Delivered on Sabbath Morning, December 2nd, 1860, by the
"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.
HE 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.
Strength and comfort in my need,
Every hour while here I live,
On thy love my soul shall feed."
But come now, troubled heart, and follow the dead body of thy Master, for though dead, it is as full of consolation as when alive. It is now no more naked; the loving hands of Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, and the Magdalene and the other Mary, have wrapped it in cerements, and have laid it in the new tomb. Come, saints, not to weep, but to dry your tears. You have been all your lifetime subject to fear of death: come, break your bonds asunder; be free from this fear. Where your Master sleeps, you may surely find an easy couch. What more could you desire than to lie upon the bed of your royal Solomon? The grave is now no more a charnel-house or a dark prison; his having entered it makes it a blessed retiring-room, a sacred bath in which the King's Esthers purify their bodies, to make them fit for the embraces of their Lord. It becomes now not the gate of annihilation, but the portal of eternal bliss,a joy to be anticipated, a privilege to be desired. "Fearless we lay us in the tomb, and sleep the night away, for thou art here to break the gloom, and call us back to day."
I am certain, brethren, that all the consolations which wise men can ever afford in a dying hour will never be equal to that which is afforded by the record, that Jesus Christ ascended from the tomb. The maxims of philosophy, the endearments of affection, and the music of hope, will be a very poor compensation for the light of Jesus' grave. Death is the only mourner at Jesus' tomb, and while the whole earth rejoices at the sorrow of its last enemy, I would be all too glad to die, that I might know him, and the power of his resurrection. Heir of heaven! if thou wouldst be rid once for all of every doubting thought about the hour of thy dissolution, look, I pray thee, to Christ risen from the dead. Put thy finger into the print of the nails, and thrust thy hand into his side, and be not faithless but believing. He is risen; he saw no corruption; the worms could not devour him; and as Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, he has become the first fruits of them that slept. Inasmuch as he has risen, thou shalt rise. He has rolled the stone away, not for himself alone, but for thee also. He has unwrapped the grave-clothes, not for his own sake, but for thy sake too, and thou shalt surely stand in the latter day upon the earth, when he shall be here, and in thy flesh thou shalt see God.
Time would fail us, if we should attempt to track the Master in his glorious pathway after his resurrection. Let it suffice us briefly to observe that, having led his disciples out unto a mountain, where he has delighted often to commune with them, he was suddenly taken up from them, and a cloud received him out of their sight. We think we may conjecture, by the help of Scripture, what transpired after that cloud had covered him. Did not the angels
To bear him to his throne,
Clap their triumphant wings and cry,
His glorious work is done?"
Do you not see him, as he mounts his triumphal chariot,
Lift up your heads, ye golden gates,
Ye everlasting doors give away?"
Behold angels gazing from the battlements of heaven, replying to their comrades who escort the ascending Son of Man. "Who is the King of Glory?" And this time those who accompany the Master sing more sweetly and more loudly than before, while they cry, "The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, that the King of Glory may come in." And now the doors
And wide unfold the radiant scene,"
and he enters. "He claims those mansions as his right," and all the angels rise to "receive the King of Glory in." Behold him, as he rides in triumph through heaven's streets; see Death and Hell bound at his chariot wheels. Hark to the "Hosannas" of the spirits of the just made perfect! Hear how cherubim and seraphim roll out in thunders their everlasting song"Glory be unto thee; glory be unto thee, thou Son of God, for thou wast slain and thou hast redeemed the world by thy blood." See him as he mounts his throne and near his Father sits. Behold the benignant complacency of the paternal Deity. Hear him as he accepts him and gives him a name which is above every name. And I say, my brethren, in the midst of your tremblings, and doubtings, and fearings, anticipate the joy which you shall have, when you shall share in this triumph, for know you not that you ascended up on high in him? He went not up to heaven alone, but as the representative of all the blood-bought throng. You rode in that triumphal chariot with him; you were exalted on high, and made to sit far above principalities and powers in him; for we are risen in him, we are exalted in Christ. Even at this very day in Christ that Psalm is true"Thou hast put all things under his feet; thou madest him to have dominion over all the works of thy hands." Come, poor trembler, thou art little in thine own esteem, and but a worm and no man! Rise, I say, to the height of thy nobility; for thou art in Christ greater than angels be, more magnified and glorified by far. God gives you grace, ye who have faith, that ye may now, in the fact of Jesus Christ's exaltation, find consolation for yourself!
But now to-day methinks I see the Master, as he stands before his Father's throne, dressed in the garments of a priest; upon his breast I see the Urim and Thummim glittering with the bejewelled remembrances of his people. In his hand I see still the remembrance of his sacrifice, the nail mark; and there I see still upon his feet the impress of the laver of blood in which he washed himself not as the priest of old with water but with his own gore. I hear him plead with authority before his Father's face, "I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am." O my poor prayers, ye shall be heard! O my faint groans, ye shall be answered! Oh, my poor troubled soul, thou art safe, for
His cause can never, never fail."
Come, my poor heart, lift up thyself now from the dunghill; shake thyself from the dust; ungird thy sackcloth and put on thy beautiful garments. He is our advocate to-day, our eloquent and earnest pleader, and he prevails with God. The Father smileshe smiles on Christ; he smiles on us in answer to Jesus Christ's intercession. Is he not here also the consolation of Israel?
I only remark once more that he who has gone up into heaven shall so come in like manner as he was seen to go up into heaven. He ascended in clouds, "Behold he cometh with clouds." He went up on high with sound of trumpet and with shout of angels. Behold he cometh! The silver trumpet shall soon sound. 'Tis midnight: the hours are rolling wearily along; the virgins wise and foolish are all asleep. But the cry shall soon be heard"Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him." That same Jesus who was crucified shall come in glory. The hand that was pierced shall grasp the sceptre. Beneath his arm he shall gather up all the sceptres of all kings; monarchies shall be the sheaves, and he shall be the kingly reaper. On his head there shall be the many crowns of universal undisputed dominion. "He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth." His feet shall tread on the mount of Olivet, and his people shall be gathered in the valley of Jehoshaphat. Lo, the world's great battle is almost begun; the trumpet sounds the beginning of the battle of Armageddon. To the fight, ye warriors of Christ, to the fight; for it is your last conflict, and over the bodies of your foes ye shall rush to meet your Lordhe fighting on the one side by his coming, you on the other side by drawing near to him. You shall meet him in the solemn hour of victory. The dead in Christ shall rise first, and you that are alive and remain shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last triumphant sounding of the dread tremendous trump. Then shall you know to the full how Christ can console you for all your sorrows, all your shame, and all your neglect which you have received from the hand of men. Ay, to-day bethink you, there awaits the recompense of an earthly splendour for your earthly poverty; there awaits you earthly dignity for your earthly shame. You shall not only have spiritual, but you shall have temporal blessings. He who takes away the curse will take it away not only from your soul, but from the very ground on which you tread. He who redeems you shall redeem not only your spirit, but your body. Your eyes shall see your Redeemer; your hands shall be lifted up in acclamation, and your feet shall bear your leaping joys in the procession of his glory, in your very body in which you have suffered for him you shall sit with him upon the throne and judge the nations of the earth. These things, I say, are all full of the purest and highest consolation to the children of God.
II. Having taken nearly all my time upon the first point, I can only say a word or two upon the second and on the third. The second point was to be thisCHRIST IN HIS UNCHANGING NATURE; a consolation for our continual sorrows.
Christ is to his people a surpassing consolation. Talk of the consolations of philosophy? We have all the philosopher can pretend to; but we have it in a higher degree. Speak of the charms of music which can lull our sorrows to a blessed sleep?
Charm us in our Saviour's name."
"Jesus, the very thought of thee,
Speak we of the joys of frienship? and sweet they are indeed; but "there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother""a brother born for adversity." There is one who is better than all friends, more able to cheer than those who are darest and nearest to our hearts. Or, speak we of the joys of hope? and certainly hope can console us when nothing else can do it. He is our hope. We cast the anchor of our hope into that which is within the veil, whither the forerunner hath for us entered. The consolations of Christ are unrivalled by any which can be offered by wit, by wisdom, by mirth, by hope itself; they are incomparable, and can never be surpassed.
Again, the consolations of Christ, from the fact of his unchanging nature, are unfailing.
He still is all our strength and stay."
Look you at Job, and see the picture of how Christ can console. The messenger rushes in"The Sabeans have taken away the oxen and the asses!" "Well, well," Job might console himself and say, "but the sheep are left." "But the fire of God hath fallen on the sheep! and the Chaldeans have carried away the camels and slain the servants!" "Alas!" the good man might say, "but my children are left, and if they be spared, then I can still have joy." "The wind has come from the wilderness, and smitten the four corners of the house, and all thy sons and daughters are dead!" Ah! well-a-day, penniless and childless, the patriarch might weep; but, looking on his wife, he would say, "There still remaineth one sweet comforter, my well-beloved spouse." She bids him "curse God and die;" "speaking as one of the foolish women speaketh." Yet might Job say, "Though my wife hath failed me, there remaineth at least three friends; there they sit with me on the dunghill, and they will console me." But they speak bitterness, till he cries, "Miserable comforters are ye all." Well, but at least he has his own body in health, has he not? No, he sits down upon a dunghill, and scrapes himself with a potsherd, for his sores become intolerable. Well, well, "skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life." He may at least cheer himself with the fact, that he lives. "Why should a living man complain?" Yes, but he fears he is about to die. And now comes out the grandeur of his hope: "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and though the worms devour this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." All the other windows are darkened; but the sun shines in at the oriel window of redemption. All the other doors are shut; but this great door of hope and joy still stands wide open. All other wells are dry; but this flows with an unceasing stream. Brothers and sisters, when all things else depart, an unchanging Christ shall be your unchanging joy.
Furthermore, the consolations of Christ are all powerful consolations. When a poor soul is so deep in the mire that you cannot lift it with the lever of eloquence, nor draw it up with the hands of sympathy, nor raise it with wings of hope, he can touch it with his finger and it can spring up from the mire, and put his feet upon a rock, and feel the new song in its mouth and its goings well established. There is no form of melancholy which will not yield before the grace of God; there is no shape of distress which will not give way before the divine energy of the Holy Ghost the Comforter, when he uses Christ as the consolation.
Again: this consolation is everlasting consolation. It consoled you, O aged sire, when as a youth you gave your heart to Christ; it was your joy in the mid-winter of your manhood; it has become your strength and your song in the days of your old age; when tottering on your staff you shall go down to Jordan's brink, he will be your consolation then. In the prospect of your coming dissolution, yea, when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you shall fear no evil, for he is with you; his rod and his staff shall comfort you. All other things shall pass away as a dream when you awaketh; but this substantial support shall abide with you in the midst of the swellings of Jordan, in the hour of the departure of your spirit from your body.
And then remember that this is a consolation which is always within the believer's reach. He is "a very present help in time of trouble." Ye may always cheer your heart with Christ when other things are far away. When a friend visits you not, and your chamber becomes lonelywhen spouse has forgotten to speak the kind word to you, and children have become ungrateful, he will make your bed in your sickness, he will be your never-failing friend and abide with you in every dark and gloomy hour, till he brings you into his dear arms, where you will be emparadised for ever and ever.
III. I close now with my last pointthe grave and serious question, IS CHRIST AN AVAILABLE CONSOLATION FOR ME?
Who art thou, friend? Art thou one who needs no consolation? Hast thou a righteousness of thine own? Let me put it in thine own words. You are a good man, kind to the poor, charitable, upright, generous, holy. You believe there may be some faults in yourself, but they must be very few, and you trust that what with your own merits and with God's mercy you may enter heaven. In the name of God, I do solemnly assure you, that Christ is not an available consolation for you. Christ will have nothing to do with you, so long as you have anything to do with yourself. If you are trusting in any measure whatever upon aught that you have ever done or hope to do, you are trusting in a lie, and Christ will never be friends with a lie. He will never help you to do what he came to do himself. If you will take his work as it is, as a finished work, well and good; but if you must needs add to it your own, God shall add unto you the plagues which are written in this Book, but he shall by no means give to you any of the promises and the comforts which Christ can afford.
But instead thereof, I will suppose that I address myself this morning to a man who says, "I was once, I think, a believer in Christ; I made a profession of religion, but I fell from it, and I have lost for years all the hope and joy I ever had; I think I was a presumptuous man, that I pretended to have what I never had, and yet at the time I really thought I had it. May I think that there is consolation in Christ for a backslider and a traitor like me? Often, sir, do I feel as if the doom of Judas must be mineas if I must perish miserably, like Demas, who loved this present world." Ah! backslider, backslider, God speaks to thee this morning, and he says, "Return ye backsliding children of men, for I am married to you;" and if married, there has never been a divorce between Christ and you. Has he put you away? Unto which of his creditors has he sold you? Where do you read in his Word, that he has divided from the affection of his heart one whose name was ever written in his Book? Come, come, backslider, come again to the cross. He who received you once will receive you again. Come where the flood is flowing; the blood that washed you once, can wash you yet once more. Come, come, thou art naked, and poor, and miserable; the raiment which was given to thee once, shall array thee again with beauty. The unsearchable riches which were opened up to thee aforetime, shall be thine again.
Once again a child confess'd,
From his hand no more to roam,
Come, backsliding sinner, come."
But I hear another say, "I am not a backslider, but simply one who desires to be saved. I can say honestly, I would give my right arm from its socket if I might but be saved. Why, sir, if I had ten thousand worlds I would freely cast them away as pebble stones, and worthless, if I might but find Christ." Poor soul, and does the devil tell thee thou shalt never have Christ? Why, thou hast a warrant to lay hold on Christ to-day. "No," sayest thou, "I have no right whatever." The fact that thou sayest thou hast no right should at least comfort the minister in addressing himself freely to thee. The right of a sinner to come to Christ does not lie in the sinner, nor in any feelings which the sinner may have had; it lies in the fact that Christ commands him to come. If one of you should receive as you went out of younder door a command to go at once to Windsor, and have an interview with the Queen, as soon as you had received the order and were sure it came from her, you might say, "Well, but if I had known this, I should have put on other clothes;" but the order is peremptory, "Come now; come just as you are;" you would, I think, without any very great doubt, though greatly wondering, take your place and ride there at once. When you came to the gate, some tall grenadier might ask you what you were at. "Why," he might say, "you are not fit to come and see Her Majesty; you are not a gentleman; you have not so many hundreds a year; how can you expect to be admitted?" You show the command, and he lets you pass on. You come to another door, and there is an usher there. "You are not in a court dress," says he; "you are not properly robed for the occasion." You show the command, and he lets you pass on. But suppose when at last you should come into the ante-room you should say, "Now I dare not go in; I am not fit; I feel I shall not know how to behave myself." Suppose you are silly enough not to go, you would be disobedient and ten times more foolish in disobeying than you could have been by any blunders in behaviour if you had obeyed. Now it is just so with you to-day. Christ says, "Come unto me." He does not merely invite you, because he knows you would think you did not deserve the invitation; but he gives the command, and he bids me say to you, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you;" he bids me command you in his name, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." Of his grace and mercy he puts it as a command. "But," you say. Ah! what right have you to say "but" to the Lord's commands? Again,I say, away with your "buts." What right have you to be "butting" at his laws and his commands. "But," you say, "do hear me for a moment." I will hear you then. "Sir, I cannot imagine that if such a hard-hearted sinner as I am were really to trust Christ I should be saved." The English of that is, that you give God the lie. He says you shall be, and do you think he speaks an untruth? "Ah!" says another, "but it is too good to be true. I cannot believe that just as I am, if I trust in Christ, my sin shall be forgiven." Again, I say, the simple English of that is, that you think you know better than God; and so you do in fact stand up and say to his promise, "Thou art false." He says, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." "Ah!" you say, "but that does not mean me?" Can any language speak more plainly? "Him. What him? Why, any "him" in the world.
"Yes," says one, "but the invitations are made to character'Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden;' I am afraid I am not heavy laden enough?" Yes, but you will mark, while the invitation is given to character, yet the promise is not given to the character; it is given to those who come"Come unto me, and I will give you rest;" and while that one invitation may be confined to the weary and heavy laden, yet there are scores of others that stand as wide and free as the very air we breathe. If you have that qualification, do not come even with it, because you are unqualified when you think you are qualified; you are unfit when you think you are fit; and if you have a sense of need, which you think makes you fit to come to Christ, it shows you are not fit and do not know your need; for no man knows his need till he thinks he does not know his need, and no man is in a right state to come to Christ till he thinks he is not in a right state to come to Christ. But he who feels that he has not one good thought or one good feeling to recommend him, he is the man who may come. He who says, "But I may not come," is the very man that is bidden to come. Besides, my friends, it is not what you think, or what I think; it is what Christ says; and is it not written by the hand of the Apostle John, "This is the commandment, that ye believe on Jesus Christ whom he hath sent?" Men who say it is not the duty of sinners to believe, I cannot think what they make out of such a text as that"This is the commandment, that ye believe on Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent;" and that one where God expressely says, "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he believeth not." Why, I should think I was addressing heathens, if I addressed a company of men who thought that God did not command men to repent; for Scripture is so plain upon the point, and I say, if God commands thee to do it, thou mayest do it. Let the devil say "Nay," but God says "Yes." Let him stand and push you back; but say to him, "Nay, Satan, nay, I come here in God's name;" and as devils fear and fly before the name of Christ, so will Satan and thy fears all fly before his command. He commands thee to believethat is, to trust him. Trust him, soul, trust him; right or wrong, trust him.
But some of you want a great temptation, and a great deal of despair, before you will trust him. Well, the Lord will send it to you, if you will not trust him without it. I remember John Bunyan says he had a black temptation, and it did him a great deal of good; for, said he, "Before I had the temptation I used always to be questioning a promise, and saying, 'May I come, or may I not come?'" But at last he said, "Yea, often when I have been making to the promise, I have seen as if the Lord would refuse my soul for ever: I was often as if I had run upon the pike, and as if the Lord had thrust at me, to keep me from him as with a flaming sword." Ah! and perhaps you may be driven to that. I pray you may; but I would infinitely rather that the sweet love and grace of God would entice you now to trust Jesus Christ just as you are. He will not deceive you, sinner; he will not fail you. Trusting him, you shall build on a sure foundation, and find him who is the consolation of Israel and the joy of all his saints.