Are the consolations of God not enough for you, even words spoken gently to you?
I. WHEN THE FAULT IS WITH THE CONSOLER. It is very difficult to offer true consolation. Too often we only chafe the sore which we would soothe, and hurt when we think to heal. Where is the cause of failure?
1. A false assumption. Eliphaz assumes that he and his friends have been bringing to Job the consolations of God, whereas they have been doing nothing of the kind. Their hard doctrine of exact, temporary retribution is not true, and it could not have come from God. Truth is the first requisite in all speech and counsel. It is a common error to confound man's notions with God's truth. Very often the protest which we take to be a rejection of the gospel is only urged against our unworthy presentation of it. The failure of people to receive the truth of Christ is frequently due to the ugly and odious ideas of man with which that truth is confused.
2. A mistaken judgment. Job could not accept the well-meant consolations of the three friends because they implied that he was a great sinner, and called him to repent of what he knew he should not have been credited with doing. The injustice of the charge soured the consolation, and its balm was turned to bitterness. We must learn to understand men if we would help and comfort them.
3. An unsympathetic method. The three friends did not appreciate Job's sufferings; therefore he could not appreciate their consolations. Sympathy is the most essential ingredient of comforting influences. Until we can feel with the sufferer, all our attempts to aid him will be but bungling failures. The Divine Spirit is the great Comforter, because he enters our hearts and lives with intelligence and sympathy.
II. WHEN THE FAULT IS WITH THE SUFFERER.
1. Impenitence It might have been as Eliphaz had supposed, and in some cases it is so, and then the guilty man excludes the Divine consolations by refusing to confess his sins. So long as the sinner declines to admit his guilt he cannot receive God's comfort. The grace of God is sufficient for all the needs of all his children, and yet none of it is effective with his disobedient and unrepentant children.
2. Rebellion. Possibly no great sin has been committed, and no great guilt incurred, and still the attitude of the sufferer towards his God may exclude consolation. He must submit in order to be comforted. Resignation is a condition of Divine consolation. When the wind is opposed to the tide, it tears off the crests of the waves and flings them about in wild spray; whereas when wind and tide flow together, the great rollers run smoothly on to the beach. It is our rebellion against the tide of providence that tears our life and makes its bitterest agony. When we have learnt to say, "Thy will be done," our harmony with God's will smooths down the height of the trouble and prepares for the Divine peace.
3. Unbelief. Until we can trust God his consolation seems small to us. It is not valued till it is tried. Unbelief minimizes grace. According to our faith is the blessing, great or small. - W.F.A.
I. THE SUBSTANCE AND CHARACTER OF GOD'S CONSOLATIONS. In their substance they are true, solid, strong, everlasting, and are set in love. The character of these consolations reaches as high a standard as their substance. Consolations, to be effectual, must be appropriate and adequate. For us this character is reflective, contemplative, comparative, and prospective.
I. TAKE A BRIEF VIEW OF THE CONSOLATIONS OF GOD. Real comfort, of every kind and in every degree, is from God.
Are the consolations of God small with thee?
I. THE CONSOLATIONS HERE SPOKEN OF. Consolation is said to be God's, as He is the father and fountain of it. All true consolation is of and from Him.
1. By way of eminency. No comforts like the comforts of God.
2. By way of sovereign disposal. In and from Him alone consolation is to be had. As none can comfort like Him, so none without or in opposition to Him. Christ, who is called the consolation of Israel, came out from the Father.
3. Note the plenty and variety of the consolations of God. He is the God of all consolation.
4. The consolations of God imply their power and efficiency. No trouble or distress can be too great for Divine consolations to overbalance.
II. WHEN MAY THESE CONSOLATIONS BE SAID TO BE SMALL?
1. When God's servants are ready to faint under their affliction.
2. When they grow impatient under affliction, if they are not speedily delivered, or as soon as they desire or expect.
3. When they have recourse to any other method for ease and deliverance from trouble, than that which God has appointed, of waiting upon Him, and looking to Him.
4. When they are full of anxious disquieting thoughts, what will become of us if our afflictions continue much longer?
III. THE SERVANTS OF GOD ARE LIABLE TO SUCH COMPLAINTS AND GRIEVINGS. This proceeds —
1. From the grievousness and weight of affliction itself, especially of some sorts of it, under which it is not easy to bear up, or behave ourselves as we ought.
2. From the weakness and imperfection of grace, and the strength of the remains of corruption. Their thoughts are held down to what they suffer, and seem wholly taken up with it. Amidst so much confusion and affliction, if they think of God, they apprehend Him as departed from them, or turned against them. And as their life is bound up in His love, the apprehension of His displeasure wounds them to the heart.
IV. THE SINFULNESS OF NOT ATTENDING TO THE CONSOLATIONS OF GOD, OR MAKING LIGHT OF THEM.
1. The consolations of God are great in themselves; so it is a high affront to Him that they should be small with us. The consolations in God, from Him, and with Him, are great. There is no case in which a saint can need consolation, but he is encouraged to look for it from some or other of the perfections of God. He is a God of infinite wisdom, almighty power, infinite goodness and mercy, everywhere present, and this to His people in a way of grace; and unchangeable in His nature and perfections. The consolations from God are in His Son, and by His Spirit, and in His Word.
2. The affront of slighting them may be aggravated, from the unworthiness of the person by whom they are slighted.
3. And further aggravated by the obligations His people are under to Him, for what He has done for them, and bestowed upon them. A servant of God has more matter of comfort and delight in him than reason of sorrow, upon the account of what he suffers. Application —
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (D. Wilcox.)
(2) (3) (4) (5) (D. Wilcox.)
(3) (4) (5) (D. Wilcox.)
1. There are consolatory providences. There is a special providence which attends the saints.
2. The promises are full of consolation. These unfold the gracious purposes of God, and come between the decree and the execution.
3. There are many experimental consolations, which true believers enjoy.
II. WHEN MAY WE BE SAID TO MAKE LIGHT OF THESE CONSOLATIONS AND TO ACCOUNT THEM SMALL.
1. When we undervalue the blessings of salvation, by placing carnal gratifications on a level with them, or not giving them the preference.
2. These consolations are small to us when we are slothful and negligent in seeking after them.
3. When we do not so estimate the blessings of the Gospel as to find satisfaction in them, in the absence of all created good, we may be said to account them small
III. THE UNREASONABLENESS AND SINFULNESS OF TREATING THE CONSOLATIONS OF THE GOSPEL WITH NEGLECT.
1. These consolations are not small in themselves, and therefore ought not to be lightly esteemed by us. They lay a foundation for peace and comfort under the greatest afflictions.
2. To make light of them is the way to be deprived of them, either in whole or in part.
3. It is to cast contempt upon their Author. Improvement —(1) To those eagerly pursuing riches, honours, and pleasures of the present life in the neglect of their souls.(2) To those dissatisfied with the appointments of Providence.(3) Let all those who, like Hannah, are of a sorrowful spirit, endeavour to recollect their former mercies, as an antidote to present despondency.
(B. Beddome, M. A.)
II. THE METHOD AND MANNER OF THE CONVEYANCE OF GOD'S CONSOLATIONS. God uses the method of an over-ruling providence; of Divine revelation; of the abiding Spirit,. The ministry of consolation peculiarly needs a tender heart, an enlightened mind, a gentle hand, and a gracious tongue. There is always need for such a ministry in a world like ours. The manner of God is considerate and concessive and conclusive.
III. THE SPIRIT OF RECEPTION GIVEN TO GOD'S CONSOLATIONS. They must be received in the spirit of faith. The spirit of cheerfulness will be the offspring of this submissive faith. The spirit of prayer will discover that "calamity is but the veiled grace of God."
(W. A. Bevan.)
2. Then there is the sympathy of this same God. It becomes known to us, not merely that He is, but that He cares for us. Not merely His life, but His love, becomes a fact. The real reason why the sufferer rejoices in the sympathy of God is, that thereby, through love, that dear and perfect nature after which he has struggled before, is made completely known to him. Love is the translating medium. Through God's sympathy he knows God more intensely and more nearly, and so all the consolations of God's being have become more real to him. How do we learn of such a sympathy of God? How can we really come to believe that He knows our individual troubles, and sorrows for them with us? More than from any abstract or scientific arguments about the universality of great laws, I think it is the bigness of the world, the millions upon millions of needy souls, that makes it hard for men to believe in the discriminating care and personal love of God for each. In such perplexity what shall we do?(1) Give free and bold play to those instincts of the heart which believe that the Creator must care for the creatures He has made, and that the only really effective care then must be that which takes each of them into His love.
2. Open the heart to that same conviction, as it has been profoundly impressed upon the hearts of multitudes of men everywhere.
3. Get the great spirit of the Bible. Get possessed of its idea, that there is not one life which the Lifegiver ever loses out of His sight; not one which sins so that He casts it away.
3. God has great truths which He brings to the hearts He wishes to console. He gives them His great truths of consolation. What are those truths? Education, spirituality, and immortality — these seem to be the sum of them.
4. Man wants to feel God doing something on his life, showing His sympathy by some strong act. And so he prays for God to help him, to do something positive for him. All that there is consolatory in God — being, sympathy, truth, power — Christ has set in the clearness and the splendour of His life. If you want consolation you must come to Him.
(Phillips Brooks.)I. SOMETIMES THE CHRISTIAN LACKS CONSOLATION FROM THE VERY WEAKNESS AND IMPERFECTION OF HIS NATURE. As perfect holiness would of itself secure perfect bliss, so is there a necessary connection between moral debility and transient and incomplete enjoyment. Nothing could show more plainly that our nature is fallen and corrupt than the simple but startling fact, that even when Divine love had provided a Mediator between God and man, the Holy Spirit must come into the world, not only to apply the remedy, but to make us feel our need of it.
II. Another reason why even Christian people are sometimes depressed and desponding is, SEPARATION FROM GODLY FELLOWSHIP. As ointment and perfume rejoice the heart, so does a man his friend by wise and timely counsel. Even St. Paul, hero as he was, had his periods of sadness, while pursuing his weary way, cut off from Christian sympathy; but when he saw the brethren, he thanked God and took courage (Acts 28:15).
III. NEGLECT OF THE DIVINELY APPOINTED MEANS OR COMFORT IS ANOTHER VERY COMMON REASON WHY CHRISTIANS ENJOY SO LITTLE OF IT. God will console us in His own way: in devout meditation, in secret prayer, in public worship, in the diligent study of His Holy Word, and in the humble and frequent reception of "the most comfortable sacrament of the body and blood of Christ." When providentially hindered from sharing in the public means of grace, the good Lord will make all due allowance for us. He will be with us in this trouble, and we shall see His power and glory, as we have seen Him in the sanctuary.
IV. ONCE MORE, "THE CONSOLATIONS" OF GOD'S PEOPLE ARE SOMETIMES "SMALL," BECAUSE THEY LIVE IN WILFUL NEGLECT OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT. "Are the consolations of God small with thee?" If so, is it not your own fault? The discovery of the source of the evil is a most important step towards its correction and cure.
(John N. Norton, D. D.)I. THE CONSOLATIONS OF GOD ARE SMALL WITH THEE. You have not that satisfactory conviction of things unseen, which once you enjoyed. The light of heaven does not now shine in your hearts. Thou sittest in darkness. Thou hast just enough light to see how great is thy darkness. What is that thing with thee which causes this inward darkness?
II. THIS SPIRITUAL BACKSLIDING MAY HAVE CREPT SO SECRETLY OVER THY SOUL, THAT YOU MAY NOT HAVE PERCEIVED IT UNTIL NOW. Inward darkness must be caused by sin. Sin that lies at the root of all declension from God, is neglect of private prayer, or giving way to some inward sin. The consolations of God will be small with us, unless we are constantly stirring up the gift of God which is in us.
III. WHAT IS THE CURE FOR THIS? First find out the cause, and this will point to the cure.
(R. A. Suckling, M. A.)Are the consolations of God small with thee?" he inquires: "is there any secret thing with thee?" All men are punished secretly for what they do openly; and some are punished openly for what they do secretly. Though the interpretations of the text did not apply to the case of the patriarch, they might have been, as they may be, applicable to the cases of others. How is it that the "consolations of God are small" with any of us? How is it that there is so little religious joy in the world? Mind is so constituted as to be affected by trifles. Little sufficeth to elevate many, and as little to depress. This easiness of being pleased is childhood's happiest attribute. Surely there must be some cause for the cold, joyless, uncomfortable religion, which is so prevalent. All deep thinkers are deep sufferers — not sufferers, perhaps, in body or estate, but in mind. They suffer because they think. The religious man is of necessity a thoughtful one. How is it that religious joy is so little known? There may be seasons when we cannot rejoice; yea, ought not. It may be necessary for us to be for a season in heaviness; to be deprived of the sensible comforts of faith, hope, and charity; being apt to undervalue them till they have fled. We do not, however, look to such cases as these. We are thinking of cases where mourning, heaviness, bondage of spirit, mental gloom, spiritual depression, seem to be chronic complaints; when the soul seldom or never rejoiceth. There is a constraint, a distrust, a timidity, a suspicion, in our piety. We are afraid, we know not of what. We are ready to say, "Let us be miserable, that we may be religious." Ask then, "Is there any secret thing with us," that will help to explain this enigma of a joyless Christianity? What is possible in this case?
1. Is there any moral obliquity with thee? We do not ask, Have you done wrong; or do you do wrong; but do we cherish any wrongdoing; are we in love with any? Is there any base passion or propensity we will not part with? St. says, "It is not the act but the habit that justifieth a name," i.e., he is not a sinner who committeth a sin, but who liveth in the commission of it. Is there then any sin indulged or persisted in?
2. Is there aught that is evil in the state of thy affections? Most of us have some pretence to seriousness.
3. Is there any secret misgiving with thee as to the certainty of Divine truth? Did you ever have a doubt if the religion of Christ were true? Did you ever mistrust your persuasions? One doubt does not make an infidel. The habit of doubting may. They who have ended in disbelieving began by doubting, i.e., by giving place to doubt: by making that scruple their own which was at first their enemy's.
4. Is there any secret fear of ourselves? Are we in doubt of our own state before God? Are we afraid to trust our principles? If there be none of these "secret" things, what is to hinder the joys of religion from flooding our souls, or the consolations of God from being great with us? It is related of Dr. Francis Xavier that "he was so cheerful as to be accused of being gay." Why should not we be thus cheerful, gladsome, satisfied?
(Alfred Bowen Evans.)
I. SOME MARKS OF THE STATE OF MIND IN WHICH THE CONSOLATIONS OF GOD ARE SMALL.
1. It is the one great privilege of the true Christian, to know that his sins are forgiven. It is God's gracious will, not only that we should be reconciled to Himself through faith in Christ, but that we should be conscious of our reconciliation. It is just the want of this which we take to be the first mark of all those Christians whose consolations are small. It is possible to live in practical forgetfulness that our sins have been forgiven, and this forgetfulness is always a sign of lukewarmness, and of a very low state of Christian feeling and conduct.
2. Again, Jesus is very near His people, according to His own gracious promise. What singleness of aim in life, what encouragement in duty, what steadfastness in conflict, and what hopefulness in work, this consciousness of the presence of Christ would give us. But, alas! is it not just in this that we grievously fail? How many are the hours of our life — how many are the duties which we perform — how many are the works in which we engage, without thinking of our Saviour's presence and nearness! This may be taken as a second mark. If we live as though Christ were not near, our consolations cannot abound.
3. Not only are great things now given to the true Christian, but still greater things are promised. How pleasant should heaven be to our thoughts. But here also we fail. As our thoughts of heaven, so will our consolation be, little of one, little of the other.
II. SOME REASONS FOR THIS STATE.
1. Some besetting sin. "Is there any secret thing with thee?" Many things may be given up, but if only one wrong thought or feeling be retained — one bad habit spared — the injury it will do is incalculable. There is something, it seems a little thing, which we spare. The temper is not always controlled; the tongue is not always bridled; unforgiving feelings are not earnestly uprooted at once. Whatever our besetting sin be, if yielded to but a little, it will darken the heart. It will hinder communion with God.
2. Another secret thing is want of faith. Some look too much into their own hearts, too little to Christ. They know but little of the unsearchable riches which are laid up in Him for our daily use and consolation; hence their hands often hang down, and their knees are feeble. They make little progress.
3. Another secret thing is spiritual sloth. There are many who are very active in body and mind, who, nevertheless, are spiritually very slothful. They are slothful in prayer, and in reading the Bible. Every Christian should seek to attain a fresh and lively spirit, a readiness for communion with God, and for every good work. A spirit of sloth and self. indulgence eats as a canker into the spiritual life, and reduces our consolation to the smallest possible degree. If this "secret thing" is allowed in our hearts, it is no wonder that our consolations are small.
4. One more secret thing is, guilt upon the conscience. It is essential to a close walk with God, never to allow the guilt of sin to rankle in the conscience, for this is always followed by estrangement of heart from God. Any delay in confessing sin, and casting it upon Jesus, is injurious, and tends to hinder communion with God. The consolations of the Spirit are suspended, and the heart sinks into a low state. Such are some of the secret things which hinder the consolations of God. May God enable us by His grace to guard against them, that our consolations may abound, and our joy may be full.
I. THE ABSENCE OF BODILY HEALTH. An imperfect, morbid, or deranged state of health impairs our happiness from every source. So intimate is the connection between the soul and body that a weak or depressed state of the former not unfrequently arises from the latter, so that even the faithful Christian may not, at times, find enjoyment in religion because he does not find enjoyment in anything — because the same cloud comes over, at the same time, both his temporal and his spiritual horizon. In such cases the absence of enjoyment is not justly a matter of self-condemnation, and the evil is not a thing to be repented of but regretted, and the remedy is to be sought not in greater fidelity in duty, but rather from the skill of the physician. It is said of the eminent and eminently spiritual Archibald Alexander, that when once asked "if he always enjoyed the full assurance of faith," he replied, "Well — yes — almost always, unless the east wind is blowing." And an eminent divine of wide experience as a pastor has said, that "of twenty persons of hopeful piety who came to him in religious despondency, eighteen had more need of the physician than of the Divine." And more than two hundred years ago, good old Richard Baxter preached and published, in his practical and sharply logical way, on "the cure of melancholy and overmuch sorrow by faith and physic," laying greatest stress on the "physic"; and though his medical prescriptions might excite the smile of the modern physician, yet the treatise, as a whole, is worthy of a place among our religious classics. The truth is, there are not a few troubles that cannot be cured by the Bible and hymn book or by mere spiritual counsel, that may be cured by rest, and exercise, and diet, and the fresh air of heaven. Another reason why many do not find enjoyment in religion is —
II. THAT THEY SEEK IT FOR ITS OWN SAKE, AND AS IN ITSELF AN END, RATHER THAN AS ONLY AN INCIDENTAL RESULT OF FIDELITY IN DUTY. There are not a few who, either thoughtlessly or selfishly, seek for happiness in religion when they should be seeking only for duty — spiritual epicures, aiming at their own comfort when they should be seeking, as the great thing, to be holy and useful. They forget that they were not brought into the family of Christ merely to enjoy themselves, but to obey and serve Him, and that His direction is not, "Seek first your own comfort and enjoyment in My service," but, "Seek first My kingdom and its righteousness," in your own hearts, and in the hearts and lives of others, and then your joy, with all other needed things, shall be added thereto. They forget that happiness, when sought directly and for its own sake, in any sphere, flies from us; but that when we are occupied With the means to it, then it comes of itself, and that in religion the means to it is fidelity in duty. Another reason why some do not find more enjoyment in religion is —
III. THAT THEY DO NOT PRACTICALLY REGARD THE COMMON OCCUPATIONS OF LIFE AS A MEANS OF GRACE. They regard the Sabbath and its services and private devotion as intended to draw them nearer to God, and to aid them to enjoyment in religion, and believe that if not misimproved they will actually do it. But the common occupations and employments of life they practically regard as antagonistic to these ends and tending in the opposite direction. The former they seem to think are a stream bearing them on to God; the latter a stream bearing them away from Him. The Sabbath they practically regard as the antidote to the week, and the week to be counterbalanced by the Sabbath — the piety gained on the Sabbath to be used up and exhausted in the week, and the week in turn to be furnished afresh from the Sabbath. Such, however, is not the teaching of the Bible, though it is, alas! too much the practical belief of multitudes who ought to know better, and who to know better need only to think as to what God has taught. For it is impossible that He should command two things that cross and are inconsistent with each other; and having bidden us to be diligent in business and at the same time fervent in spirit — in the sweat of our brow to earn our bread, and yet to pray without ceasing, it cannot be that He would not have both tend to the same end. The arrangements of His providence, as well as the teachings of His Word, show that the means of grace are not to be limited to the forms of public and private worship, and that the Sabbath is not the only day that God claims, while six days are to be given up to worldliness of thought and aim and spirit. Our trade or profession or calling, the right ordering of our property or farm or merchandise, our family and household cares, each may be a means of access to God and of aiding us to enjoy Him, just as truly the gate of heaven to the soul as the sanctuary itself. The labourer toiling at his task, the mother diligently training up her children or taking the oversight of her household, the merchant in his counting house, the professional man in his office, or the servant in his daily duties, each may not only find a sphere for the exercise and growth of his graces — for patience, and gentleness, and contentment, and charity, and self-denial, but through these for that joy in God which every good and faithful servant of Christ should expect and may find. Another reason why some find so little enjoyment of religion is —
IV. FROM THE WANT OF SYMMETRY AND PROPORTION IN THEIR CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. In the human body the full enjoyment of health is never known except where the various parts are proportioned and sound in themselves, and their various functions are rightfully performed. Let a limb be out of joint, or a bone broken, or a vital part diseased, or a nerve in a disordered state, and the whole system will measurably suffer, and the fun and childlike and buoyant feeling of perfect health can never be known. There may be, and there is life, and there may not be positive and greatly painful sickness, but the process or progress of living is not of itself a joy as it is to those in absolutely perfect health. And so it is with the religious life — with the spiritual vitality — with the enjoyment or want of enjoyment in religion. The disproportion of Christian character, the want of symmetry in the Christian graces, the undue development or prominence of some one virtue or class of virtues, with the corresponding depression of their opposites, this, to the soul, is like the disordered nerve, or broken bone, or chronic inflammation to the body. It is only when the true symmetry of Christian character is kept up, when the active and passive virtues are equally cherished, when piety toward God is proportioned to benevolence to man, when principle keeps pace with emotion, and hope with fear, and reverence with love, and knowledge with faith, and trust with obedience, and self-control within with active performance without, and devotion and action go hand in hand — only thus, when every chord of the soul is perfect and in tune, that the full harmony of the strain tells of that joy in the spirit of which it is at the same time the offspring and evidence. A disproportioned Christian character necessarily loses much of the joy of religion, just as the instrument out of tune makes discordant music, or the body in sickness feels not the full joy of health. Still another reason why some find so little enjoyment in religion is —
V. BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOT CLEAR VIEWS OF THE GOSPEL GROUND OF RELIANCE FOR THE CHRISTIAN — OF THE FULL AND STRONG AND BROAD FOUNDATION IT LAYS FOR HOPE, AND THUS, OF COURSE, FOR JOY. It is hard for a sinner, even though he is a penitent and forgiven sinner, to realise the glorious fulness of the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Too often for our hope, and thus for our joy, we are prone to look to Christ as one who is to work with us to make up our deficiencies, rather than as one who is a complete and perfect and all-sufficient Saviour, Himself doing the entire work, and bestowing freely, on us its full benefit and blessing. "The labour of a lifetime," says Dr. Chalmers, "seeking to establish a merit of our own, will but widen our distance from peace," and so from joy; "and nothing will send this blessed visitant to our bosoms but a firm and simple reliance on the declarations of the Gospel." As God spared not His own. but has freely given Him up for us all, surely with Him He will freely give us all things. Still another reason why many do not more enjoy religion is —
VI. THAT THEY ARE NOT ACTIVE IN DOING GOOD. They look on religion rather as a profession than as a progress, as something they received in conversion, and which is to bear them safely on to heaven, rather than as a spirit to be cherished, and a character to be improved — a principle of duty and effort to be carried out in doing good in imitation of Christ. No truth is more plainly stated by inspiration, or more fully sustained by experience, than that it is more blessed to give than to receive. As to do good with wealth or influence is the way to enjoy wealth or influence, so to do good as a Christian is the way to find enjoyment as a Christian. "Assurance," says President Edwards, "is not to be obtained so much by self-examination as by action"; and the assertion is equally true of the joy that flows from assurance, and is increased by every effort to do good to others. Doubt and depression often come from inactivity. John, active and earnest in the desert, needs no proof that the Messiah has come, but when shut up in prison, inactive and depressed, he seems to have become morbid and doubtful, and sends to inquire if Jesus is indeed the Christ. When Dr. Marshman was a young man and at home, he often had doubts and fears as to his spiritual state, but when after thirty years' missionary work in India, William Jay said to him, "Well, Doctor, how now about your doubts and fears?" his reply was, "I have had no time for them; I have been too busy preaching Christ to the heathen." And Howard, the philanthropist, tells us that his rule for shaking off trouble of any kind was, "Set about doing good; put on your hat and go and visit the sick and poor in your neighbourhood; inquire as to their wants and minister to them; seek out the desolate and oppressed, and tell them of the consolations of religion. I have often tried it," he adds, "and have always found it the best medicine for a heavy heart." This is the true spirit of benevolence, which is always the spirit of enjoyment. This will leave no time for doubt and despondency, and will call forth those sympathies of our nature which are the sure sources of happiness, giving us that evidence of piety which is found in doing good, and which cannot but minister to our joy. One more, and a general reason why many do not find the full enjoyment of religion, may be found —
VII. IN NEGLECT AND UNFAITHFULNESS AS TO DUTY. It is that in some form our iniquity separates between us and God, and shuts out the light of His countenance from us — that our sins, either positive or negative, either of commission or omission, hide His face from the soul. One, it may be, is lukewarm and vacillating and changeable, having too little religion to enjoy God, and too much to find enjoyment in the world. With another the private indulgence of some desire, or the pursuit of some object inconsistent with the known will of God, is like the worm to the gourd of the prophet, a cause not visible, but real, ,withering the refreshing shade over his head by secretly gnawing at the root. Or the source of the evil may be not only the sin committed, but the duty neglected.
(Tryon Edwards, D. D.)
Homiletic Magazine.Stars not valued in daytime but at night. So with friends in adversity. Many kinds of friends. Some real but unsafe. Some wanting in tenderness. Thus with Job's three friends. Turn from Job to ourselves. If I ask, Are you all free from trouble? none say "Yes," absolutely. Seneca said, "The happiest man in the world is the man who thinks himself so." As to true happiness, the Christian is the only really happy man, but even he has his bitterness.
I. WE NEED CONSOLATION.
1. If we look at our dwelling place. Our dwelling is the world. God made it. Well, what He made cannot create sorrow. No. Change, sin entered. "In the world ye shall have tribulation."
2. If we look at our afflictions, personal, domestic. Dark dispensations of providence, death.
3. If we look at our enemies. Life a warfare. Satan "goeth about."
4. If we look at our experience. So changeable. We are now on the mountain, next week in the valley. Need not be so.
II. THAT CONSOLATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM GOD. All earthly sources fall.
1. In His name. Ideas of God overwhelming. There is His justice, etc. These not His name but His attributes. What is His name? "I am that I am," unchangeable. "The Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious," etc.
2. In His nature. His love infinite. Unbounded gift of His Son.
3. In His relationship. Creator, Preserver, Redeemer. He is our Father.
4. Promises. "As thy day," etc. How variable it is! As thy day, etc.
III. THAT IF SMALL CONSOLATIONS, THERE ARE REASONS FOR IT. Reason not with God. What makes them small?
1. State of health.
2. Neglect of means.
3. Depending on other sources.
4. Neglecting Christ as the meritorious cause, and the Spirit as the instrumental cause of peace.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(G. V. Reichel.)
I. Our first question follows the interpretation given by most authorities: "DO YOU REGARD THE CONSOLATIONS OF GOD AS SMALL?" "Are the consolations of God too small for thee?"
1. I would ask you, first, Do you think religion makes men unhappy? Have you poisoned your mind with that invention of the enemy? Have you made yourself believe that godliness consists in morbid self-condemnation, despondency, apprehension, and dread?
2. Is not your verdict different from that of those who have tried godliness for themselves? Do you not know that many, for the joy they have found in the love of Christ, have renounced all sinful pleasures, and utterly despised them? Have you not also remarked, in many afflicted Christians, a peace which you yourself do not know? Have you not observed their patience under adversity?
3. Will you follow me a while as I ask you, Upon consideration, will you not amend your judgment? Do you think that the All-sufficient cannot provide consolation equal to the affliction? See again these consolations of God deal with the source of sorrow. Whence came the curse, but from the sin of man? Jesus has come to save His people from their sins. Comfort which left us under the power of evil would be dangerous comfort; but comfort which takes away both the guilt and the power of sin is glorious indeed. Remember, too, that the consolations of God reveal to us a reason for the sorrow when it is allowed to remain. There is a needs-be that we are in heaviness. Another reflection sweetly cheers the heart of the tried one during his tribulation, namely, that he has a comrade in it. We are not passing through the waters alone. If the Son of God be with us, surely there is an end of every sort of fear. Besides, "the consolations of God" lie also in the direction of compensations. You have the rod; yes, but this is the small drawback to heavenly sonship, if drawback indeed it be. Would you not far rather be of the seed of the woman, and have your heel bruised? Besides, there is the consolation that you are on your journey home, and that every moment you are coming closer to the eternal rest.
II. HAVE THESE CONSOLATIONS BEEN SMALL IN THEIR EFFECT UPON YOU? Have these consolations, though great in themselves, been small in their influence upon you?
1. I will begin my examination by putting to one disciple this question: Have you never very much rejoiced in God? Have you always possessed a little, but a very little, joy? Why is this? Whence comes it? Is it ignorance? Do you not know enough of the great doctrines of the Gospel, and of the vast privileges of the redeemed? Is it listlessness? Have you never felt desirous to know the best of the Christian life? But it may be, that you once did joy and rejoice?
2. Well, then, is it of late that you have lost these splendid consolations, and come down to feel them small with you? Is it that you have more business, and have grown more worldly? Do you reply to me that you do use the means of grace?
3. Do the outward means fail to bring you the consolation they once did? Are you as much in prayer as ever? and is prayer less refreshing than it used to be? I may come near to your experience if I ask —
4. Do you revive occasionally and then relapse?
5. Does the cause of your greater grief lie in a trial to which you do not fully submit?
6. It may be that while you are thus without the enjoyment of Divine consolation, Satan is tempting you to look to other things for comfort.
III. Since the consolations of God appear so small to you, HAVE YOU ANYTHING BETTER TO PUT IN THEIR PLACE? Perhaps this is what Eliphaz meant when he said, "Is there any secret thing with thee?" If God's Gospel fails you, what will you do?
1. Have you found out a new religion with brighter hopes?
2. Are you hoping to find comfort in the world?
3. Or, do you conclude that you are strong-minded enough to bear all the difficulties and trials of life without consolation?
4. Do you say that what can't be cured must be endured, and you will keep as you are? This is a poor resolve for a man to come to. If there is better to be had, why not seek it?
IV. If it be so, that you have hitherto found heavenly consolations to have small effect with you, and yet have nothing better to put in their place, IS THERE NOT A CAUSE FOR YOUR FAILURE? Will you not endeavour to find it out?
1. Is there not some sin indulged?
2. Next, may there not have been some duty neglected?
3. Again, may there not be some idol in your heart?
4. But, if you do not enjoy the consolations of God, do you not think it is because you do not think enough of God?
5. If any of you have not the joy of the Lord which you once possessed, is it not possible that when you used to have it you grew proud?
6. Have you begun to distrust? Do you really doubt your God?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. NOW, FIRST LET ME TELL YOU WHAT IT IS THAT PROMPTS THIS ENQUIRY.
1. You really must excuse me for asking you if the mercies of God seem trivial to you, for some of you look as if they were. If I judged by your countenance I should suppose that you had scarcely any of them, and that they were wonderfully paltry and powerless.
2. I ask the question of others, because I am bound to say they speak as if the consolations of God were small. You get into conversation with them for half an hour, and the season is none too long for them to recite the story of their griefs. Some go further than to omit the mention of their mercies; they complain against God, and murmur at their Master.
3. I ask the question of others, because I find that they act as if the consolations of God were small with them. Acts are the outcome of thoughts, the concrete forms of imaginings and emotions. Is not Jehovah enough for Israel? Does not His covenant stand, whatever else fails? Why dost thou draw the blinds, when the sun would fain shine right into thy soul, and make thee glad again?
4. There are others who pray as if the consolations of God were small with them. Some people's prayers are nothing but a long and dismal list of wants, and woes, and weariness.
5. Some there are who sing as if the mercies of God were few, and scarcely worthy of their notice. Some do not sing at all.
II. I should like TO RECOUNT THE CONSOLATIONS OF GOD. Here is Jesus. "Behold the Man." "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift." Then we have His Spirit, the Comforter, a reservoir of consolations. In this blessed book are twenty thousand promises, "yea," all in Christ Jesus, and in Him, "Amen." Ours is the privilege of prayer. Amongst the other consolations do not forget the whispers of God's love. They have been unmistakable. Thank God also for peace of mind and rest of conscience.
III. Shall I try next to DESCRIBE THE CONSOLATIONS OF GOD?
1. They are Divine.
2. They are abounding, too.
3. His consolations are abiding.
4. And they are strong.
IV. WHAT DO YOU SUPPOSE ARE THE RESULTS OF A PROPER APPRECIATION OF GOD'S CONSOLATIONS.
1. If we appraise them at their real value we shall be forgetful of the past. Forgetting the things which are behind, we shall press forward to those that are before.
2. If you properly appreciate God's consolations, you will be grateful for the present, you will raise a stone of help each day, and pour oil, the oil of gratitude upon it; you will be trustful for the future.
V. LET ME MENTION SOME FEW AIDS TO PROPER APPRECIATION OF GOD'S CONSOLATIONS. Will you remember what you used to be? Will you consider also what you must have come to, if God had not come to your rescue and relief? Consolation! How can it be small with me when it was condemnation that I deserved? Moreover, reflect what you still are. "Above all, recollect how great the condescension on God's part to comfort and console."
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