April 17: Comfort For The Downcast

God, that comforts those that are cast down. 2 Cor. 7:6

IF there is much to cast down the child of God, there is more to lift him up. If in his path to glory there are many causes of soul-despondency, of heart-sorrow, and mental disquietude, yet in that single truth—God comforts the disconsolate—he has an infinite counterbalance of consolation, joy, and hope. That “God comforts those that are cast down,” His own truth declares. It is in His heart to comfort them, and it is in His power to comfort them. He blends the desire, deep and yearning, with the ability, infinite and boundless. Not so with the fondest, tenderest creature. The sorrow is often too deep and too sacred for human sympathy to reach. But what is fathomless to man is a shallow to God.

I have said, that it is in the heart of God to comfort His people. Everything that He has done to promote their comfort proves it. He has commanded His ministers to “speak comfortably” to them. He has sent forth His word to comfort them. He has laid up all comfort and consolation for them, in the Son of His love. And in addition to all this, He has given them His own Spirit, to lead them to the Divine sources of “all consolation” which He has provided. Who could comfort the disconsolate but God? Who could effectually undertake their case but Himself? He only knows their sorrow, and He only could meet it.

There is not a moment in which God is not bent upon the comfort of “those that are cast clown.” All His dealings with them tend to this—even those that appear adverse and contrary. Does He wound?—it is to heal. Does He cause deep sorrow?—it is to turn that sorrow into a deeper joy. Does He empty?—it is to fill. Does He cast down?—it is to lift up again. Such is the love that moves Him, such is the wisdom that guides Him, and such too is the end that is secured in the Lord’s disciplinary conduct with His people. Dear reader, it is in God’s loving heart to speak comfortably to your sorrowful heart. Let but the Holy Spirit enable you to receive this truth in simple faith, and your grief, be its cause and its degree what they may, is more than half assuaged.

Not a word may yet be spoken by the “God of all comfort,” not a cloud may be dispersed, nor a difficulty be removed; yet to be assured by the Divine Comforter that the heart of God yearns over you, and that consolation is sparkling up from its infinite depths, waiting only the command to pour its tide of joyousness into your sorrow-stricken bosom, and it is enough. Yes, I repeat it—for every reiteration of so precious a truth must still be but a faint expression of its magnitude—it is in the loving heart of God to lift up your disconsolate soul from the dust. Listen to His words—there is melody in them such as David’s harp spoke not when its soft and mellow strains soothed the perturbed spirit of Saul—”I, even I, am He that comforts you.” Mark with what earnestness He makes this declaration. How solicitous does he appear to impress this truth upon the heart—that to comfort His own tried saints is His sole prerogative, and His infinite delight. “I, even I, am He that comforts you.”

February 11: Comfort In Affliction

This is my comfort in my affliction: for your word has quickened me. Psalm 119:50.

OH, how many a deeply-tried Christian has set his seal to this truth! What is the comfort sought by the worldling in his affliction? Alas! he seeks to drown his sorrow by plunging yet deeper into that which has created it. He goes to the world for his comfort; that world that has already belied him, betrayed him, and stung and wounded him more keenly and deeply than the adder.

But turn to the man of God. What was the Psalmist’s comfort in his sorrow? Was it the lightness of his affliction? Was it the soothing tenderness and sympathy of the saints? Ah, no! it was none of these. It was the spiritual quickening his soul received through the truth of God! This healed his sorrow-stricken heart; this poured a tide of richer comfort into his deeply afflicted soul than the sweetest human balm, or even the entire removal of his trial, could have done. Oh, favored soul, who, when in deep and dark waters—when passing through the fiery furnace—are led to desire spiritual quickening above all other comforts beside—sweetly testifying, “This is my comfort in my affliction, Your word has quickened me.” That word, unfolding to us Jesus, leading us to Jesus, and transforming us into the image of Jesus, proves a reviving word in the hour of trial.

By bringing us into a closer acquaintance with the word, trial stimulates the inner life. We flee to the word for counsel or for comfort, and the word proves a quickening word. Divine correction not only teaches, but it stimulates our relish for the spiritual parts of God’s truth. In times of prosperity we are tempted to neglect the word. The world abates the keenness of the soul’s appetite. We taste no sweetness in its promises, and cannot receive its admonitions and rebukes. “The full soul loaths a honeycomb, but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.”

Replenished with created good, and surfeited with earthly comfort, the soul, in its pride and self-sufficiency, loathes the divine honey of God’s word. But when the Lord removes the creature, and embitters the world—both proving cisterns that can hold no water—then how precious becomes the word of Jesus! Not its doctrines and its consolations only, but even its deepest searching and its severest rebukes—that which lays us the lowest in the dust of shame and self-abhorrence—are then sweet as the honey and the honeycomb to our renewed taste. Then in truth we exclaim—”How sweet are Your words to my taste! yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

January 28: Our God Of All Comfort

The God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation. 2 Cor. 1:3- 4.

GOD’S family is a sorrowing family, “I have chosen you,” He says, “in the furnace of affliction.” “I will leave in the midst of you a poor and an afflicted people.” The history of the Church finds its fittest emblem in the burning yet unconsumed bush which Moses saw. Man is “born to sorrows;” but the believer is “appointed thereunto.” It would seem to be a condition inseparable from his high calling. If he is a “chosen vessel,” it is, as we have just seen, “in the furnace of affliction.”

If he is an adopted child, “chastening” is the mark. If he is journeying to the heavenly kingdom, his path lies through “much tribulation.” If he is a follower of Jesus, it is to “go unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.” But, if his sufferings abound, much more so do his consolations. To be comforted by God may well reconcile us to any sorrow with which it may please our heavenly Father to invest us.

God comforts His sorrowful ones with the characteristic love of a mother. See the tenderness with which that mother alleviates the suffering and soothes the sorrow of her mourning one. So does God comfort His mourners. Oh, there is a tenderness and a delicacy of feeling in God’s comforts which distances all expression. There is no harsh reproof—no unkind upbraiding—no unveiling of the circumstances of our calamity to the curious and unfeeling eye—no artless exposure of our case to an ungodly and censorious world; but with all the tender feeling of a mother, God, even our Father, comforts the sorrowful ones of His people. He comforts in all the varied and solitary griefs of their hearts.

God meets our case in every sorrow. To Him, in prayer, we may uncover our entire hearts; to His confidence we may entrust our profoundest secrets; upon His love repose our most delicate sorrows; to His ear confess our deepest departures; before His eye spread out our greatest sins. Go, then, and breathe your sorrows into God’s heart, and He will comfort you. Blessed sorrow! if in the time of your bereavement, your grief, and your solitude, you are led to Jesus, making Him your Savior, your Friend, your Counselor, and your Shield.

Blessed loss! if it be compensated by a knowledge of God, if you find in Him a Father now, to whom you will transfer your ardent affections—upon whom you will repose your bleeding heart. But let your heart be true with Him. Love Him, obey Him, confide in Him, serve Him, live for Him; and in all the unknown, untrodden, unveiled future of your history, a voice shall gently whisper in your ear—”As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you.”

December 30: The Lord Our Bulwark

“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” Psalm 118:6

God must be on the side of His people, since He has, in an everlasting covenant, made Himself over to be their God. In an especial manner, and in the highest degree, He is the God of His people. In the most comprehensive meaning of the words, He is for us. His love is for us—His perfections are for us—His covenant is for us—His government, extending over all the world, and His power over all flesh, is for us.

There is nothing in God, nothing in His dealings, nothing in His providences, but what is on the side of His people. Enshrined in His heart, engraved on His hand, kept as the apple of His eye, God forms a mighty bulwark for His church. “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from henceforth even forever.” In Christ Jesus, holiness, justice, and truth, unite with mercy, grace, and love, in weaving an invincible shield around each believer. There is not a purpose of His mind, nor a feeling of His heart, nor an event of His providence, nor an act of His government, that is not pledged to the happiness, the security, the well-being of His people. What Joshua said to the children of Israel, trembling to encounter the giants of Anak, may be truly said to every believer in view of his foes, “The Lord is with us, fear them not.”

Not the Father only, but the Son of God, is also on our side. Has He not amply proved it? Who, when there was no eye to pity, and no arm to save, undertook our cause, and embarked all His grace and glory in our salvation? Who slew our great Goliath, and rescued us from Pharaoh, discharged our debt, and released us from prison? Who extinguished the fires of our hell, and kindled the glories of our heaven? Who did all this by the sacrifice of Himself? Oh, it was Jesus!

Need we further proof that He is for us? Who appears on our behalf within the veil? Who sits for us as a priest upon His throne? Whose blood, first shed on Calvary, now sprinkles the mercy-seat? Who pleads, and argues, and intercedes, and prays for us in the high court of heaven? Whose human sympathy flows down in one continuous stream from that abode of glory, blending with our every trial, and suffering, and sorrow? Who is ever near to thwart our foes, and to pluck our feet from the snare of the fowler? Oh, it is Christ! And there is not a moment of time, nor a circumstance of life, in which He does not show Himself strong in behalf of His people.

And so of the Holy Spirit. Who quickened us when we were dead in trespasses and in sins? Who taught us when we were ignorant, enlightened us when we were dark, comforted us when we were distressed; and when wounded and bleeding, and ready to die, led us, all oppressed with guilt and sorrow as we were, to Jesus? Who inspired the first pulsation of life, and lighted the first spark of love; who created the first ray of hope in our soul, and dried the first tear of godly grief from our eye? Oh, it was the eternal Spirit, and He, too, is for us.

Survey the record of your own history, dear reader. What a chequered life yours, perhaps, has been! How dotted the map of your journeyings, how many-colored the stones that have paved your path, how varied and blended the hues that compose the picture of your life! And yet, God constructed that map, God laid those stones, God pencilled and painted that picture. God went before you, God is with you, and God is for you. He was in the dark cloud that enshrouded all with gloom, and He was in the sunshine that gilded all with beauty. “I will sing of mercy and of judgment; unto You, O Lord, will I sing.”

Who has carried forward the work of grace in our souls—checking our feet, restoring our wanderings, holding up our goings, raising us when we had fallen, and establishing our feet more firmly upon the rock? Who has befriended us when men rose up against us? Who has healed all our diseases, and has filled our mouths with good things, so that our youth has been renewed list the eagle’s? It was the Lord who was on our side, and not one good thing of all that He has promised has failed.

November 20: Predestined According To His Purposes

“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” Ephesians 1:11, 12

The doctrine of predestination is well calculated to confirm and strengthen the true believer in the fact and certainty of his salvation through Christ. Feeling, as he does, the plague of his own heart, experiencing the preciousness of the Savior, looking up through the cross to God as his Father, exulting in a hope that makes not ashamed, and remembering that God the Eternal Spirit only renews those who are chosen by God the Father, and are redeemed by God the Son, this doctrine is found to be most comforting and confirming to his faith. The faintest lineaments of resemblance to God, and the feeblest breathing of the Spirit of adoption he discovers in his soul, is to him an indisputable evidence of his predestination to Divine sonship and holiness.

Another blessing accruing from the doctrine is, the sweet and holy submission into which it brings the mind under all afflictive dispensations. Each step of his pilgrimage, and each incident of his history, the believer sees appointed in the everlasting covenant of grace. He recognizes the discipline of the covenant to be as much a part of the original plan, as any positive mercy that it contains. That all the hairs of his head are numbered; that affliction comes not out of the earth, and therefore is not the result of accident or thence, but is in harmony with God’s purposes of love; and that thus ordained and permitted, must work together for good—not the least blessing resulting from this truth is its tendency to promote personal godliness.

The believer feels that God has “chosen us to salvation through sanctification and belief of the truth;” that He has “chosen us that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love;” that we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” Thus the believer desires to “give all diligence to make his calling and election sure,” or undoubted, by walking in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord blameless, and standing complete in all the will of God.

And what doctrine more emptying, humbling, and therefore sanctifying, than this? It lays the axe at the root of all human boasting. In the light of this truth, the most holy believer sees that there is no difference between him and the vilest sinner that crawls the earth, but what the mere grace of God has made. Such are some of the many blessings flowing to the Christian from this truth. The radiance which it reflects upon the entire history of the child of God, and the calm repose which it diffuses over the mind in all the perplexing, painful, and mysterious events of that history, can only be understood by those whose hearts have fully received the doctrine.

Whatever betides him—inexplicable in its character, enshrouded in the deepest gloom, as may be the circumstance—the believer in this truth can “stand still,” and, calmly surveying the scene, exclaim: “This also comes forth from the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working. He who works all things after the counsel of His own will has done it, and I am satisfied that it is well done.”

November 14: Delivered And Preserved

“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” 2 Timothy 4:18

Things temporary and transient, be they sad or of joyous, pleasant or painful; indwelling sin, temporary trial, occasional temptations, the momentary suspensions of God’s realized love—none of these, or any other things present; shall separate from Christ. What human foresight can predict the future of the earthly history of the child of God? What human hand can uplift the veil that conceals the events that shall yet transpire in his history, before he reaches that perfect world where there will be no future, but one eternal present?

Oh, what goodness hides it from our view! But be that future what it may—shady or sunny, stormy or serene—God will stand fast to His covenant with His church, and Christ to His union with His people. Things to come, be they more terrible than things that are past, or that are now, shall not touch their interest in the Lord’s love.

No elevation to which He may advance them, no height of rank, or wealth, or honor, or influence, or usefulness, shall peril their place in His love. Thus it was the Lord advanced Moses, and David, and Joseph, and Gideon; but in their elevation to worldly distinction, power, and affluence, they were kept walking humbly with God—and this was the secret of their safety. “The Lord God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and He will make me to walk in mine high places.” From the loftiest height to the lowest depth of adversity, God can bring His servant, yet love him still with an unchanged and deathless affection. But no depth of soul-distress, no depth of poverty, or suffering, or humiliation, shall disturb the repose, or peril the security, of a believing soul in the love of God.

If there be any other thing or being in the wide universe that wears a threatening or unkindly aspect towards the Christian, Divine power shall restrain its force, saying to the proud waves, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther.” And thus all the billows, amid which the ark has for ages been tossed, shall but bear it gently and triumphantly onward to the mount of God.

On that mount, beloved, where now are gathering all who have the Father’s name written on their foreheads, we too, through grace, shall stand, eternally extolling the Lamb, through Him who, because He died, there is for us no condemnation from Divine justice, and through Him who, because He lives, there is for us no separation from Divine love.

October 16: Walk In The Promises

“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went.” Hebrews 11:8

The entire spiritual life of a child of God is a life of faith—God has so ordained it; and to bring him into the full and blessed experience of it, is the end of all His parental dealings with him. If we desire to see our way every step of our homeward path, we must abandon the more difficult though more blessed ascent of faith; it is impossible to walk by sight and by faith at the same time—the two paths run in opposite directions. If the Lord were to reveal the why and the how of all His dealings—if we were only to advance as we saw the spot on which we were to place our foot, or only to go out as we knew the place where we were going—it then were no longer a life of faith that we lived, but of sight. We shall have exchanged the life which glorifies, for the life which dishonors God.

When God, about to deliver the Israelites from the power of Pharaoh, commanded them to advance, it was before He revealed the way by which He was about to rescue them. The Red Sea rolled its deep and frowning waves at their feet; they saw not a spot of dry ground on which they could tread; and yet this was the command to Moses— “Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.” They were to “walk by faith, not by sight.” It had been no exercise of faith in God, no confidence in His promise, no resting in His faithfulness, and no “magnifying of His word above all His name,” had they waited until the waters cleaved asunder, and a dry passage opened to their view.

But, like the patriarchs, they “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but were strong in faith, giving glory to God.” Have little to do with sense, if you would have much to do with faith. Expect not always to see the way. God may call you to go out into a place, not making known to you where you go; but it is your duty, like Abraham, to obey. All that you have to do is to go forward, leaving all consequences and results to God: it is enough for you that the Lord by this providence says, “Go forward!” This is all you may hear; it is your duty instantly to respond, “Lord, I go at Your bidding; bid me come to You, though it be upon the stormy water.”

“Having begun in the Spirit,” the believer is not to be “made perfect in the flesh;” having commenced his divine life in faith, in faith he is to walk every step of his journey homewards. The moment a poor sinner has touched the hem of Christ’s garment, feeble though this act of faith be, it is yet the commencement of this high and holy life of faith; even from that moment the believing soul professes to have done with a life of sense—with second causes—and to have entered upon a glorious life of faith in Christ. It is no forced application to him of the apostle’s declaration: “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.”

September 11: No Longer Condemned

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

HOW strong the consolation flowing from this truth to the believer in Jesus! No condemnation is the ground of all comfort to the suffering Christian. What a mighty breakwater is this condition to the rolling surge of sorrow, which else might flow in upon and immerse the soul!

Let it be your aim to improve it on every occasion of suffering and trial. God may afflict, but He will never condemn you. Chastisements are not judgments; afflictions are not condemnations. Sickness, bereavement, and low estate, based upon a condition of non-condemnation, you can welcome and patiently bear, since they are not the forecastings of a coming storm, but the distillings of a mercy-cloud sailing athwart the azure sky of a soul in Christ.

The fiery trials which purify our faith have not a spark in them of that “unquenchable fire” that will consume the condemned hereafter. Oh, what are crosses and the discomforts of this present world, if at last we are kept out of hell! and oh, what are the riches, and honors, and comforts of this life, if at last we are shut out of heaven!

At the bottom of that cup of sinful pleasure which sparkles in the worldling’s hand, and which with such zest and glee he quaffs, there lies eternal condemnation; the death-worm feeds at the root of all his good. But at the bottom of this cup of sorrow, now trembling and dark in the hand of the suffering Christian, bitter and forbidding as it is, there is no condemnation; eternal glory is at the root of all his evil. And in this will you not rejoice? It is not only your holy duty, but it is your high privilege to rejoice.

Your whole life not only may be, but ought to be, a sweetly-tuned psalm, a continual anthem of thanksgiving and praise, pouring forth its swelling notes to the God of your salvation; since beyond the cloudy scene of your present pilgrimage there unveils the light and bliss of celestial glory, on whose portal you read as you pass within—No Condemnation.

Unless, then, you either distrust or disparage this, your joyous condition and blessed hope, you must, in the gloomiest hour, and from the innermost depths of your soul, exultingly exclaim—”He is near that justifies me; who will contend with me?

Let us stand together. Who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me! who is he that shall condemn me?”

July 14: Christ Our Righteousness

“And if any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1

The work of our Lord as Priest was two-fold, atonement and intercession. The one He accomplished upon the cross, the other He now transacts upon the throne. “When He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” The high priest, under the law, after that he had slain the sacrifice, took the blood, and, passing within the veil, sprinkled it on the mercy-seat, so making intercession for the people. “The Holy Spirit this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing.” “But, Christ being come, an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”

And what is He now doing? Presenting His own blood each moment before the mercy-seat on behalf of His redeemed people! “He ever lives to make intercession for us.” Oh, do not forget this, dear saint of God! This is spoken for the comfort of the mourners in Zion–for those who, knowing the plague of their own hearts, and deploring its constant tendency to outbreak, are humbled in the dust with deep godly sorrow.

Look up! Does sin plead loudly against you? the blood of Jesus pleads louder for you. Do your backslidings, and rebellions, and iniquities, committed against so much light and love, call for vengeance? the blood of Jesus “speaks better things.” Does Satan stand at your right hand to accuse you? your Advocate stands at God’s right hand to plead for you.

All hail! you mourning souls! you that smite on the breast, you broken-hearted, you contrite ones! “who is he that condemns! It is Christ who died, yes rather, who is risen again; who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”

Jesus is a glorious and a successful Advocate. He has never lost a cause entrusted to His advocacy, and never will. He pleads powerfully, He pleads eloquently, He pleads prevalently, because He pleads in behalf of a people unspeakably dear to His heart, for whom He “loved not His own life unto the death,” and presses His suit, on the ground of His own most precious blood and accepted person, and with His father and their Father, His God and their God.

June 29: Seeing Through A Glass Darkly

“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.” 1 Corinthians 13:9

With all our attainments, how little have we really attained! With all our knowledge, how little do we actually know! How superficially and imperfectly are we acquainted with truth; with Jesus who is emphatically “the Truth,” with God whom the Truth reveals. “We see through a glass darkly,”- all is yet but as a riddle, compared with what we shall know when the shadows of ignorance have fled.

There are, too, the enshrouding shadows of God’s dark and painful dispensations. Our dealings are with a God of whom it is said, “Clouds and darkness are round about Him.” Who often “covers Himself as with a cloud,” and to whom the midnight traveler to the world of light has often occasion to address himself in the language of the Church, “You are a God that hides Yourself.”

Ah! beloved, what clouds of dark providences may be gathering and thickening around your present path! Through what a gloomy, stormy night of affliction faith may be steering your tempest-tossed barque! That faith eyeing the promise, and not the providence, the “bright light that is in the cloud,” and not the lowering cloud itself- will steer that trembling vessel safely through the surge.

Remember that in the providences of God the believer is passive, but with regard to the promises of God he is active. In the one case he is to “be still” and know that God reigns, and that the “Judge of all the earth must do right.” In the other, his faith, childlike, unquestioning, and unwavering, is to take hold of what God says, and of what God is, believing that what He has promised He is also able and willing to perform. This is to be “strong in faith, giving glory to God.”