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Spirit of life and grace, which will feed the root of religion beneath the soil, pour in the tide of spiritual life and feeling and love and gratitude to Christ, from which all true confession of him springs; and which, whilst it is vigorous within, will never allow us to go out of our closet to deny the Savior with whom we have there been in communion. His internal “unction teaches us all things."
This power of the Holy Ghost carries us over the opposition of men, endears reproaches and losses for Christ's sake, and enables us “to rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." The Thessalonians “received the word with much affliction," but still with “joy in the Holy Ghost.” Whilst, on the other hand, “ no man can say," and continue in the profession implied, "that Jesus Christ is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." And it was therefore, with this promise of the Comforter that our Lord left the world, and that all his disciples have successively conquered it. “Behold the hour cometh, said our Lord, at the moment of his departure, " yea is now come, that ye shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace; in the world ye shall have tribulation
; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
2 CORINTHIANS 1. 3, 4.
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort ; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we
ourselves are comforted of God. The open profession of faith in Christ, to which we have lately called your attention, cannot be unattended with many peculiar difficulties and sorrows. The general beneficial tendency of Christianity will remarkably appear in the manner in which consolation is provided for these emergencies. For the goodness and wisdom of God may be traced, not only in the highest ultimate ends to which these afflictions are made subservient, but also in many intermediate and subordinate purposes. For as sympathy and mutual love are amongst our most diffi. cult and yet most important duties; so, to convey consolation to the injured and distressed, through the medium of the consolations afforded to their pastors in like circumstances, must have an eminently beneficial tendency, by creating in each a larger measur of that disinterested fellow-feeling, by which the
Christian morality heals the irritated passions of a distracted world ; and by uniting with it in the highest degree, that fortitude and magnanimity and hope of ultimate success, which, when thus conjoined, constitute the highest felicity of which our nature is capable.
Thus St. Paul, in the passage of which the words of the text are the commencement, wishing to ani. mate the Corinthian converts to bear up courageously under persecution, bursts forth into a sublime strain of gratitude to God for having afforded him adequate consolation under his own various troubles, in order that he might be better enabled to convey similar comfort to them. Blessed be God," says this great apostle, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which ye also suffer : or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.”
There is no one, on reading this song of triumph, but would imagine that the apostle was then at least in a state of peace and tranquillity; with a breathingtime which permitted him to reflect at his ease on past occurrences. But not so; he wrote these words when persecuted on all hands, when making his way through difficulties, when just escaped from “so great a death,” that the sentence of it impended still ;
and when, in short, he had nothing to trust to but “God who raiseth the dead.” This magnanimous language is for the consolation of his converts. His sorrows and his joys are appointed him, as channels of his apostolic usefulness amongst his flocks. Their consolation and salvation were bound up in his ; and this is the consideration which fills him with the most exalted joy.
The proposition then, which I shall endeavor to illustrate from this fine passage is, That God consoles his faithful people under the sufferings they have to endure for Christ, by means of the comfort afforded in like cases to ministers.
In considering which, we must notice, the Tribu. lations here referred to; the Consolation which Almighty God pours in through the channel of ministers ; and the Gratitude due to Him for this appointment.
I. The tribulations themselves here referred to are those which St. Paul and his Corinthian converts were called to endure, for the sake of Christ and the gospel.
What a history of afflictions is that of St. Paul. “We would not have you ignorant, brethren,” he says, in the verse following those I have read, “of our trouble which came to us in Asia ; that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life. But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” The apostle is in all probability alluding to the tumult raised at Ephesus by Demetrius and his craftsmen,' when the populace were inflamed with wrath, the whole city was filled with confusion, and Paul with difficulty restrained by his friends from entering in,
1 Acts xix.
and addressing the maddened crowd, who for two hours continued shouting in the amphitheatre, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians." His description is the calm recollection of a mind emerged from the confusion of instant danger; and is marked with that devotion and solemnity of thought which follows a great deliverance.' He was then, indeed, “pressed out of measure beyond strength," by inward disquietude about the state of the Churches, concurring with these external dangers ; so that his burden was insupportable by any strength which he had previously possessed ; and he was led almost to despair of being any longer preserved in life to execute his plans of usefulness. He even considered himself as a condemned person, whose doom was inevitable; and who carried about with him "the sentence” of the judge. Nor, indeed, had he
any method of escape by his own contrivance or effort, or by any confidence in himself; but was compelled to cast himself uureservedly on the Almighty power of “Him who raiseth the dead;" from the unspeakable blessedness of which, no human cruelty could debar him.
This tumult, though the most severe, was yet only a specimen of the holy apostle's sufferings for the sake of Christ. Read the account in the Acts, filled up with those details of his afflictions which the boasts of the false apostles compelled him to make in his Epistles. See how “the sufferings of Christ abounded in him ;" rose high ; swelled as a river ; came up, so to speak, to his throat; overwhelmed and bore him away. There never was any sufferer, except the blessed Jesus himself, who endured so many kinds of sorrow; who was so tossed from wave to wave; who escaped one calamity that he might be plunged into another; who was exposed to afflictions all sorts of ways, in every place, from all descriptions of enemies, and throughout the whole course of a long ministry,