom of Christ, and the lively expectation of the promised glory
(2.) For the matter; it is full, because of the comprehensiveness of those comforts which are provided for us. There is no sort of trouble for which the word of God doth not afford sufficient consolation : no strait can be so great, no pressure so grievous, but we have full consolation offered us in the promises against them all. We have promises of the pardon of all our sins, and promises of Heaven itself; and what can we desire more? We have promises suited to every state, prosperity and adversity ; what do we need which we have not a promise of? Prosperity, that it shall not be our ruin, if we take it thankfully from God, and use it for God; for " unto the pure all things are pure” (Titus i. 15). But especially for adversity, when we most need; there are promises either of singular assistance, or gracious deliverance. In short, the word of God assureth us of the gracious presence of God here, in the midst of our afflictions, and the eternal enjoyment of God hereafter; that he will be with us in our houses of clay, or we shall shortly be with him in his palace of glory ; and so here is matter of full comfort.
(i.) His presence with us in our afflictions: “I will be with him in trouble" (Psalm xci. 15); and, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee: and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee" (Isa. xliii. 2); and many other places. Now, if God be with us, why should we be afraid ? - When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me” (Psalm xxiii. 4); and in many other places. We see in the body, if any member be hurt, thither
presently runneth the blood to comfort the wounded part; the man himself, eye, tongue, and hand, is altogether employed about that part and wounded member, as if he were forgetful of all the rest. So we see in the family ; if one of the children be sick, all the care and kindness of the mother is about that sick child; she sits by him, blandisheth him, and tendeth him, so that all the rest do, as it were, envy his disease and sickness. If nature doth thus, will not God, who is the author of nature, do much more? For if an earthly mother do thus to a sickly and suffering child, will not our heavenly Father, who hath an infinite, incredible, and tender love to his people ? Surely he runneth to the afflicted, as the blood to the hurt member; he looketh after the afflicted, as the mother to the sick child. This is the difference between God and the world ; the world runneth after those that flourish, and rejoice, and live in prosperity, as the rivers run to the sea, where there is water enough already ; but God comforteth “ us in all our tribulations" (2 Cor. i. 4). His name and style is, “He comforteth those that are cast down” (2 Cor. vii. 6). The world forsaketh those that are in poverty, disgrace, and want; but God doth not withdraw from them, but visiteth them most, hath communion with them most, and vouchsafeth most of his presence to them, even to those that holily, meekly, and patiently bear the afflictions which he layeth upon them; and one drop of this honey is enough to sweeten the bitterest cup that ever they drank of. If God be with us, if the power of Christ will rest upon us, then we may even glory in infirmities, as Paul did.
(ii.) Of our presence with God when our afflictions are over ; that is our happiness hereafter, we shall be there where he is: “ Where I am, there shall my servant be” (John xii. 26); and, “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me, where I am, that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me” (John xvii. 24). When we have had our trial and exercise, we shall live with him for ever; therefore is our comfort called everlasting consolation : “ Who hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace” (2 Thes. ii. 16). Nothing more can be added or desired, if we have but the patience to tarry for it, that we may come to the sight of God and Christ at last. Surely this will lighten the heart of that sorrow and fear wherewith it is surcharged; here is an everlasting ground of comfort, and if it doth not allay our fears and sorrows, the fault is not in the comfort, for that is a solid and eternal good; but on the believer's part, if he doth not keep his faith strong and his evi. dences clear.
4. It is a reviving comfort, which quickeneth the soul. Many times we seem to be dead to all spiritual operations, our affections are damped and discouraged; but the word of God puts life into the dead, and relieveth us in our greatest distresses. Sorrow worketh death, but joy is the life of the soul. Now, when dead in all sense and feeling, “ the just shall live by faith” (Hab. ii. 4), and the hope wrought in us by the Scriptures is “ a lively hope” (1 Peter i. 3). Other things skin the wound, but our sore breaketh out again, and runneth ; faith penetrateth into the inwards of a man, doth us good to the heart; and the soul reviveth by waiting upon God, and gets life and strength.
2ndly, The provision which the word hath made for our comfort : it might be referred to four heads.
1. Its commands. (1.) Provisionally, and by way of anticipation. The whole Scripture
is framed so that it still carrieth on its great end of making man subject to God, and comfortable in himself. Our first lesson in the school of Christ is self-denial : “ If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt. xvi. 24). Now this seemeth to be grievous, but provideth for comfort: for, self-denial plucketh up all trouble by the root; the cross will not be very grievous to a self-denying spirit. Epictetus summed up all the wisdom that he could learn by the light of nature in these two words, 'Avéya kai átéxe, “ Bear and forbear;" to which answereth the Apostle's “temperance, patience” (2 Peter i. 6). Certainly were we more mortified, and weaned from the world, and could we deny ourselves in things grateful to sense, we should not lie open to the stroke of troubles so often as we do. The greatness of our affections causeth the greatness of our afflictions. Did we possess earthly things with less love, we should lose them with less grief. Had we more entirely resigned ourselves to God, and did love carnal self less, we should less be troubled when we are lessened in the world. Thus provisionally, and by way of anticipation, doth the word of God provide against our sorrows. The wheels of a watch do one protrude and thrust forward another; so one part of Christian doctrine doth help another: take any piece asunder, and then it is hard to be practised. Patience is hard, if there be no thorough resignation to God, no temperance, and command of our affections; but Christianity is all of a piece, one part well received and digested, befriendeth another.
(2.) Directly, and by way of express charge, the Scripture requireth us to moderate our sorrow, to cast all our care upon God, to look above temporal things: and hath expressly forbidden distracting cares, and doubts, and inordinate sorrows: “ Cast all your care upon God, for he careth for you” (1 Peter v. 7); and, “Be careful for nothing” (Phil. iv. 6). We have a religion that maketh it unlawful to be sad and miserable, and to grieve ourselves inordinately. Care, fear, and anguish of mind are forbidden; and no sorrow allowed us but what tendeth to our joy : “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not" (Isa. xxxv. 4); “ Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God” (Isa. xli. 10). To fear the rage, and power, and violence of enernics, is contrary to the religion we do profess: “Fear not them which kill the body" (Matt. x. 28). Now, surely the word which is full fraught with precepts of this nature, must needs comfort and stay the heart.
2. The doctrines of the word do quicken and comfort us in our greatest distresses, all of them concerning justification and salvation by Christ; they serve to deaden the heart to present things, and lift it up to better, and so to beget a kind of dedolency and insensibility of this world's crosses ; but especially four doctrines that we have in the word of God that are very comforting.
(1.) The doctrine concerning particular providence, that nothing falleth out without God's appointment, and that he looketh after every individual person as if none else to care for. This is a mighty ground of comfort; for nothing can befall me but what my Father wills, and he is mindful of me in the condition wherein I am, knowing what things I stand in need of, and nothing is exempted from his care, ordering, and disposal. This is a ground both of patience and comfort: “I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because thou diilst it" (Psalm xxxix. 9). So Hezekiah, “What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it"
(Isa. xxxviii. 15). It is time to cease, or say no more; why should we contend with the Lord ? Is it a sickness, or grievous bodily pain ? What difference is there between a man that owneth it as a chance, or natural accident, and one that seeth God's hand in it? We storm, if we look no further than second causes; but one that looketh on it as an immediate stroke of God's providence, hath nothing to reply by way of murmuring and expostulation. So, in loss of good children, how do we rave against instruments, if we look no further; but if we consider the providence of God, not Dominus dedit, Diabolus abstulit ; but, “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away ; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job i. 23). So for contumely and reproaches, if God let loose a barking Shimei upon us : the Lord “let him curse" (2 Sam. xvi. 11). To resist a lower officer, is to resist the authority with which he is armed. So, in all other cases it is a ground of patience and comfort to see God in the providence.
(2.) His fatherly care erer his people : he hath taken them into his family, and all his doings with them are paternal and fatherly. It allaveth our cares : “ Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things" (Matt. vi. 32). Our sorrows in affliction are lessened by considering they come from our Father: “ Ye have forgotten the exhortation that speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth: If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons ; for what son is that whom the Father chasteneth not? but if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” (Heb. xii. 5—7); and so those whom God doth love tenderly he doth correct severely.
(3.) His unchangeable love to his people, God remaineth unchangeably the same. When our outward condition doth vary and alter, we have the same blessed God, as a rock to stand upon, and to derive our comforts from, that we had before : he is the God of the valleys, as well as of the hills. Christ in his desertion saith : “My God, my God” (Matt, xxvii. 46), surely we deserve that the creature should be taken from us, if we cannot find comfort in God: “ Although the fig-tree should not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vine, &c. yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. ïï, 17, 18). Nothing can “separate us from the love of God" (Rom. vii. 36). Men may separate us from our houses, countries, friends, estates, but not from God, who is our great delight. In our low estate we have a God to go to for comfort, and who should be more to us than our sweetest pleasures.
(4.) The Scripture showeth us the true doctrine about afflictions, and discovereth to us the author, cause, and end of all our afflictions: the author is God, the cause is sin, the end is to humble, mortify, and correct his children, that they may be more capable of heavenly glory. God is the author, not fortune, or chance, or the will of man, but God; who doeth all things with the most exact wisdom, and tender mercy, and purest love. The cause is just: “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him” (Mic. vii. 9). The end is our profit; for his chastisements are purgative medicines, to prevent or cure some spiritual disease. If God should never administer physic till we see it needful, desire to take it, or be willing of it, we should perish in our corruptions, or die in our sins, for want of help in due time : “But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor. xi. 32). Now should we not patiently and comfortably endure those things which come by the will of our Father, through our sins, and for our good ?
3. The examples of the word which show us, that the dearly beloved of the Lord have suffered harder things than we have done, and with greater patience: “ Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps” (1 Peter ii. 21). The servants of the Lord : “ Take my brethren the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience” (James v. 10). We complain of stone and gout, what did our Lord Jesus Christ endura when the whole weight of his body hung upon four wounds, and his life dropped out by degrees? We complain of every painful disease, but how was it with Christ when his back was scourged, and his flesh mangled with whips? We are troubled at the swellings of the gout in hands or feet, how was it with him when those sinewy parts were pierced with strong and great nails? We complain of the want of spiritual consolations, was not he deserted ? We mourn when God maketh a breach upon our relations, was not Abraham's trial greater, when he was to offer his son with his own hands? “ By faith Abraham when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promise, offered up his only begotten son” (Heb. xi. 17.) Job lost all his children at once by a blast of wind. The Virgin Mary near the cross of Christ : “ Woman behold thy son" (John xix. 26). She was affected and afflicted with that sight, as if a sword pierced through her heart. We complain of poverty, Christ had not where to lay his head. If we lose our coat to keep our conscience, others of God's children have been thus tried before us : “Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that you have in Heaven a better, and an enduring substance” (Heb. x. 34). The Levites left their inheritance (2 Chron. xi. 14). Thus God doth not call us by arry rougher way to Heaven, than others have gone before us.
4. The promises of Scripture. To instance in all would be endless ; there are three great promises which comfort us in all our afflictions, the promises of pardon of sins, and eternal life, and the general promises about our temporal estate.
(1.) The promises of pardon of sin. We can bare no true cure for our sorrow, till we be exempted from the fear of the wrath of God ; do that once, and the heart of sorrow and misery is broken ; others may steal a little peace when conscience is laid asleep, but not solid comfort till sin be pardoned : “ Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith our God, speak ye comfortably unto Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned" (Isa. xl. 1, 2). “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matt. ix. 2). “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. v. 1).
(2.) The promises of eternal life. Nothing will afford us so much content, as one Scripture prornise of eternal life would do to a faithful soul. Heaven in the promise seen by faith, is enough to revive the most doleful and afflicted creature : “Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in Heaven” (Matt. v. 12). Nothing can be grievous to him that knoweth a world to come, and hath the assurance of the eternal God that shortly he shall enjoy the happiness of it : “ We rejoice in hope of the