2 Corinthians 1:3
The ascription begins with "blessed," the strongest term the apostle could employ as representing the highest and strongest emotions, the head-word in the vocabulary of gratitude and praise, found in the Old and New Scriptures, and common to Jews and Gentile Christians. "Blessed;" the best in us acknowledging the God of grace, an anthem in a single utterance, and embodying the whole nature of man in reverence and adoration. "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ;" not only God, but the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and a Father to us in him. What significance Christ gave to the word "father" we all know. It is the root-word of the Lord's Prayer, every ascription and every petition being but an offshoot from "Our Father which art in heaven." So of the entire Sermon on the Mount; it is the motive to trust Providence, the reason to be like God, the ground of brotherhood, the inducement to forgive those who offend us, the inspiration of each duty, each sacrifice, and the joy and strength of each beatitude. So of the last conversations and discourse - all of the Father and of the Son in him, and the disciples in the Son. So after the Resurrection, "My Father and your Father." St. Paul rejoiced in the word. Nor did he hesitate to use on Mars' Hill the quotation," We are also his offspring," and from this point of view expose the error and sin of idolatry. And wherever he comes to give it the fulness of its import, as in Romans 8., his heart overflows with feeling. Here (ver. 3) he is also the "Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort," and no matter how the mercies reach us and what their nature and connections, they are from the Father as the God of all comfort. Physical and spiritual blessings, a visit from Stephanas, the return of Titus, good news from Corinth, - all alike are mercies from the Father, the God of all comfort. One may lose himself in the omnipresence of Jehovah and be overwhelmed by its sublimity, but it is a very practical doctrine with the apostle, a constant reality, and he feels it deeply because he feels it always. "Not far from every one of us." How can he be, when "we live and move and have our being" in]aim? We say these great words, but with what little consciousness of their massive import! Reason tries in vain to comprehend omnipresence; imagination labours and sinks under its images; while the humble and docile heart accepts the grandeur of God's presence in immensity as the grandeur of his nearness in all the affairs of life. "God of all comfort" because "Father of mercies;" the mercies very welcome to him just then in that sore emergency, and the fatherhood of God in Christ unspeakably dear. it enlivened the sense of special providence in his soul; it was the Comforter whom Christ had promised as more than a compensation for his absence, and. while this Comforter was never taken from him, yet, as occasion demanded, his Divine manifestations were augmented. Just as we need human sympathy, assurances of human friendship and love, more at some times than at others, so need we the Consoler, and to this varying want he adapts himself in the infinitude of his power and tenderness. No soul is saved, we may suppose, on an unvarying plan; no soul is cheered and strengthened by a rigid monotony of spiritual influence. "The wind bloweth where it listeth," a zephyr, a breeze, a gate, but in all the wind. "So is every one that is born of the Spirit." "Blessed be God," not only for "mercies" and "comfort," but for them in particular adaptations to seasons and experiences that doubly endear the gracious offices of the Paraclete. Now, these words of praise naturally lead us to expect a justification of their special utterance, and we have it immediately. "Who comforteth us in all our tribulation," and for what purpose? Titus and Timothy had brought him much cheer and consolation, and why? Was it just to revive his drooping spirit? Just to assuage his personal pain, soothe his unquiet nerves, invigorate his tone of mind? Nay; consolation was not selfish. Happiness is not exclusively or even mainly for its possessor. "Doth God take care for oxen?" Yea; for the owner of oxen too in his providence over the beast. The tribulation had not fallen on St. Paul because of anything peculiar to him; it was vicarious; and the comfort had been granted, not in his behalf alone, but that he might know how to console others. This is his statement: "That we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble." If the Holy Ghost is the Comforter, we are his agents, and, just as the gospel of doctrine reaches you from him through us, so too the gospel of consolation comes to your hearts through our hearts. Look at what the apostolic office meant. Far more than preacher, organizer, administrator, leader, champion, was included in its high duties and arduous responsibilities. To console was one of its greatest tasks. Everywhere the dejected were to be lifted up, the discouraged animated, the afflicted taught to hope. To be a physician to suffering souls was a cease- less requisition on St. Paul. Think of what it entailed on such a man as he. Think of but one aspect of the matter - tension of sensibility. The exhaustion consequent on the unceasing strain upon sensibility is the hardest of all things to bear. It opens the door to all manner of temptations. It is the crucial test of manly fortitude, Now, the quality of emotion has much more to do with the exhaustion of the nervous system than the quantity. Every preacher knows that a funeral occasion on which he has to officiate is a severer tax on his nerves than half a dozen ordinary pulpit services. The more solemn, and especially the more pathetic, the circumstances, the more rapid and complete the subsequent exhaustion. Think now of what St. Paul had to endure in this kind of apostolic experience, and that too without a respite; how many thorns rankled besides "the thorn in the flesh;" and how many hearts bled in that one bleeding heart of his. Just now, moreover, he was suffering greatly on account of the Corinthians. This will appear hereafter. The main point before us is - How was he qualified to be a consoler? What Ms discipline, what his education, for this beautiful and holy service? Ah, Tarsus and Jerusalem, Gamaliel, all other teachers, pass out of view in this deepest and most personal of all culture, and the Holy Ghost and the man are the only parties to the work. "By the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." Talking from the intellect is in such a case of no avail. A man must have been a sufferer, must have felt Christ in his sufferings, must have abounded in these "sufferings of Christ," as St. Paul designates his afflictions, before he can be fitted to minister unto others. Only sorrow can speak to sorrow. Notice the correspondence in the degree; if the sufferings of Christ abounded, so "our consolation also aboundeth by Christ." "By the sufferings of Christ abound in us" ("unto us," Revised Version), we understand the apostle to mean his fellowship with Christ in suffering the ills and sorrows that came upon him as an apostle and as a man because of his spiritual union with Christ. Mediation in all its offices, in the peculiar and exclusive work of Christ as the one Reconciler and Healer, in the subordinate and imperfect operations of human sympathy, is essentially painful. And allowing for the infinite distinction between the Divine Sufferer and. human sufferers, there is vet a unity in suffering predicable of Christ and the members of his mystical body. For it is the capacity to suffer which is the dignity and glory of our nature. We are God-like in this quality. It is the basis of all grand excellence, nor can our innate love of happiness nor any other ideal of our being have its fulfilment except through that kind of sorrow which Christians undergo in the Man of sorrows. Ver, 6 emphasizes this fact. If we are afflicted, argues he, it is for your good, that we may be instrumental in your salvation, and that grace may abound to yon because of what we endure. And, furthermore, it was for their present consolation; it was "effectual;" the example of their distressed apostle operated to strengthen and establish them, and the consolation wherewith he was sustained availed to animate their souls For this reason, his hope of them was "steadfast Corruptions were among these Corinthians God's judgments had overtaken them because of their free-thinking and laxity of morals: they were punished, they were chastened but in the midst of all, St. Paul was encouraged to hope for their stability and growth in grace, seeing that they were not only sympathizers but participants both in the sugaring and in the consolation he himself experienced for their sakes. Two points here come into view: first, the apostle was in great distress on their account, and they shared with him this peculiar burden of grief; and, secondly, the supporting grace which God had given him was not confined to his soul, but overflowed (abounded) in their souls. What a great truth is this! There are times in our history as believers when, if left without the support of Church relations, we should be overcome by temptation. In such hours God shows us the worth of membership in the Church; grace comes to us through their affections, and brethren in Christ are our best friends in the flesh. The human, or rather the Divine in the human, saves us when all else would be ineffectual, and thus it is that associates and companions in the faith cooperate with other "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." And what a meaning this imparts to the Holy Communion, wherein we express, not only our remembrance of Christ's suffering and death, but our fellowship with his sufferings in others! Keep in mind how sorrow ennobles us. Is it the silence and loneliness, the self-examination, the penitence, the amendment, in which the divinest fruits of chastening appear? These are not ultimate results. It is not alone what the discipline of pain makes us in ourselves; it is not the individual man, but the social man, that is under God's plastic hand, and who, while learning to "bear his own burden," is also learning a lesson far more difficult, to bear another's burden and "so fulfil the law of Christ." Who are they that practise the "so"? Who are the burden bearers - those that carry the ignorance, perverseness, folly, misfortune, troubles, of other people on their hearts? Only such as have known Christ as he suffered from taking "our infirmities" and bearing "our sicknesses," and who have been taught by the Holy Spirit that the mediating life to which we are called as the highest sphere of life is possible only by means of personal affliction. Was Bunyan immured in Bedford jail on his own account or for the world's benefit? Was Milton blind for his own sake or for England's? How could 'Pilgrim's Progress' or 'Paradise Lost' have been produced except in obedience to the law - partakers in suffering, partakers in consolation? St. Paul proceeds to the illustration. Of his general sufferings we have a definite idea. How he was misrepresented by his enemies, how he was charged with meanness and cowardice, how he was vilified for his self-denial, how the Judaizers pursued him with merciless zeal, we all know. We know, too, how his heart was moved by the deplorable state of things at Corinth. Now, it is quite true that the endurance of trouble prepares us to bear a new trouble; but it is true also that trouble increases the sensitiveness to pain, and hence, in a succession of sorrows, the last, though not in itself the heaviest, is virtually such because of the sensibility involved. This was St. Paul's condition. At this very conjuncture, when a phalanx of evils threatened, he had one particular trouble, of which he says, "We would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia." What it specifically was, we know not. He tells us, however, that it was exceptional even in his sad life; for he was "pressed [borne down] out of measure," and again, "above strength" (human resistance inadequate to bear the load), so much so that he saw no way of escape, life hung in peril, "we despaired even of life." In that dreadful hour all seemed over. Such hours do come to the best and noblest of God's servants. Body gives way, heroism is weakened, faith is half shorn of its strength. It is the eclipse of all light, the hour of darkness and of the Prince of darkness; the very soul seems to put off its better attributes, and life to its core appears an unreality. St. Paul "had the sentence of death" in himself. Was there any "lower deep"? Yet in this season of terrible experience a Divine lesson was being taught him, and it was "that we should not trust in ourselves." Had he not learned it long ago? Yes; in part, but not in this precise shape nor in this degree. The capacity to suffer is peculiar in this, that its development requires a manifold experience. One trouble is not another trouble; one grief is not another grief. Affliction that reaches a certain sentiment or a particular section of our nature may leave other sentiments and sections altogether untouched. Every quality within must go through this ordeal. The loss of money is not the loss of position and influence, the loss of friend is not the loss of a child, the loss of a child is not the loss of a wife. Each affection must pass through the refiner's fire. Nay, the very instincts must share the purification ordained for such as are to be made "perfect through suffering." Every link must be tested, must be thoroughly known, before the chain can be formed. What the issue was in St. Paul's case he informs us, and it was this - all self-reliance was taken away, and, in utter hopelessness, his heart was committed to God with his life, even the God "which raiseth the dead." Could anything represent his marvellous deliverance except the resurrection? "Who delivered us from so great a death;" it was an act of omnipotence, and as signal as raising the dead. After this era in his career imagine his consciousness of God's power in him. There it was - part and portion of his being, thought of his thought, feeling of his feeling, separable never from the existence of self. Had the crisis passed? Yea; but maligners and intriguers and foes were still on his track; the half-Christianized Pharisee nursed the old grudge against him, and the Judaizer, who believed in no gospel of which the Law of Moses was not a vital part as a requisite to salvation, was as inveterate as ever in cunning and in the arts that undermine. Yet what a potency of assurance lies in sorrow! After this season of trial, St. Paul, who was very apprehensive of mischief from this Judaizing source, and most serious mischief, and who felt his own ministry more imperilled at this point than at any other, must have had an unwonted degree of heavenly strength imparted to his spirit. Is it not likely, indeed, that it was a period of special education for this struggle with the Judaizers? May it not have been that, while in Ephesus, Troas, Macedonia, the principal warrior on the side of Christianity and free grace had his armour refitted and burnished for the dangers newly impending? It is on record that he was revived and reinvigorated; for he speaks of God as one who had not only "delivered," but "doth deliver," and "in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us." "So great a death" had been escaped; why might he not hope for future and triumphant victory? Would not these Corinthians be brethren indeed? "Ye also helping together by prayer for us;" the joy of deliverance from his enemies would not be complete unless they were "partakers;" not even would he have triumph at the price of selfishness, but self in them and self in him must be one; and, therefore, the recurring plural, "we and us." "By the means," or through the agency of "many persons," the future deliverance, "the gift bestowed upon us," will be secured, and what then? It would be no private and verruled for a common glory. - L.







Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.
What good can we do to God in blessing of Him? He is blessed, though we bless Him not. Our blessing of Him —

I. IS REQUIRED AS A DUTY, to make us more capable of His graces (Matthew 13:12). To him that useth that he hath to the glory of God shall be given more. The stream gives nothing to the fountain; the beam nothing to the sun, for it issues from it. Our very blessing of God is a blessing of His. It is from His grace that we can praise His grace; and we run still into a new debt when we have hearts enlarged to bless Him.

II. TO OTHERS IT IS GOOD, for they are stirred up by it. God's goodness and mercy is enlarged in regard of the manifestation of it to others.

III. Yea, THUS GOOD COMES TO OUR SOULS. Besides the increase of grace, we shall find an increase of joy and comfort.

1. If we can work upon our hearts a disposition to see God's love, and to bless Him, we can never be uncomfortable, for then crosses are light. For, when we search for matter of praising God in any affliction, and when we see there is some mercy yet reserved that we are not consumed, God, when He hath thanks from us, gives us still more matter of thankfulness, and the more we thank Him the more we have matter of praise. And, that we may the better perform this holy duty, let us take notice of all God's blessings. Blessing of God springs immediately from an enlarged heart, but enlargement of heart is stirred up from apprehension.

2. Taking notice of them, let us forget not all His benefits (Psalm 103:2). Let us register them, keep diaries of His mercies. He renews His mercies every day, and we ought to renew our blessing of Him every day. We should labour to do here as we shall do when we are in heaven.

(R. Sibbes, D. D.)

If one should give me a dish of sand, and tell me there were particles of iron in it, I might look for them with my eyes, and search for them with my clumsy fingers, and be unable to detect them; but let me take a magnet, and sweep through it, and how would it draw to itself the most invisible particles by the mere power of attraction! The unthankful heart, like my finger in the sand, discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day, and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings; only the iron in God's sand is gold.

(O. W. Holmes.)

I. OF BLESSING GOD UNDER THE AMIABLE CHARACTERS WHICH ARE HERE ASCRIBED TO HIM. The apostle blesseth God under the three following designations: —

1. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, considered in this character and relation, ought, in a special manner, to be blessed.

2. The next title under which God is here blessed is, the Father of mercies. Mercy is the compassion and relief which is administered to those who are in misery. God is not said to be the Father of mercy, but of mercies, of all the mercies we need or can enjoy. Did we lose sight of all our mercies, we might find them again in God, who is the Father from whom they all proceed. Mercies of all kinds flow from Him — deliverance from evil, the enjoyment of God, pardon, sanctification, preservation. There is mercy in everything that befalls us: in health, in strength, in safety, in affliction, in recovery — nay, in every bereavement that we meet with.

3. The third designation under which God is blessed is, the God of all comfort. There is comfort in all the privileges peculiar to Christians, such as justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the blessings connected with them. There is comfort in the promises of the new covenant, in which the people of God are assured of His gracious presence, the assistance of His Spirit, and the enjoyment of His glory. But this is not all that is necessary that God may be the God of all comfort. We may have agreeable possessions, we may have the Word of God, which unfolds the grounds of comfort, and yet not be comforted, if the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, do not apply to our souls the consolations of His Word, and powerfully set them home upon our hearts. He can create comfort to us out of nothing, or out of what is most unlikely to yield it. He can bring meat out of the eater, sweet out of the bitter, joy out of sorrow, life out of death, and, what is more, He can make our greatest crosses our greatest comforts.

II. Let us consider THE PARTICULAR GROUND MENTIONED IN THE TEXT ON ACCOUNT OF WHICH THE APOSTLE BLESSED HIM; "God comforteth us in all our tribulation." He doth not keep us from tribulation, but He comforteth us in it, which shows more of Divine power and goodness than wholly to preserve from it. This is the peculiar work of God alone. Who but He can restore the soul and speak peace to the conscience? What relief can outward enjoyments or human reasonings afford in the time of soul distress? The comforts He conveys are always suited to the condition of those on whom they are bestowed. In lesser afflictions fewer or smaller consolations suffice. Great comforts are given under great sufferings. Worldly men look to their outward enjoyments for comfort, whilst they overlook the mercy of God, from whence they all proceed.

III. THE IMPORTANT END FOR WHICH DIVINE CONSOLATIONS ARE IMPARTED TO THE SAINTS — namely, "that they may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith they themselves are comforted of God." The consolations of God are neither small nor few, and can never be diminished, however great the number of those who share in them. God is pleased to comfort those who are in trouble by means of His people who themselves have been distressed. Various important purposes are served by this wise appointment. Hereby trial is made of our subjection to the Divine authority. Many are much distressed with heavy hearts whose pride makes them scorn the way of obtaining comfort which God hath prescribed. In this way the hearts of the godly are knit together in love, and their mutual esteem is increased. Those who are comforted of God by means of their brethren are brought under strong obligations to endearing friendship and affectionate gratitude. Improve, then, all your experiences, for the benefit of your fellow-Christians. In this way, also, those who ought to comfort the distressed are well prepared for performing the work assigned them. Experience is an excellent instructor. Experience likewise gives great confidence to the speaker, and enables him to speak with more certainty and boldness than he could do without this advantage. Is God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort? Why, then, are some of you dejected, after all the comfortable things that you read in your Bibles and hear in sermons? Why, you go to the streams and neglect the fountain. Would you have comfort from God in all your tribulations? Consider attentively what are the particular maladies with which you are distressed. Think of your sins, which are the worst of all evils. Let none misapply this subject. Though strong consolation is provided for those who flee for refuge to Jesus Christ, there is no true comfort to those who go on in their sins. When we would comfort others, or enjoy comfort ourselves, let us begin with diligent examination, in order to discover their and our own spiritual state — if it be really such as will allow us to take comfort or to administer it to others.

(W. McCulloch.)

I. THE FATHER OF THE WORLD'S REDEEMER.

II. THE SOURCE OF MAN'S MERCIES. The merciful Father. God in nature does not appear as the God of mercy and comfort for the lost.

III. THE COMFORTER OF AFFLICTED SAINTS.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

When a man begets children, they are in his own likeness. God groups all the mercies of the universe into a great family of children, of which He is the head. Mercies tell us what God is. They are His children. He is the Father of them in all their forms, combinations, multiplications, derivations, offices. Mercies in their length and breadth, in their multitudes infinite, uncountable — these arc God's offspring, and they represent their Father. Judgments are effects of God's power. Pains and penalties go forth from His hand. Mercies are God Himself. They are the issues of His heart. If He rears up a scheme of discipline and education which requires and justifies the application of pains and penalties for special purposes, the God that stands behind all. special systems and all special administrations in His own interior nature pronounces himself "the Father of mercies." Mercies are not what He does so much as what He is.

(H. W. Beecher.)

I. THIS WORLD IS NOT AN ORB BROKE LOOSE AND SNARLED WITH IMMEDICABLE EVILS.

1. If we would know what this world is coming to, we must not look too low. Have you never noticed, in summer days, when the sun stands at the very meridian height, how white and clear the light is — how all things are transparently clear? But let the sun droop till it shoots level beams along the surface of the earth, and those beams are caught and choked up with a thousand vapours, and the light grows thick and murky. And so, when men's eyes glance along the surface of the world, looking at moral questions, they look through the vapours which the world itself has generated, and cannot see clearly. Therefore it is that many men think this world is bound to wickedness, and that all philanthropic attempts are mere efforts of weakness and inexperience. And no man who does not take his inspirations from the nature of God can have right views of human life. No man can be a charitable man who does not believe that his fellow-men are depraved. And then, no man can be charitable with men who does not believe that it is the essential nature of God to cure, and not to condemn. God is Himself a vast medicine. And as long as God lives, and is what He is — "the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort" — so long this world is not going to rack and ruin. Let men despond as much as they please, the earth is not for ever to groan.

2. Work on, then! Not a tear that you drop to wash away any person's trouble, not a blow that you strike in imitation of the strokes of the Almighty arm, shall be forgotten. The world shall be redeemed, for our God's name is Mercy and Comfort.

II. THERE ARE NO TROUBLES WHICH BEFALL OUR SUFFERING HEARTS FOR WHICH THERE IS NOT IN GOD A REMEDY, IF ONLY WE WISH TO RECEIVE IT. Now, there is victory for each true Christian heart over its troubles.

1. Not by disowning them. Every man's prayer to God is, "Lord, remove this thorn in the flesh." "My grace shall be sufficient for you." Then bear.

2. But how? — resignedly? Yes, if you cannot do any better. That is better than murmuring. But resignation is a negative thing. It is the consent of the soul to receive without rebellion. It is giving up a contest.

3. But is the disciple better than the Master? Would you, if you could, reach forth your hand and take back one single sorrow that made Christ to you what He is? Is it not the power of Jesus to all eternity that He was the Sufferer, and that He bore suffering in such a way that He vanquished it? Now you are His followers; and will you follow Christ by slinking away from suffering? Do not seek it; but, if it comes, remember that no sorrow comes but with His knowledge. And what is trouble but that very influence that brings you nearer to the heart of God than prayers or hymns? But sorrows, to be of use, must be borne, as Christ's were, victoriously, carrying with them intimations and sacred prophecies to the heart of Hope that by them we shall be strengthened and ennobled.

4. How is it, brother? I do not ask you whether you like the cup which you are now drinking, but look back twenty years — at the time which seemed to you like midnight, Now it is all over, and it has wrought out its effect on you; and I ask you, Would you have removed the experience of that burden which you thought would crush you, but which you fought in such a way that you came out a strong man? What has made you so versatile, patient, broad, rich? God put pickaxes into you, though you did not like it. He dug wells of salvation in you. And you are what you are by the grace of God's providence. You were gold in the rock, and God played miner, and blasted you out of the rock; and then He played stamper, and crushed you; and then He played smelter, and melted you; and now you are gold free from the rock by the grace of God's severity to you. And as you look back upon those experiences, and see what they have done for you, and what you are now, you say, "I would not exchange what I learned from these things for all the world." What is the reason you have never learned to apply the same philosophy to the trouble of to-day?

III. NO PERSON IS ORDAINED UNTIL HIS SORROWS PUT INTO HIS HANDS THE POWER OF COMFORTING OTHERS. Sorrow is apt to be very selfish and self-indulgent, but see how sorrow worked in the apostle. When the daughter is married, and goes from home, how often her heart returns! As time goes on, the daughter suffers from sickness, children are multiplied, and the mother comes and tarries in the family. The children are sick, there is trouble in the household; but the daughter says, "Mother is here." And she says, "My dear child, I have gone through it all," and while yet she is telling her story, strangely, as if exhaled, all these drops of trouble that have sprinkled on the child's heart have gone, and she is comforted. Why? Because the consolations by which the mother's heart was comforted have gone over and rested on the child's mind. Now, the apostle says, "When Christ comforts your grief He makes you mother to somebody else." I know some people who, when they have griefs, become mendicants, and go around with a hat in their hand, begging a penny of comfort from this one and that one. What does the apostle say? That when God comforts your griefs He ordains you to be a minister of comfort to others who are in trouble.

(H. W. Beecher.)

We are all engaged in the great conflict between right and wrong. To the Christian, often, and not unnaturally, either from the weariness of the struggle or the depressing sense of failure, there comes an overwhelming weight of sorrow. How is the soul to be supported? By "the comfort of God." It is that blessed truth which haunts the heart of St. Paul throughout the whole of this Epistle. Examine this question of comfort.

I. CHRIST IS THE ONE MEDIATOR. IT IS THROUGH HIM THE COMFORT COMES. How?

1. From His loyalty to truth. There are those who attempt to soothe the conscience by making light of sin. Such cannot comfort. Sin is, in its essence, uneasy disturbance. "The wicked are like a troubled sea, they cannot rest." Man is too near God to find comfort in a lie. Our Master knew it. And how unflinchingly, minutely true His life was! How awful are His warnings of the consequences of persistent sin! And, therefore, how sweet His consolations! How severe His rebukes to the self-righteous, and therefore restless! Yet Mary Magdalene, with all her loads of guilt, lay down before Him and kissed His sacred feet, and felt the kindness of His comfort. As the Master, so the servant; as Christ, so His Church. Why do men so often hate her? Because she makes no compromises. She refuses to "daub with untempered mortar." Sin, she says, is always disastrous. Moral laws, she says, are constant. "As a man sows, so shall he reap." As real as sin, so real must be penitence. No short cuts; this is the one path to pardon. Truth is the path to comfort. Sin does matter. Turn from it — to the light of His countenance, to the sweetness of the comfort of God.

2. By infusing hope. Hope rests upon a promise and a fact. The fact is, that entire drama of tenderness and power which is summed up in the Passion of Christ. Dark and sad enough is the journey of life, but this is like the after-glow along the battlements of evening clouds, which promises, when night is passed, a brilliant morning; like the first note of the bird in winter that warbles of a coming spring, this lifts the immortal spirit above the pressure of the things of time, and enables the soul to appropriate to itself the good gifts of God. "Loved me, gave Himself for me" — there is supernatural hope. This invigorates the failing nature; it is "the comfort of God."

3. From the genuine living sympathy of Christ. The reality of that sympathy depends, of course, upon the perfection of His human nature, the power of it upon the truth of His Godhead. In several experiences our blessed Master has gained the necessary acquaintance with our needs.(1) None like Himself has known the exceeding horror of sin. Sooner or later every child of Adam knows that. But in the agony at Gethsemane, and in the dereliction on the Cross, pure human nature felt the whole force and fierceness of the assaults of evil.(2) He knows the reality and pain of temptation. "He suffered being tempted."(3) .None more acutely than He felt the transitoriness of human happiness and human life. By all the quiet hours at Nazareth, at Bethany, etc., He knew the contrasting sadness of scattered friends and darkened days, and the keenness of the Cross.(4) He underwent the darkness and horror of the grave. Struggling soul, assaulted by fierce temptation; sin-laden soul, bowed down and fainting under a sense of failure; sorrowing soul, bewildered with a paralysis of trouble; dying soul, shrinking from the separation and the gloom of the grave, look up; He feels for thine anguish: look up; in that sympathy is comfort.

II. HOW DOES THIS COMFORT, WHICH SPRINGS FROM HIS MIGHTY MEDIATION, COME HOME TO US?

1. From the sweetness of the grace of penitence. Sin — your sin — was rebellion. His love has penetrated thy soul; the tears of penitence have come. Sin was all self, penitence is all God. But at first, how sharp the sense of shame I Then He came — "God in the face of Jesus Christ." What was the cry? "Wash me throughly from my iniquity," etc. It was pain, this penitence — searching, piercing; but what is this inner sense of joy? The presence of Jesus, the comfort of God.

2. From the consecration of sorrow. Sorrow is the fact of facts. Strange mystery; Christ has consecrated sorrow. He has made it the path to victory. "The Valley of Achor" becomes a "door of hope."

3. By the blessedness of prayer. To persevere in prayer is surely and at last to know the comfort of God.

(Canon Knox-Little.)

I. TRIBULATION IS A DISCIPLINE COMMON TO ALL. None can evade it; the richest man can neither buy himself off nor provide a substitute.

1. The discipline of tribulation is inevitable because we are imperfect.

2. Note some of the tribulations of earthly existence.

(1)Disappointment in life.

(2)Poverty.

(3)Death.

II. IN THE DISCIPLINE OF TRIBULATION GOD SHALL COMFORT ALL HIS PEOPLE WITH SUSTAINING GRACE. The medicine may be bitter, but it will give strength.

(W. Birch.)

I. THE COMFORTABLE OCCUPATION. Blessing God. If a man under affliction blesses the Lord —

1. It argues that his heart is not vanquished —

(1)So as to gratify Satan by murmuring,

(2)So as to kill his own soul with despair.

2. It prophesies that god will send to him speedy deliverances to call forth new praises. It is natural to lend more to a man when the interest on what he has is duly paid. Never did man bless God but sooner or later God blessed him.

3. It profits the believer above measure.

(1)It takes the mind off from present trouble.

(2)It lifts the heart to heavenly thoughts and considerations.

(3)It gives a taste of heaven, for heaven largely consists in adoring and blessing God.

(4)It destroys distress by bringing God upon the scene.

4. It is the Lord's due in whatsoever state we may be.

II. THE COMFORTABLE TITLES.

1. A name of affinity, "The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

2. A name of gratitude, "The Father of mercies."

3. A name of hope, "The God of all comfort."

4. A name of discrimination, "Who comforteth us." The Lord has a special care for those who trust in Him.

III. THE COMFORTABLE FACT. "The God of all comfort comforteth us in all our tribulation."

1. Personally.

2. Habitually. He has always been near to comfort us in all past time, never once leaving us alone.

3. Effectually. He has always been able to comfort us in all tribulation. No trial has baffled His skill.

4. Everlastingly. He will comfort us to the end, for He is "the God of all comfort," and He cannot change. Should we not be always happy since God always comforts us?

IV. THE COMFORTABLE nestor. "That we may be able to comfort."

1. To make us comforters of others. The Lord aims at this: the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, trains us up to be comforters. There is great need for this holy service in this sin-smitten world.

2. To make us comforters on a large scale. "To comfort them which are in any trouble." We are to be conversant with all kinds of grief, and ready to sympathise with all sufferers.

3. To make us experts in consolation — "able to comfort"; because of our own experience of Divine comfort.

4. To make us willing and sympathetic, so that we may, through personal experience, instinctively care for the state of others.Conclusion:

1. Let us now unite in special thanksgiving to the God of all comfort.

2. Let us drink in comfort from the Word of the Lord, and be ourselves happy in Christ Jesus.

3. Let us be on the watch to minister consolation to all tried ones.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

1. Look up. There is thy Father. But ere thou canst be like Him thou wilt need the file of the lapidary, the heat of the crucible, the bruising of the flail.

2. Look down. At the moment of thy conversion all the powers of darkness pledged themselves to obstruct thy way.

3. Look around. Thou art still in the world that crucified thy Lord.

4. Look within. In the constant strife between thy will and God's will, what can there be but affliction? When in affliction, mind three things.

I. Look out FOR COMFORT. It will come —

1. Certainly. Wherever the nettle grows there grows the dock-leaf.

2. Proportionately. God holds a pair of scales. This on the right, called AS, is for thine afflictions; this on the left, called SO, is for thy comforts. And the beam is always level.

3. Divinely. Shall we look to man? No, for Job found the best men of his time to be miserable comforters. Shall we look to angels? No; this needs a gentler touch than theirs. God comforteth those that are cast down.

4. Mediately. Our consolation aboundeth through Christ.

5. Directly through the Holy Ghost, that other Comforter, whom the Saviour gives.

6. Variously; sometimes by the coming of a beloved Titus, a bouquet, a letter, a promise, sometimes by God simply coming near.

II. STORE UP COMFORT.

1. The world is full of comfortless hearts. Our God would comfort them through thee. But thou must be trained.

2. Dost thou wonder why thou dost suffer some special form of sorrow? Wait till ten years are passed. In that time thou wilt find some afflicted as thou art. When thou tellest them how thou hast suffered, and how thou hast been comforted, thou wilt learn why thou hast been afflicted.

III. PASS ON THE COMFORT YOU RECEIVE.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

The desire for comfort may be a noble or a most ignoble wish. The nobleness of actions depends more upon the reasons why we do them than on the acts themselves. Paul gave to the comfort which God had given him its deepest and most unselfish reason, and so the fact of God's comforting him became the exaltation and the strengthening of his life. It does not matter what the special trouble was; the point is this — that Paul thanked God because the comfort which had come to him gave him the power to comfort other people. Now try to recall the joy and peace and thankfulness that have ever filled your heart when you became thoroughly sure that God had relieved or blessed you. But ask yourself, at the same time, "Did any such thought as Paul's come up first and foremost to my mind?"

I. THE POWER OF PAUL OR OF ANY MAN TO REALISE THIS HIGH IDEA —

1. Shows a clear understanding that it is really God who sends the help. If the recovery of your health or the saving of your fortune seems to you a piece of luck, then you may be meanly and miserably selfish about it. It is a light which you have struck out for yourself, and may burn in your own lantern. But if the light came down from God it is too big for you to keep to yourself.

2. Evinces genuine unselfishness and a true humility. Put these together into a nature, and you clear away those obstructions which, in so many men, stop God's mercies short, and absorb, as personal privileges, what they were meant to radiate as blessings to mankind. Who is the man whom we rejoice to see possessing wealth? It is the man who says, "God sent this," and, "I am not worthy of this; where are my brethren?" Who is the man who, receiving comfort from God, radiates it? It is the reverent, unselfish, humble man. The sunlight falls upon a clod, but lies as black as ever; but the sun touches a diamond, and the diamond almost chills itself as it sends out in radiance on every side the light that has fallen on it. So God helps one man bear his pain, and nobody but that one man is a whir the richer. God comes to another sufferer, and all around are comforted by the radiated comfort of that happy soul.

3. Will always be easier and more real to us in proportion as we dwell habitually upon the profounder and more spiritual of His mercies. If I am in the habit of thanking God mainly for food and clothes and house, it will not be easy for me to take them as if the final purpose of them was that I might be warm and well fed. But if what I thank Him for most is not that He gives me His gifts, but that He gives me Himself, then I cannot resist the tendency of that mercy to outgrow my life. A stream may leave its deposits in the pool it flows through, but the stream itself hurries on to other pools; and so God's gifts a soul may selfishly appropriate, but God Himself, the more truly a soul possesses Him, the more truly it will long and try to share Him. Thus I have tried to picture the man who in the profoundest way accepts and values God's mercies. You see how clear his superiority is. The Pharisee says, "I thank Thee that I am not as other men are," and evidently it is his difference from other men that he values most, and he means to keep himself different from other men as long as possible. The Christian says, "I thank Thee that Thou hast made me this, because it is a sign and may be made a means of bringing other men to the same help and joy."

II. NOTE A FEW OF THE SPECIAL HELPS WHICH GOD GIVES TO MEN, and see how what I have been saying applies to each of them.

1. Take the comfort which God sends a man when he is in religious doubt. And that does not by any means always mean the filling of every darkness with perfect light. No doubt God does answer our questions for us sometimes if we will "walk in His ways." But he has had little experience of God who has not often felt how sometimes, with a deep doubt in the soul unsolved, the Father will fold about His doubting child a sense of Himself so self-witnessing that the child is content to carry his unanswered question, because of the unanswerable assurance of his Father which he has received. You are comforting your child just in that way every day. But, tell me, is it the gain of that one doubter only? Is no other questioner helped? Few men are aided by arguments compared with those to whom religion becomes a clear reality from the sight of some fellow-man who carries the life of God wherever he goes.

2. Take the way God proves to us that the soul is more than the body. In the breakage or decay of physical power He brings out spiritual richness and strength. This was something that St. Paul knew well (2 Corinthians 4:16). A man who has been in the full whirl of prosperous business fails, and then for the first time he learns the joy of conscious integrity preserved through all temptations, and of daily trust in God for daily bread. A man who never knew an ache comes to a break in health, and then the soul within him stands strong in the midst of weakness, calm in the very centre of the turmoil and panic of the aching body. The temper of the fickle people changes, and the favourite of .yesterday becomes the victim of to-day; but in his martyrdom for the first time he sees the full value of the truth he dies for, and thanks the flames that have lighted up its preciousness. Now, in all these cases, must it not be an element in the comfort which fills the sick room, or gathers about the martyr's stake, that by this revelation of the spiritual through the broken physical life other men may learn its value?

3. Take the comfort which God gives a man who has found out his sin and repented of it — forgiveness. We take too low a ground in pleading with the man living in sin. We tell him of his danger. We go higher than that: we tell him of the happiness of the life with God. But suppose we took a higher strain, and said, "Every time any man humbly takes God's forgiveness, that man becomes a new witness to men of how strong and good the Saviour is. And look, how they need Him! Not for yourself now, but for them, for Him, take His forgiveness and give up yourself inwardly and outwardly to Him." So used one grows to find men respond to the noblest motives who are deaf to a motive which is less noble. Be a new man in Christ for these men's sake.

(Bishop Phillips Brooks.)

The passage presents to us man in three aspects —

I. AS REQUIRING DIVINE COMFORT. This is implied in the words, "God of all comfort." There are troubles arising —

1. From secular sources — broken plans, profitless efforts, worldly cares and anxieties.

2. From social sources — the disruption of social ties, the venom of social slander, the disappointments of social ingratitude and unfaithfulness.

3. From moral sources — sense of guilt, conflict of passions with conscience, terrible forebodings of the future.

II. AS ENJOYING DIVINE COMFORT. The apostle speaks of himself and the Church at Corinth as being "comforted of God." God comforts His trusting people —

1. By inspiring hope. What delightful promises does He make — promises suitable to every tribulation!(1) To those in secular tribulation He says, "Be careful for nothing," etc.(2) To those in social tribulation He says, "Cursed is the man that maketh flesh his arm," "Cursed is the man that trusteth not in the Lord."(3) To those in moral tribulation He says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."

2. By uniting their thoughts. Conflicting thoughts are the great troublers of the soul. God harmonises those thoughts by centring them on Himself.

3. By engrossing their love. Distracted affections are sources of distress. God centres the heart upon Himself, and man is kept in perfect peace.

III. AS MINISTERING DIVINE COMFORT. "That we may be able to comfort," etc. And Paul felt thankful for the comforts received, not merely for his own sake, but the sake of others. His language implies —

1. That he gratefully administered comfort to others as the gift of God.

2. That he loyally administered comfort to others "according to the will of God." "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith the Lord." Conclusion: How suitable is the God of the gospel to the troubled condition of humanity.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. CHRISTIANS HAVE MANY A SECRET, MAKING PAIN ENDURABLE AND TAKING THE STING FROM TROUBLE.

1. Sorrow is fellowship with Christ, is a great self-revealer — of sin, of restoring mercy, of cleansing grace, of the tenderness of God.

2. But the text shows a new gain — a special grace. "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted"; but "blessed," also, "are they that be comforted, for they shall comfort others."(1) When God comforts a man, the man's speech is full of feeling, and listening to him is like listening to the voice of God.(2) One who has felt a wound knows where and how to touch one. In our inexperience we are too blunt or too shy, and hurt the sensibilities we would soothe: we lay bare when we should shroud, and cover up a wound we should try to purge.(3) "Comforted of God." Who comforteth like Him? "He knoweth our frame," etc. It is worth while to stand in need of God's comforts and to experience them, if we may but acquire an aptitude like this.

3. There is no honour comparable with the gratitude and love bestowed on a consoler, and no satisfaction greater than the sense that we have carried comfort to a mourner. This was Christ's honour, joy, mission.

II. PAUL'S TROUBLE WAS ONE IN CONNECTION WITH HIS MINISTRY, YET HE SPEAKS OF BEING PREPARED FOR ANY CASE NEEDING CONSOLATION. The power to console lies not in our ability to use a particular formula that shall suit a particular want; it lies in our acquaintance with God and His ways and the quickness of our sympathies with men. No one whose heart is tender and whose faith is strong may be deterred from trying to console a sufferer because he has not experienced a like calamity. The experience which is so valuable in all contact with souls is a tone of spirit rather than a knowledge of details; and it is this which is God's choice gift to those He comforts.

(A. Mackennal, D. D.)

Notice —

I. THE PARTICULAR AFFLICTION TO WHICH THE APOSTLE REFERS. The whole paragraph speaks of his trials, but at ver. 8 we read of one in particular extremely severe. In many parts of Asia Minor Paul suffered persecution, but if to one place more than another the text refers, it is to Lystra (Acts 14:8-20).

II. THE COMFORT HE ENJOYED IN THIS OR IN ANY OTHER AFFLICTION TO WHICH HE MAY REFER. Paul was comforted —

1. By various occurrences under Providence. At Lystra, the scene of his terrific sufferings, sat a cripple who "had faith to be healed." And did not the apostle rejoice to see that thus, wherever he went, there were those whom sovereign grace designed to bless? When a prisoner at Rome, "the things which happened to him fell out to the furtherance of the gospel." In Macedonia God, who comforteth those that are cast down, comforted him by the coming of Titus.

2. By communion with his Lord.

3. By his hope of heaven.

III. THE HAPPY INFLUENCE OF PAUL'S TRIALS IN PROMOTING THE RELIGION OF HIS FELLOW-CHRISTIANS (vers. 4, 6). In two ways the suffering and steadfastness of the apostle would benefit the Corinthians.

1. By his example they would be animated to encounter similar difficulties.

2. By his writings, full of Christian experience, they would derive all that instruction and appeal which an actual endurance of sorrow and support would be sure to imprint by his pen.

IV. THE GRATEFUL, ADORING SPIRIT WHICH THE GOODNESS OF GOD OCCASIONED IN HIM. (ver. 3).

(Isaac Taylor.)

does not mean mere pacification, lulling, the creation of a species of moral and spiritual atrophy: the comfort of God is the encouragement of God, the stimulus of the Most High applied to the human mind and the human heart. When God vivifies us He comforts us; instead of putting His fingers upon our eyelids and drawing them down over tired eyes and saying, "Now sleep a long sleep," He sometimes gives us such an access of life that we cannot lie one moment longer; we spring forth as men who have a battle to fight and a victory to bring home. That access of life is the comfort of God, as well as that added sleep, that extra hour of slumber which is a tender benediction. Why was the apostle comforted, vivified, or encouraged? That he should be able to comfort them which are in trouble. Why does God give us money? To make use of it for the good of others. Why does God make a man very strong? That He may save a man who is very weak, by carrying his burden for him an hour or two now and then, so as to give the man some sense of holiday. Why does the Lord make one man very penetrating in mind, very complete in judgment, very serene and profound in counsel? Not that he may say, "Behold me!" but that he may sit in the gate and dispense the bounty of his soul to those who need all manner of aid, all ministries of love.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

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