If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
I. HOW EMOTIONAL LIFE HAS BEEN STIFLED. At one time men have been bound by monotonous rituals and artificial formularies, and at another period by rigid theological statements, the result of anatomical analysis — a paring and cutting which takes the life and leaves the letter. Real religion is full of emotion. Bead the Psalms and see how they abound in it.
II. THE PERVERSION OF EMOTION is also destructive of the soul's true life. This is seen where self is made the sole object of thought. The bitterest torment is the torment of self. The word miser, for example, means "miserable."
III. Turn from these to THE TRUE FUNCTION OF EMOTION — "the comfort of love."
1. Love is a comfort in the discoveries it makes of the new possibilities of the soul. Think of the grace of tears! I have seen a man who had been elbowing his way through life amid its rough and selfish oppositions, hammering his heart hard, as it were, lest it by softening should become weak. Such a man, made callous by contact with an unsympathetic world, I have seen stand by the coffin of his child. His stony heart broke, and he was glad to weep. The bondage of the hard, real world was sundered, its barriers dissolved, and he recognized that the long-hidden power to feel was not destroyed.
2. Love is a comfort, inasmuch as it is restful and quiet. Ambition, anger, and jealousy bring pain. These are costly indulgences, for they cause sleeplessness and rob one of strength. But there is comfort in love. The mother bears her babe on her breast, and cradles it in her soul. She pastures her eyes in its face, and its beautiful smile is a reflection of the serene and joyful sense of possession which she herself feels. O the luxury of that love! If in a palace, its gilded wealth is but tinsel in the atmosphere of such love. Love beautifies the deformed body and withered features. More than that, it trusts against hope. A bridge was begun in California, over a quagmire. Piles were driven and earth was brought, but every effort failed, till finally a simple platform of boards was constructed, on which yielding support people were floated across. So love, with its strong, instinctive trust, floats across chasms that mere reason can never bridge.
3. There is comfort in love, because it harmonizes everything. What a world this would be if love reigned! There would be none to chafe and crowd and irritate. What oil does love pour on troubled waters! I recall the bright tranquillity of an aged grandmother, whose active days were over and who could only sit in her chair and look her benedictions on us all. That smile of hers lubricated all the wheels of daily life; it dried up all tears as the sun dries up the showers, and shed an atmosphere of peace and harmony through the household.
4. Love takes hold on the infinite. Ambition disappoints and pleasure cloys, but love never dies. It has its successive growths. The child's love is fickle and selfish; that of the youthful pair is founded on mutual esteem and gets chilled, but that of a mother yearns to give its best treasures even to the prodigal, and to love him back to purity. There are no mathematics, no question of "seventy times" of forgiveness in such love. It is a picture of the love of God, and lifts us towards the Infinite. True love inspires the missionary, who, like Carey or Martin, goes to far-off lands with the gospel, or to the loathsomely sick in hospital, or to the brutal in prison. This is the secret of Paul's boast that he could do all things, for, to him who thus loveth, "all things are possible."
(J. B. Thomas, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,