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2 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER. 1. VERSE 4
'Who comforteth us in all tribulation.'Afflictions and crosses, as they are irksome in suffering, so they are likewise disgraceful; and as it was in the cross of Christ, there were/was two things, torment and shame. The one he felt himself, the other he had from others; those two. Disgrace is proper to the cross. So it is in all the crosses that we suffer; there is some disgrace with it. Therefore St Paul, to prevent the scandal and disgrace of the cross, as 'said before, he doth here begin with praising God even for crosses in the midst of them. Blessed be God, the Father of mercies, the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all tribulations,' etc.
'Who comforteth us in all tribulation: These words contain a making good of the former title, 'He is a God of comfort, and doth comfort; he is good, and doth good.'He fills up his name by his works. He shews what he is. The Scripture doth especially describe God, not in all things as he is in himself; but as he is, and works to his poor church. And they are useful terms, all of them. He is 'the Father of mercy,'because he is so to his church. He is the 'God of comfort,'because he is so to his people. Therefore he saith here, as he is the God of comfort;'so he doth comfort us in all tribulation. He doth not say, who keeps us out of misery. Blessed be the God of comfort, that never suffers us to fall into discomfort! No! but blessed be the God of comfort, that comforts us in all tribulation.'It is more to raise good out of evil, than not to suffer evil to be at all. It shews greater power, it manifests greater goodness, to triumph over ill, when it [is] suffered to be, and so not to keep ill from us, but to comfort us in it.
He doth not say for the time past, which hath comforted us, or which can comfort us if it please him. No! He doth it. It is his use/his wont. He doth it alway. It springs from his love. He never at any instant or moment of time forgets his children. And he saith not, he doth comfort us in one or two, or a few tribulations; but he comforteth us in 'all tribulations,'of what kind or degree soever.
Obj. It may be objected, to clear the sense a little, he doth not alway comfort: for then there could be no time of discomfort.
Ans. 'answer: He doth alway comfort in some degree; for take a Christian at the lowest, yet he hath so much comfort as to keep him from sinking. When he is at the depth of misery, there is a depth of mercy lower than he. 'Out of the deep have 'cried unto thee, Lord,'Ps. cxxx. 1; and this is a comfort that he hath in the midst of discomforts, that he hath a spirit of prayer; and if not a spirit of prayer, yet a spirit of sighing and groaning to God, and God hears the sighs and groans of his own Spirit in his children. When they cannot distinctly pray, there is a spirit to look up to God. 'Though thou kill me, yet will 'trust in thee,'saith Job, Job xiii. 15, in the midst of his miseries. So though God, more notoriously to the view of the world, sometime doth comfort before we come to trouble, that we may bear it the better, and sometime he doth comfort more apparently after we come out; yet notwithstanding, in the midst of discomforts, he doth alway comfort so far as that we sink not into despair. There is somewhat to uphold the soul. For when Solomon saith, A wounded spirit, who can bear?'Prov. xviii. 14; that is, none can bear it; it is the greatest grief. Then 'would know, what keeps a wounded spirit from sinking that it doth not despair? Is it not a spirit stronger than the wounded spirit? It is not God that is greater than the wounded conscience? Yes! Then there is comfort greater than the discomfort of a wounded conscience, that keeps it from despair. Those that finally despair, they are none of God's. So that, take the words in what regard or in what sense you will, yet there is a sweet and comfortable sense of them, and the apostle might well say, he is the God of all comfort, that doth comfort us in all tribulation.'
It is here a ground supposed, that God's children are subject to tribulation.
We are subject here to tribulation of all kinds, for God comforts us in all our tribulations. We are here in a state, therefore, needing comfort, because we are in tribulation.
And the second is that God doth answer our state. God doth comfort his children in all tribulation.
And the ground is from himself. He is the God of comfort.'He doth but like himself, when he doth it. The God of comfort shews that he is so, by comforting us in all tribulations.
First, It is supposed that in this world we are in tribulations.
Indeed, that 'need not be long in. We must, at one time or other, be in tribulation, some or other. For though, in regard of outward afflictions, we are free from them sometimes, we have a few holidays, as we say; yet notwithstanding, there is in the greatest enlargements of God's children in this world, somewhat that troubles their minds. For either there is some desertion, God withholds comfort from them in some measure, he shews himself a stranger, which humbles them much; or else they have strong temptations of Satan, to sin by prosperity, etc., which grieves them as much as the outward cross ; or else their grievance is, that they cannot serve God with that cheerfulness of spirit. Is there nothing, whoever thou art, that troubles thee as much as the cross in the day of affliction? Certainly there is somewhat or other that troubleth the soul of a Christian. He is never out of one grievance or other.
The life of a Christian is as a web, that is woven of good and ill. He hath good days and ill days ; he hath tribulations and comforts. As St Austin saith very well, between these two, tribulation on our part, and comfort on God's part, our life runs between these two. Our crosses and God's comforts, they are both mingled together.
There is no child of God, but knows what these things mean, troubles either from friends or enemies, or both, domestical or personal, in body or mind, one way or other. That is supposed, and it were not an unproper argument to the text; for when he with 'in all tribulations,'it is laid as a ground that every man suffers tribulation one way or other. But I shall have fitter occasion after to enlarge this.
Again we see here, that God comforts his children in all tribulation..
And his comforts are answerable to their discomforts, and beyond them. They are stronger to master all opposites whatsoever, and all grievances. There could be no comfort else. Alas! what are all discomforts, when God sets himself to comfort? When he will be a God of comfort, one look, one glance of his fatherly countenance in Jesus Christ, will banish all terrors whatsoever, and make even a very dungeon to be a paradise. 'He comforteth us in all tribulation.'
And this he doth, as you may perceive by the unfolding of the words, either by some outward thing applied to the outward want or cross, or by some inward reasons, that are opposite to the inward malady, or by an inward presence. His comforts are applicable to the tribulation, and to the strength, and length, and variety of it. We may know it by his course in this life. What misery are we subject to in this life! but we have comfort fit for it? So good is God.
We may reason thus very well. If so be that in our pilgrimage here, in this life of ours, which is but the gallery, as it were, to heaven; if in this short life, which is but a way or passage, we have, both day and night, so many comforts: in the very night, if we look up to heaven, we see what glorious things there are towards the earth here, on this side the heaven, the stars of the light,/the light of the stars etc. And if so be upon the earth there be such comforts, especially in the spring and summer time, if the very earth, the basest dregs of the world, yield such comfort and delights to all the senses, then a man may reason very strongly, what comforts shall we have at home? If God by the creatures thus comforts us in our outward wants, what are the inward comforts of his Spirit here to his children? and what are the last comforts of all, the comforts reserved at home, when God 'shall be all in all?'
Now there are some drops of comfort conveyed in smells, some in garments, some in friends, some in diet; here a drop, and there a drop. But when we shall have immediate communion there with the God of comfort himself, what comforts shall we have there ? God comforts us here, by providing for us, and giving us things that are comfortable.
Or by giving reasons and grounds of comfort, which are stronger than the reasons and grounds of discomfort, reasons from the privileges and prerogative of Christians, etc. The Scripture is full of them.
But likewise, which is the best of all, and most intended, the inward inspring of comfort, with the reasons and grounds, he inwardly conveys comforts to the soul, and strengtheneth and supports the soul. And he doth this not only by the application of the reasons, and the things that we understand, to the soul, but by opening the soul to embrace them. For sometime the soul may be in such a case as it may reject comfort, that 'the consolation of the Almighty,'Job xv. 11, may seem light to it. Sometime there may be such a disposition of soul, that the chiefest comforts in Scripture yield it no comfort. They are not embraced. The soul is shut to them. God provides reasons and grounds of comfort, and likewise he applies these comforts by his Spirit to the soul, and he inwardly warms and opens the soul to embrace comfort. He opens the understanding to understand, and the will and affections to embrace, or else there will be no comfort.
Many are like Rachel. Her children were gone, and it is said of her, 'She would not be comforted,'Mat. ii. 18. God is the 'God of comfort.' As he gives the matter and ground of comfort, and reasons out of his holy word above all discomforts ; so by his Spirit he frames and fits the heart to entertain these, to take the benefit of them.
'He comforts us in all tribulation.'To comfort is to support the soul against the grievance past, or felt, or feared.
There may be some remainders of grief for what is past. Grief present presseth most, and grief feared. Now God comforteth, whatsoever the grievance is, by supporting the soul against it, as 'said before.
We are in tribulation in this life, and yet in all tribulations God doth comfort us. To add to that 'said before of this point, let us therefore go to God in all the means of comfort, because he is the God of it, and he must comfort us.
Therefore, when we send for divines, or read holy books, for we must use all means, we must not set God against his means, but join them together: to add that caution by the way.
We may not, therefore, necessitate the God of comfort, that because he comforts us, therefore we will neglect reading and prayer, and conference with them that God hath exercised in the school of Christ, who should speak comfort to the weary soul by their office.
No, no! God and his means must be joined together. We must trust God, but not tempt him. To set God against his means is to tempt him; that because he is the God of comfort, therefore we will use no means, no physician for the body or for the soul. This is absurd. He is the God of comfort in the means. He comforts us 'in all tribulation,'by means, if they be to be had.
If there be no means to be had, he is the God of comfort, he can create them ; and if it be so far that there be no means, but the contrary, he is a God that can comfort out of discomfort, and can, as 'said, make the greatest grounds of comfort out of the greatest discomforts. But he is a God of the means, if they be to be had. If there be none, then let us go to him, and say, Thou God of comfort, if thou do not comfort, none can comfort; if thou help not, none can help; and then he will help, and help strongly. It is necessary to look to God, whatever the means be. It is he that comforts by them. Therefore let him have the praise. If we have any friend, any comfort of the outward man, or any solace of the inward man, by seasonable speech, etc., blessed be the 'God of comfort'who hath sent this comforter; who hath sent me comfort by such, and such, let him have the praise. Whatsoever the means be, the comfort is his.
And that is the cause that many have no more comfort. They trust to the means over much, or neglect the means.
Again, if God comfort in all tribulation,'let Christians be ashamed to be overmuch disconsolate, that have the God of comfort'for their God, 'who comforteth in all tribulation.''Why art thou so cast down ?'Ps. xlii. 11. Is there no balm in Gilead for thee? Jer. viii. 22. 'Is there not a God in Israel?'1 Sam. xvii. 46. It is the fault of Christians; they pore too much on their troubles, they look all one way. They look to the grievance, and not to the comfort.
There is a God of comfort that answers his name every way in the exercise of that attribute to his church. Therefore Christians must blame themselves if they be too much cast down; and labour for faith to draw near to this God of comfort.
It should make them ashamed of themselves that think it even a duty, as it were, to walk drooping, and disconsolately, and deadly, to have flat and dead spirits. What! is this beseeming a Christian that is in covenant with God, that is the God of comfort,'and that answers his title in dealing with his children, that is ready to comfort them in all tribulation? What if particular comforts be taken from thee, is there not a God of comfort left? he hath not taken away himself. What if thou be restrained, and shut up from other comforts, can any shut up God's Spirit? can any shut up God and our prayers?
Is not this a comfort, that we may go to God alway? and he is with us in all estates and in all wants whatsoever? So long as we are in covenant with the ` God of comfort,'why should we be overmuch cast down?' Why art thou so troubled, 0 my soul?'Ps. xlii. 11. David checks his soul thrice together for distrust in God. He is thy God, the God of all comfort.
Quest. What course shall we take that we may derive to ourselves comfort from this God of comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulations?
Ans. 1. Let us consider what our malady and grievance is, especially let us look to our spiritual grievance and malady, sin : for sin is the cause of all other evils. Therefore it is the worst evil. And sin makes us loathed of God, the fountain of good. It drives us from him, when other evils drive us to him; and therefore it is the worst evil in that sense too.
2. Again, in the second place, look to the discomforts of sin, especially in the discomforts of conscience of those that are awakened ; and Satan useth that as a means to despair in every cross.
(1.) Therefore let us search and try our souls for our sins; for our chief discomforts are from sin. For, alas! what are all other comforts ? and what are all other discomforts? If a man's conscience be quiet, what are all discomforts? and if conscience be on the rack, what are all comforts? The disquiet and vexation of sin is the greatest of all; because then we have to deal with God. When sin is presented before us, and the judgments of God, and God as an angry judge, and conscience is awake and on the rack, what in the world can take up the quarrel and appease conscience, when we and God are at difference, when the soul speaks nothing but discomfort ?
In this case remember that God doth so far prevent objections in this kind from the accusations of conscience, that he reasons that he will comfort us, from that that conscience reasons against comfort. He doth this in the hearts of his children to whom he means to shew mercy: as we see in the poor publican. ` Lord, be merciful to me a sinner,'saith he, Luke xviii. 13. God taught him that reasoning. Nature would have taught him to reason as Peter did, ` Lord, depart from me, I am a sinful man,' Luke v. 8, and therefore 'have nothing to do with God.
So our Saviour Christ, ` Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden,'Mat. xi. 28. They think, of all people they ought to run from God, they are so laden with sin, they have nothing to do with God. ` Oh, come unto me,'saith Christ. Therefore, when thy conscience is awakened with the sense of sin, remember what is said in the gospel, ` Be of good comfort, he calleth thee,'Mark x. 49 ; be thou of good comfort, thou art one that Christ calls, ` Come unto me, ye that are weary and heavy laden;'and ` Blessed are those that mourn,'Mat. v. 4.
That which thou and the devil with thy conscience would move thee to use as an argument to run away, our Saviour Christ in the gospel useth as an argument to draw thee forward. He comes for such, ` to seek, and to save the lost sinners.'This is a faithful saying, saith St Paul, that ` Christ came to save sinners.'Therefore, believe not Satan. He presents God to the soul that is humbled, and terrified in the sight of sin, as cruel, as a terrible judge, etc. He hides the mercy of God from such. To men that are in a sinful course he shews nothing but mercy. Aye, but now there is nothing but comfort to thee that art cast down and afflicted in the sense of thy sins ; for all the comforts in the gospel of forgiveness of sins, and all the comforts from Christ's incarnation, the end of his coming in the flesh, the end of his death, and of all, is to save sinners.
Look thou, therefore, to the throne of mercy and grace, when thy conscience shall be awakened with the sense of sin, and Satan shall use that as an argument to draw thee from God. Consider the Scripture useth this as an argument to drive me to God, to allure me to him. ` Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden.'And ` Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost.'Luther, a man much exercised in spiritual conflicts, he confessed this was the balm that did most refresh his soul, ` God hath shut up all under sin, that he might have mercy upon all,'Rom. iii. 19. He shut up all under sin as prisoners, to see themselves under sin, and under the curse, that he might ` have mercy upon all;'upon all those that are convinced with the sense and sight of their sins. He hath shut up all under sin, that he might have mercy upon all those that belong to him.
This raised up that blessed man. Therefore, let us not be much discomforted, but ` be of good comfort, Christ calls us.'
For such as are sinners, that are given to the sins of the tongue, and of the life, to rotten discourse, to swearing and such like, to such as mean to be so, and think their case good. Oh! God is ` the God of comfort !'To such, as 'said before, 'can speak no comfort, nor the word of God speaks none. They must have another word and another Scripture; for this word speaks no comfort to such that are sinful and wretched, and will be so, and justify themselves to be so.
All the judgments in the Scripture are theirs. Hell and damnation and wrath, that is their portion to drink.
We can speak no comfort to such, nor the word of God that we unfold. It hath not a drop of comfort for them. God will not be merciful to such as go on in wicked, rotten, scandalous courses, that because hell hath not yet taken them, they may live long, and so make a ` covenant with hell and death,'Isa. xviii. 18, and bless themselves.
Oh! but thou hast made no covenant with God, nor he hath made none with thee; and hell and death have made no covenant with thee, though thou hast made one with them. But there are two words go to a covenant. Death and hell shall seize upon thee, notwithstanding thy covenant.
Those that will live in sin in despite of the ministry, in spite of afflictions, there is no comfort to such. 'speak only to the broken heart, which are fit vessels for comfort. God is ` the God of comfort'to such. What shall we say, then, to such as, after they have had some evidence of their good estate, that they are Christians, are fallen into sin? Is there any comfort for such?
Yes. Doth not St Paul, in 2 Cor. v. 20, desire such to be ` reconciled to God?'` We are, as ambassadors of Christ, desiring you to be reconciled,' if you have sinned. So God hath comfort for those that have sinned. Christ knew that we should every day run into sins unawares. Therefore, he teaches us in the Lord's prayer to say every day, `Forgive us our debts, our trespasses,' Mat. vi. 12. There is ` balm in Gilead,'there is mercy in Israel, for such daily trespasses as we run into.
Therefore, let none be discouraged, but by presently to the ` God of comfort and Father of mercies.'And think not that he is weary of pardoning, as man is, for he is infinite in mercy ; and though he be the party offended, yet he desires peace with us.
Caution. But yet, notwithstanding that we shall not love to run into his books, he doth, with giving the comfort of the pardon of sin, when we fall into it, add such sharp crosses, as we shall wish we had not given him occasion to correct us so sharply. We shall buy our comfort dear. We had better not have given him occasion.
God forgave the sin of David after he had repented, though he were a good man before; but David bought the pleasure of his sin dear. He wished a thousand times that he had never given occasion to God to raise good out of his evil, to turn his sin to his comfort. Yet God will do this, because God would never have us in a state of despair.
2. For other grievances besides sin, the comforts that we are to apply are more easy, and they are infinite, if we could reckon the particular comforts that God comforts his children withal.
It is good to have general comforts ready for all kind of maladies and grievances, and that this poor, wretched life of ours, in our absence from God, is subject to.
(1.) As, for instance, that general comfort, the covenant of grace. That is a spring of comfort, that God is our God and Father in Christ. What can come from a gracious and good God in covenant with us but that which is good? nothing but what is favourably good, 'mean. For the covenant is everlasting. When God takes once upon him to be our Father in covenant, he is so for ever. Dum castigas eater, cfc. While he corrects, he is a Father; and when he smiles upon us, he is a Father.
God in the covenant of grace takes upon him a relation that ever holds.
As he is for ever the Father of Christ, so he is for ever the Father of those that are members of Christ; and whatsoever comes from the Father of mercy, whether he correct or smile, whatsoever he doth, is in mercy.
(2.) Again, in the midst of any grievance remember the gracious promise of mitigation, 1 Cor. x. 13. 'God will not suffer us to be tempted above our strength, but he will give an issue to the temptation.'He will give a mitigation, and either he will raise our strength to the temptation, or he will bring the temptation and trial to our strength. He will fit them, and this is a comfort.
(3.) There is comfort, likewise, in all troubles whatsoever, of the presence of God. God will be present with us if once we be in covenant with him. He will be present in all trials to assist us, to strengthen us, to comfort us, to raise our spirits. And if God be present, he will banish all discomforts; for God is light, and where light is, darkness vanisheth. Now God, being the Father of light, that is, of all comfort, where he is present he banisheth discomfort in what measure he is pleased to banish it. Therefore David often reasoneth from the presence of God to the defiance of all troubles, Ps. iii. 6, 'If God be with me, 'will not fear ten thousand that are against me.'And in Ps. xxiii. 4, Though 'walk in the valley of the shadow of death, 'will not fear, for thou art with me.'And 'if God be with us, who can be against us?'Rom. viii. 33, 34. And when thou passest through the fire, 'will be with thee,' etc., Isa. xliii. 2. 'will be with thee, not to keep thee out, but to uphold thee, as he did the martyrs. There was a fire of comfort in them above that fire that consumed their bodies ; and, as we see, he was with the three children. There was a fourth, like the Son of God,'Dan. iii. 25.
So in all tribulations there is another with us, that is, the Spirit of God, that comforts us in all, and is present with us in all. The goldsmith, when he puts the wedge into the fire, he stands by till the dross be consumed. So God is with his children in the furnace of affliction. He brings them into affliction; he continues with them in affliction ; and he brings them at last out of affliction. The presence of God is a main and a grand comfort in all tribulation.
(4.) Besides, in all that befalls us whatsoever, consider the end. All is for a good end. 'All things work together for the best to them that love God,'saith St Paul, Rom. viii. 28. Why do we endure physic? Because we know the physician is wise, and he is our friend, and he doth it to carry away burdensome, hurtful humours. We shall be better and lighter afterwards. Do we do this in our common course in the things of this life ? Grace will much more certainly teach us to do it ; to reason, It is from a father, and it is for my good. Let us look whence it comes and what it tends to, with the promise of mitigation and of God's presence in our troubles. These are main comforts, if we could think of them, if the devil did not take them out of our memory.
(5.) And for the fifth ground of comfort that God doth comfort us withal in all tribulations, it is the promise of final deliverance and final comfort for ever. If none will raise our souls, that will, when we shall consider that it will not be long.
'The short afflictions in this world bring an eternal weight of glory,' 2 Cor. iv. 17. There will be a final deliverance. Life itself, that is, the subject that receives affliction, that is short. Our life is but a moment, 2 Cor. iv. 17. Therefore, our afflictions must be short.
Life is longer than discomforts. There is but a piece of our life subject to miseries; and if that be but a vapour, but a moment, and as a point between eternity before and eternity after, what are the miseries of this life? Certainly they are but for a moment.
Therefore, the promise of final deliverance, when all tears shall be wiped from our eyes, this should comfort us, if nothing else would. This is the way, therefore, whereby God usually comforts, by suggesting the heads and springs of comfort.
And, indeed, there is a daily method of comforting, whereby we may comfort ourselves in all crosses, if we would use that daily method and order of comfort. As there is a kind of diet to keep the body in temper, so there is a kind of spiritual diet to keep the soul in temper, in a course of comfort, unless it be when God takes liberty to cast down for some special end, as we see in Job.
Therefore, let us take this course; for God, as he comforteth us, so he comforts us as understanding creatures, he useth our understanding to consider how we should comfort ourselves; and after we are once in a state of comfort, if we be not wanting to ourselves, there is no great difficulty to keep our comfort. There are means to keep daily comfort. God hath provided them, and he will be present to make good all his comforts. Grant it, therefore, that we are in the covenant of grace, that God is our Father in Christ, and we take him to be our God, to be all sufficient, then, to keep ourselves in a daily temper for comfort,
[l.] Every day keep our souls tender, that we may be capable of comfort; keep the wound open, that we may receive balm, that there grow not a deadness upon the heart, considering that while we live here there is alway some sin in us, that must be wrought out by some course or other. Let us try and search our souls, what ill is in the wound; let us keep it open and tender, that there may be a fitness for mercy, to receive the balm of comfort, which will not be if we slubber over. Certainly it is an excellent course every day to search our hearts and ways, and presently to apply the balm of comfort, the promise of pardon. Take the present, when we have searched the wound, to get pardon and forgiveness daily. As we sin daily, Christ bids us ask it daily.
This will make us fit for comfort, by discerning the estate of our souls, and the remainders of corruption. That which sharpens appetite and makes the balm of God to be sweet indeed, is the sense of, and the keeping open of our wound. A daily search into our wants and weaknesses, a daily fresh sight of the body of sin in us, and experience how it is fruitful in ill thoughts, and desires, and actions, this will drive us to a necessity of daily comfort.
And certainly a fresh sight of our corruptions, it is never without some fresh comfort. We see St Paul, Rom. vii., he sets himself to this work, to complain of his indisposition, by reason of sin in him; and how doth he end that sight and search into his own estate? He ends in a triumphing manner, Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord: There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus,'Verses 25 ; after he had complained, Oh, miserable man that 'am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?'There can be no danger in a deep search into our ways and hearts, if this be laid as a ground before, that there is more supply and heavenly comfort in God, and the promises of God, than there can be ill in our souls. Then the more ill we find in ourselves, the more we are disposed to fetch grounds of comfort from God.
[2.] And together with this searching of our souls, and asking daily pardon, let us for the time to come renew our covenant with God, that we may have the comfort of a good conscience to get pardon for our sins past, and renew our resolutions for the time to come.
[3.] And withal, that we may use an orderly course of comfort, let us every day feed on Christ, the food of life; let us every day feed upon something in Christ. Consider the death of Christ, the satisfaction he hath made by his death, his intercession in heaven. His blood runs afresh, that we may every day feed on it.
We may run every day into new offences against the law, to new neglect of duty, into new crosses ; let us feed upon Christ. He came into the world to save sinners,'1 Tim. i. 15, to make us happy, with peace of conscience here, and with glory afterward. Let us feed on Christ daily. As the body is fed with cordials, so this feeds, and comforts, and strengthens the soul.
This is to live by faith, to lead our lives by faith, to feed on Christ every day.
[4.] And likewise, if we will keep our souls in a perpetual temper of comfort, let us every day meditate of some prerogatives of Christians, that may raise our souls; let us single out some or other. As for example, that excellent prerogative to be the sons of God,'1 John iii. 2. What love! saith the apostle, that we, of rebels and traitors, in Christ should be made the sons of God! That of slaves, we should be made servants; of servants, sons; of sons, heirs; and of heirs, fellow heirs with Christ: what prerogative is this, that God should give his Son to make us, that were rebels, sons, heirs, and fellow heirs with Christ! Gal. iv. 7. And to consider what follows upon this liberty, that we have from the curse of the law, to go to God boldly, to go to the throne of grace through Christ, our elder Brother, by prayer; to think of eternal life as our inheritance; to think of God above as our Father. Let us think of our prerogatives of religion, adoption, and justification, etc.
Upon necessity we are driven to it, if we consider the grievances of this world, together with our corruptions. Our corruptions, and afflictions and temptations, and desertions, one thing or other, will drive us to go out of ourselves for comfort, to feed on the benefits by Christ. And consider what he hath done. It is for us, the execution of his office, and all for us ; what he is, what he did, what he suffered, what procured, all is for us. The soul delighting itself in these prerogatives, it will keep the soul in a perpetual estate of comfort. Therefore the Scripture sets forth Christ by all terms that may be comfortable. He is the door to let us in. 'He is the way, the truth, and the life,'John xiv. 6, the water and the bread, etc. In sin, he is our righteousness ; in death, he is our life ; in our ignorance, he is our way; in spiritual hunger and thirst, he is the bread and water of life : he is all in all. And if we cannot think of some prerogative of Christianity, then think of some promise. As I said before, think of the covenant of grace. There is a spring of comfort in that, that God in Christ is our God to death, and for ever; and that promise 'speak of, that All things shall work for the best,'Rom. viii. 28.
Let us every day think of these things, and suggest them to our own souls, that our souls may be affected with them, and digest them, that our souls and they may be one, as it were.
[5.] And every day stir up our hearts to be thankful. A thankful heart can never want comfort ; for it cannot be cheerfulness. And when God receives any praise and glory, he answers it with comfort. A thankful heart is alway comfortable.
[6.] And let us stir up our hearts to be fruitful in the holy actions. The reward of a fruitful life is a comfortable life. Besides heaven, God alway in this life gives a present reward to any good action. It is rewarded with peace of conscience. Besides, it is a good foundation against the evil day. Every good action, as the apostle saith to Timothy, it lays up a good foundation,'1 Tim. vi. 19. The more good we do, the more we are assured that our faith is not hypocritical, but sound and good, and will hold out in the time of trial. It will be a good foundation that we have had evidence before, that we have a sound and fruitful faith.
What do wicked men, careless, sinful creatures, that go on in a course of profaneness and blasphemy, etc.? They lay a ground of despair, a ground of discomfort, to be swallowed up in the evil day. Then conscience will be awaked at the last, and Satan will be ready to join with conscience, and conscience will seal all the accusations that Satan lays against them ; and where is the poor soul then? As it is with them, so, on the contrary, the Christian soul that doth good, besides the present comfort of a good conscience, it lays a good foundation against the time to come ; for in the worst times, it can reason with itself, My faith is not fruitless, 'am not an hypocrite. Though the fruits of it be weak, and mixed with corruptions, yet there is truth in them. This will comfort us when nothing else will.
Therefore let us every day be setting ourselves in some good way ; for comfort is in comfortable courses, and not in ill courses. In God's ways we shall have God's comforts. In those ways let us exercise the spiritual strength we have ; let us pray to God, and perform the exercise of religion with strength, shew some zeal in it ; let us shew some zeal against sin, if occasion be, if it be in God's work, in God's way. Let a man set himself upon a good work, especially when it is in opposition ; for the honour of God, and the peace of his conscience. Presently there is comfort upon it.
(7.] And that we may not be discouraged with the imperfection of our performances, one way of daily comfort is, to consider the condition of the covenant of grace between God and us. In the covenant of grace, our performances, if they be sincere, they are accepted ; and it is the perfection of the gospel, sincerity. Sincerity will look God in the face with comfort, because he is with the upright. So much truth in all our dealings, so much comfort.
[8.] And with sincerity labour for growth, to grow better and better. God in the gospel means to bring us to perfection in heaven by little and little. In the law there was present perfection required ; but in the gospel God requires that we should come to perfection by little and little, as Christ by little and little satisfied for our sins, and not all at once. In the condition of the covenant of grace, we must live and grow by grace, by little and little, and not all at once. The condition of the covenant of grace is not to him that hath strength of grace in perfection. But if we believe and labour to walk with God, if there be truth of grace, truth goes for perfection in the covenant of grace. We should labour for sound knowledge of the covenant of grace, that now we are freed from the rigour, as well as from the curse of the law; that though we have imperfections, yet God will be our Father, and in this condition of imperfection he will be a pardoning Father, and looks on our obedience, though it be feeble, and weak, and imperfect, yet, being the obedience of children in the covenant of grace, and he accepts of what is his own, and pardons what is ours.
[9.] And every day labour to preserve the comforts of the Spirit that we have, not to grieve the Spirit; for comfort comes with the Spirit of God, as heat accompanies the fire. As wheresoever fire is, there is heat; so wheresoever the Spirit of God is, there is comfort; because the Spirit of God is God, and God is with comfort. Wheresoever comfort is, God is and wheresoever God is, there is comfort. If we would have comfort continually every day, let us carefully watch that we give way to the Spirit of God, by good actions, and meditations, and exercises.
And by no means grieve the Spirit, or resist the Spirit, for then we resist comfort. If we speak any thing that is ill, we lose our comfort for that time. Conscience will check us. We have grieved the Spirit. If we hear any thing with applause, and are not touched with it, we lose our comfort; conscience will tell us we are dead hearted, and not affected as we should be. There is a great deal of flesh and corruption that is affected with such rotten discourse. And so if we venture upon occasions, we shall grieve the Spirit, either if we speak somewhat to satisfy others that are nought/naught, or if we hear somewhat that is ill from others. Want of wisdom in this kind, doth make us go without comfort many times: want of wisdom to single out our company, or else if we be with such, to do that that may please them, and grieve the Spirit, and hinder our own comfort.
[10.] These and such like directions, if we would observe, we might walk in a course of comfort. The God of comfort hath prescribed this in the book of comfort. These are the courses for God's children, to walk in a comfortable way, till they come to heaven. More especially, if we would at any time take a more full measure of comfort, then take the book of God into your hand. Those are comforts that refresh the soul. Single out some special portion of Scripture, and there you shall have a world of comfort, as, for example, let a man single out the Epistle to the Romans. If a man be in any grievance whatsoever, what a world of comfort is there, fitting for every malady! There is a method how to come to comfort.
There St Paul, in the beginning, first strips all men of confidence of any thing in themselves, and tells them that no man can be saved by works, Jews nor Gentiles, but all by the righteousness of God in Christ. 'All are deprived of the glory of God,'Rom. iii. 19, Jews, and Gentiles, everybody. And when we are brought to Christ, he tells us, in the latter end of the third chapter, that by Christ we have the forgiveness of all our former sins whatsoever. He is the propitiation for our sins.'In the fourth chapter he comforts us by the example of Abraham and David, that they were justified without works by faith, not by works of their own, but by laying hold of the promises of comfort and salvation merely by Christ. And all that St Paul saith is written for us,'1 Cor. x. 11. But in the first chapter especially, because all the miseries of this life come from the 'first Adam.'Because we are children of the 'first Adam,' death and misery comes from that. He opposeth the comfort in the 'second Adam,'and he shews that there is more comfort by the second Adam, than there is discomfort by the first. Righteousness in the second Adam 'reigns to life everlasting,'Rom. v. 17, and glory. Sin and misery came by the first, but there is the pardon of all sin by the second Adam. He doth excellently oppose them in the latter end of that chapter. In the beginning of the fifth chapter he chews there the method, and descent of joy, 'Being justified by faith, in Christ, we have peace with God,' Rom. v. 1. Considering that by the righteousness of Christ we are freed from sin, 'We have peace with God through Jeans Christ our Lord,' Rom. v. 1. And 'we have boldness to the throne of grace, and we rejoice in tribulation : knowing that tribulation brings forth patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope,' Rom. v. 4. He sets himself there of purpose to comfort in all tribulation, and he saith, in these things we rejoice, 'We rejoice in tribulation.'
Aye, but for our sin after our conversion, after we are in the state of grace, what comfort is there for them? There is excellent comfort in the fifth of the Romans. 'If when we were enemies he gave his Son for us:'if he saved us by the death of Christ when we were enemies, much more, Christ being alive, and in heaven, he will keep it for us ; and keep us to salvation now, when we are friends, seeing he died for us when we were enemies. Aye, but the remainders of corruption in this world trouble us. That troubles our comfort, the combat between the flesh and the Spirit. Would you see comfort for that? You shall see it in Romans vii. 24, 25.
Oh, miserable man, who shall deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.'So he chews there what way to have comfort in the combat between the flesh and the spirit, to search into our corruptions, to lay them open to God by confession.
And then, in the beginning of the eighth chapter, with he, 'There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus,'Verse. 1. Though there be sin, yet there is no condemnation ; though there be this conflict between the flesh and the spirit. So he comforts them. And for the afflictions that follow our corruptions in this life, there is a treasure of comfort against them in that chapter; for doth he not say, 'if we suffer with him, we shall reign with him,'Verse. 17. And 'the same 'Spirit helps our infirmities, and teacheth us how to pray?'Verse. 26. We can never be uncomfortable if we can pray; but there is a promise of the Spirit that stirs up sighs, and 'groans that cannot be expressed,'Verse. 26, and a Christian hath alway a spirit of prayer, at the least of sighs and groans; and God hears the sighs of his own Spirit.
And what a grand comfort is that, that I named before, Verse 28, 'All things work for the best to them that love God.'And if God be with us, who can be against us.'Verse. 33. And he sends us to Christ. If Christ be dead, or rather risen again, who shall lay anything to our charge ?' Christ is 'ascended to heaven, and makes intercession at the right hand of God,'Verse. 34. Though Satan lay our sing to our charge, Christ makes intercession in heaven at the right hand of God. He makes continual intercession for our continual breaches with God. Who shall lay anything to our charge? Aye, but all that power of hell and sin! and all labour to separate us from God, to breed division between God and us. In the latter end of that chapter he bids defiance to all, what shall 'separate us from the love of God in Christ?'Verse. 35. It shall separate his love from Christ first. God's love is found in Christ. He shall cease to love Christ if he cease to love us. Aye, but we may afterward fall into an uncomfortable case. For that he saath, 'neither things present, nor things to come, shall be able to separate us,'Verse. 38.
What an excellent spring of comfort is there in that reasoning, Verse 32, 'If God spared not his own Son, but gave him to death for us all, how shall he not with him give us all things else.'How many streams may be drawn from that spring! 'If God spared not his own Son, but gave him to death for us all, how shall he not with him give us all things else' in this world necessary, grace, provision, and protection, till he have brought us to heaven? If he have given Christ, he will give. all. Whatsoever is written, is written for our comfort. I name /mean this epistle, because I would name one instance for all. 'All is written for our comfort,'as he saith after in the same epistle, xv. 4. The written word, or the word unfolded; the end of preaching, is especially to comfort. The surgeon opens a wound, and the physician gives a purge, but all is to restore at the last. All that the surgeon aims at, is to close up the wound at the last. So all our aim is to comfort. We must cast you down, and shew you your misery that you are in, and shew you, that if you continue in that course, hell and damnation belongs to you. But this is to make you despair in yourselves, and to fly to the God of comfort. The law is for the gospel. All serve to bring the soul to comfort.
Therefore go to the word of God, any portion, the Psalms or any special part of the Scripture; and that, by the Spirit of God, will be a means to raise the soul. The Spirit in the word, joining with the Spirit in us, will make a sweet close together, and comfort us in all tribulation.
[11.] And have recourse daily to common principles. All the principles of religion serve for comfort, especially the articles of the creed. I believe in God the Father Almighty.'What a spring of comfort is in that ! What can befall from a father, but it shall turn to good, and by a Father Almighty? Though he be never so strongly opposed, yet he will turn it to good. He is a 'Father Almighty.'And the articles of Christ, every article hath ground of daily comfort, of his abasement. In Christ, I see myself. He is my surety, 'the second Adam.' I see my sins crucified with him. This is the way to reap comfort when the conscience is disquieted. When I look upon my sins, not in my own conscience, but take it out there, and see it in Christ dying, and crucified, in the articles of abasement to see our sin, and misery, all in Christ. For he stood there as surety, as a public person for all. What a comfort is this! When 'see how Christ was abased, I see my own comfort, for he was my surety. If my sins being laid on him, who was my surety, could not condemn him, or keep him in the grave, but overcame sin that was laid to his charge, surely/assuredly I shall overcome my corruptions. Nothing that I have shall overcome me, because it could not overcome Christ my surety. His victory is mine.
And so, if the soul be in any desolation and discomfort, all the articles of his glorification and exaltation.'His rising again acquits the soul. Therefore my sins are satisfied for, because my surety is out of prison. And his ascending into heaven skews my triumph. He led captivity captive. And the enemies that are left are for the trial of my faith, and not to conquer me. For Christ hath 'led captivity captive,'Ps. Ixviii. 18, and is ascended into heaven. He led all in triumph, and sits at the right hand of God, to rule his church to the end of the world. He sits for me to overcome my enemies, as St Paul saith excellently, Rom. viii. 33, 'Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's people? It is Christ that died, or rather, that is risen again, who sits at the right hand of God.'
And if we be troubled for the loss of a particular friend, there is comfort in that article of the communion of saints.'There are those that have more grace, and that is for me. If my own prayers be weak, ' I believe the communion of saints,'and have the benefit of their prayers. Every one that saith 'Our Father'brings me in, if I be in the covenant of grace, and of the communion of saints. If I have weaknesses in myself, ' I believe in the Holy Ghost,' the comforter of God's elect, and my comforter. If I fear death, I believe the resurrection of the body.'If I fear the day of judgment, ' I believe that Christ shall be my judge.'He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. In all the miseries of this life, considering that they are but short, ''believe the life everlasting.'So that indeed if we would dig to ourselves springs of comfort, let us go to the articles of our faith, and see how there are streams of comfort from every one answerable to all our particular exigencies and necessities whatsoever.
And to close up this point, remember, whatsoever means we use, what prerogative soever we think of, whatsoever we do, remember we go to the God of comfort, and desire him to bless his word in the ministry, and desire him to work in the communion of saints, with his Spirit to warm our hearts. Alway remember to carry him along in all, that we may have comfort from 'the God of comfort, who comforteth in all tribulations.'
Next words are,
'That we may able to comfort them which are in any trouble.' These words shew the end why God doth comfort us in all tribulation. One main end is, that we should be comforted in ourselves. That is the first. And then, that we, being comforted ourselves, from that ability should be able to derives/ communicate comfort to others. 'We are comforted in all tribulations, that we should be able to comfort then that are in any tribulation.'
It is not St Paul's case only, and great men in religion, ministers and the like. It is not their lot and portion alone to be persecuted and troubled, but
Obs. We are all in this life subject to disquiets and discomforts.
Every one, 'whosoever will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution,'2 Tim. iii. 12. Therefore the apostle saith not only our/one tribulation ; but that we may be able to comfort them that are in any trouble.'Trouble is the portion of all God's children one with another. I do but touch that by the way. But that which I shall more stand upon, it is the end, one main end why God comforteth, especially ministers: it is, that they should be able to comfort others with the comforts that God hath comforted them withal. 'That we may be able,'etc. Now you must conceive that this ability, it is not ability alone without will and practice, as if he meant, God hath given me comfort that I might be able to comfort others if I will. That is not God's end only, that we may be able, but that we may exercise our ability, that it may be ability in exercise; as God doth not give a rich man riches to that end that he may be able to relieve others if he will. No! But if thou be a child of God, he gives thee ability and will too, he gives an inward strength. So the meaning here is, not that we may be able to comfort others if we will, but that we may be both able and willing to comfort others.
And to comfort others not only by our example, that because we have been comforted of God, so they shall be comforted. It is good, but it is not the full extent of the apostle's meaning; for then the dead examples should comfort as well as the living. And indeed that is one way of comfort, to consider the examples of former times. But the apostle's meaning is, that I should comfort them not only by my example of God's dealing with me, that they should look for the like comfort. That is but one degree. His meaning is further therefore, that we should be able to comfort them by sympathizing with them; as indeed it is a sweet comfort to those that are in .distress when others compassionate their estate.
And not only so, by our example and sympathy with them, but likewise that we may be able by comfort them by the inward support, and strength, and light that we have found by the Spirit of God in ourselves. That is that that will enable us to comfort others, from that very support and in ward strength that we have found from God; by those graces, and that particular strength and comfort that we have had. When there is a sweet expressing of our inward comfort to them, shewing something in our comfort that may raise them up, in the like troubles that we were in, then the comfort will not be a dead comfort, when it comes from a man experienced. Personated comfort, when a man takes upon him to comfort, that only speaks comfort, but feels not what he speaks, there is little life in it. We are comforted that we may comfort others, with feeling, having been comforted ourselves before, with feeling, and comfortable apprehensions in ourselves. The point considerable in the first place, to make way to the rest, is this, that
Doct. God's children, they have all of them interest in divine comforts.
St Paul was comforted, that he might comfort others. Divine comforts belong to all. They are the portion of all God's people. The meanest have interest, as well [as] the greatest. There is the same spiritual physic for the poorest subject, and the greatest monarch. There is the same spiritual comfort for the meanest, and for the greatest Christian in the world. St Paul hath the same comfort as St Paul's children in the faith. What is the reason that they are communicable thus to all? that they lie open to all?
Reason 1. God is the God and Father of all light and comfort. Christ is the Saviour of all. All the privileges of religion belong to all equally. All are sons and heirs, and all are alike redeemed. The brother of low degree, and the brother of high degree,'James i. 9. They may differ in the references and relations of this life, but in Christ all are alike.
Reason 2. Besides, it is the nature of spiritual privileges and blessings. They are communicable to all alike without impairing. The more one hath, the less another hath not. All have an equal share. Every one hath interest entire ; every one hath all, without loss or hindrance to others. As for instance, the sun, every particular man hath all the good the sun can do, as well as all the world hath. It is peculiarly and entirely every man's own. Every man in solidum hath the use of it. The sun is not one man's more than another. As a public fountain or conduit, every man hath as much right in it as another. So in religion, the graces, and privileges, and favours, they lie open as the prerogatives and privileges of all Gods children ; and that is the excellency of them. In the things of this life it is not so. They are not common to all alike. There is a loss in the division. The more one hath, the less another hath. And that is the reason why the things of this life breed a disposition of pride and envy. One envies another, because he wants that that another hath ; and one deapiseth another, because he hath more than another hath ; but in the comforts of God's Spirit, and the prerogatives that are the ground of those comforts, all have interest alike.
Only the difference is in the vessels they bring. If one man bring a large vessel, a large faith, he carries more ; and another that brings a less faith carries less, but it lies open to all alike. As St Cyprian saith, we carry as much from God as we bring vessels. But all have interest alike in divine comforts.
Therefore among Christians there is little envy, because in the best things, which they valve best, all may have alike; and that which one desires, another may have as much as he. He knows he hath never the less.
Use. The point is comfortable to all, even to the meanest, and to them especially, that howsoever there be a difference between others and them in outward things, that cease in death (for all differences shall cease ere long between us and others), yet the beat things are common. In this life those things that are necessary, they are common, as the light, and the elements, fire, and water, etc.; and those are necessary/not necessary that are not common. But especially in spiritual things, the best things are common. Let no man be discomforted, if he be God's child. Comfort belongs to him, as well as to the greatest apostle. The chiefest comforts belong to him as well as to the chiefest Christian. Therefore, let us envy none, nor despise none in this respect.
In the next place, we may observe here, hence, that though, these comforts be common, yet God derives these comforts commonly by the means of men.
This is God's order in deriving these comforts to the soul. He comforts one, that another may be comforted. Not that the comforts themselves that join with our spirits come from men, but that, together with the speech and presence of men whom we love and respect, and in whom we discern the appearance of the Spirit of God to dwell, together with the speech of persons in whom the Spirit is strong and powerful, the Spirit of God loins, and the Spirit raiseth the soul with comfort. So the Spirit comforteth, by comforting others, that they may comfort us.
This is not only true of ministers, but it is true of Christians, as Christians. For St Paul must be considered, in something as an apostle, in something as a Christian, in something as a minister of Christ. As an apostle, he had the care of 'all the churches,'etc., 2 Cor, xi. 28. As a Christian, he comforted and exhorted others. One Christian ought to comfort another. Therefore he would have done it as a Christian, if he had not been an apostle. And in something he is to be considered as a minister of Christ, as a teacher and ambassador of Christ, a teacher of the gospel. He was somewhat as an apostle, somewhat as a minister, somewhat as a Christian. Therefore it concerns us all to consider how to comfort one another as Christians. We are all members of the same body whereof Christ is the head. Therefore whatsoever comfort we feel, we ought to communicate.
The celestial bodies will teach us this. Whatsoever light or influence the moon and the stars receive, they bestow it on these inferior bodies. They have their light from the sun, and they reflect it again upon the creatures below. .In the fabric of man's body, those official parts, as we call them, those parts and members of the body, the heart and the liver, which are both members and official parts, that do once and service to other parts, they convey and derive the spirits and the blood to all other parts. They receive strength, partly for themselves first, and then to convey it to other members. The liver is fed itself with some part of the blood, and it conveys the rest to the veins, and so to the whole body. The heart is nourished itself of the purest nourishment, the spirits are increased, and those spirits are spread through the arteries.
The stomach feeds itself with the meat it digests, and with the strength it hath. Being an official part, it serves other parts, and strengtheneth other parts ; and if there be a decay in it, there is a decay in all the parts of the body. So a Christian ought to strengthen himself, and then strengthen others. No man is for himself alone. And although whatsoever the means be, the comfort comes from God, yet he will have comfort to be conveyed to us by men this way.
Reason 1. Partly to try our obedience, whether we will respect his ordinance. He will have us go to men like ourselves. Now, if we will have comfort, we must look to his ordinance, we must have it of others, and not altogether from ourselves. And that is the reason why many go all their lifetime with heavy, drooping spirits. Out of pride and neglect, they scorn to seek it of others. They smother their grief, and bleed inwardly; because they will not lay open the state of their souls to others. Although God be 'the God of comfort,'he hath ordained this order, that he will comfort us by them that he hath appointed to comfort us. He comforteth others, that they may comfort us. Though God be the God of comfort, yet he conveys it, for the most part, by the means of others. 'say for the most part ; for he ties not himself to means, though he tie us to means, when we have means. Occasion may be, when a man is shut from all earthly comforts, as in contagious diseases, and restraint, etc. A man may be shut from all intercourse of worldly comforts; but even then, a Christian is never in such an estate, but he hath one comfort or other. Then God comforts immediately, and then he comforts more sweetly and strongly; then the soul cleaves to him close, and saith, Now thou must comfort or none, now the honour is all thine.
Now the nearer the soul is to the fountain of comfort, the more it is comforted, but the soul is never so near to God as in extremity of affliction. When all means fail, then the soul goes to the fountain of comfort, and gives all the glory to him. But I say, when there is means, God hath appointed to derive his comfort by means; when we may have the benefit, of the communion of saints, of the word, etc. God will not comfort us immediately in the neglect of the means. He comforteth us, that we might comfort others.' And as he doth it to try our obedience,
Reason 2. So partly, to knit us in love one to another. For is not this a great bond to knit us one to another, when we consider that our good is hid in another? The good that is derived to us, it is hid in others. And this makes us to esteem highly of others. How sweet are the looks and sight of a friend! and more sweet the words of a friend, especially of an experienced friend, that hath been in the furnace himself.
Thus God, to knit us one to another in love, hath ordained that the comfort that he conveys, it should be conveyed by the means of others. Other reasons there may be given, but these are sufficient.
Use. If this be so, then we ought from hence to learn, that whatsoever we have we are debtors of it to others, whatsoever comfort we have, whether it be outward or inward comfort.
And even as God hath disposed and dispensed his benefits and graces to us, so let us be good stewards of it. We shall give account of it ere long. Let every man reason with himself, why have I this comfort that another wants? I am God's steward; God hath not given it to me to lay up, but to lay out. To speak a little of outward comforts. It is cursed atheism in many rich persons, that think they are to live here only to scrape an estate for them and their children ; when in the mean time their neighbours want, and God's children want, that are as dear to God as themselves, and perish for want of comfort. If they were not atheists in this point, they would think I am a steward, and what comfort shall I have of scraping much? That will but increase my account. Such a steward were mad that would desire a great account. The more my account is, the more I have to answer for, and the more shall be my punishment if I quit not all well.
Now men out of atheism, that do not believe a day of judgment, a time of account, they engross comforts to them and theirs, as if there were not a church, as if there were not an afflicted body of Christ. They think not that they are stewards. Whereas the time will come, when they shall have more comfort of that that they have bestowed, than of that that they shall leave behind them to their children. That which is wisely dispensed for the comfort of God's people, it will comfort us, when all that we shall leave behind will not, nay, perhaps it will trouble us, the ill getting of it.
And so whatsoever inward comforts we have, it is for the comfort of others. We are debtors of it. Whatsoever ability we have, as occasion is offered, if there be a necessity in those that are of the same body with ourselves, we ought to regard them in pity and compassion. If we should see a poor creature cast himself into a whirlpool, or plunge himself into some desperate pit, were we not accessory to his death, if we should not help him! if we would not pull one out of the fire? Oh, yes! and is not the soul in as great danger? and is not mercy to the soul the greatest mercy? shall we see others ready to be swallowed up in the pit of despair, with heaviness of spirit? shall we see them dejected, and not take it to heart? But either we are unable to minister a word of comfort to them, or else unwilling: as if we were of Cain's disposition, that we would look to ourselves only; 'we are none of their keepers,'Gen. iv. 9.
It is a miserable thing to profess ourselves to be members of that body whereof Christ is the head, to profess the communion of saints, and yet to be so dead hearted in these particular exigencies and occasions. It lies upon us as a duty, if God convey comforts to us from others ; and his end in comforting us any way, of putting any comfort in our hands outward or inward, it is to comfort others. If we do it not, we are liable to sin, to the breach of God's command, and we frustrate God's end.
But if this lie upon us as a duty to comfort others, then it concerns us to know how to be able to do it.
That we may be able to comfort others, let us,
(1.) Be ready to take notice of the grievance of others; as Moses went to see the afflictions of his brethren, and when he saw it, laid it to heart, Ex. iv. 31.
It is a good way to go to 'the house of mourning,'Eccles. vii. 2, and not to balk and decline our Christian brethren in adversity. God ' knows our souls in adversity, Ps. xxxi. 7 ; so should we do the souls of others, if they be knit to us in any bond of kindred, or nature, or neighbourhood, or the like. That bond should provoke us; for bonds are as the veins and arteries to derive comfort. All bonds are to derive good, whether bonds of neighbourhood, or acquaintance, etc. A man should think with himself, I have this bond to do my neighbour good. It is God's providence that I should be acquainted with him, and do that to him that I cannot do to a stranger. Let us consider all bonds, and let this work upon us: let us consider their grievance is a bond to tie us.
(2.) And withal let us labour to put upon us the bowels of a father and mother, tender bowels, as God puts upon him bowels of compassion towards us. So St Paul, being an excellent comforter of others, in 1 Thess. ii. 7, he shews there how he carried himself as a father, or mother, or nurse to them. Those that will comfort others, they must put upon them the affections of tender creatures as may be. They must be patient, they must be tenderly affected, they must have love, they must have the graces of communion.
What be the graces of communion? The graces of Christian communion to fit us in the communion of saints to do good, they are a loving, meek, patient spirit. Love makes patient. As we see mothers and nurses, what can they not endure of their children, because they love them? And they must be likewise wise and furnished. They that will comfort others must get wisdom and ability. They must get humility, they must abase themselves that they may be comfortable to others, and not stand upon terms. These be the graces of communion that fit us for the communion of saints.
What is the reason that many are so untoward to this duty, and have no heart to it, that they cannot indeed do it?
The reason is, they consider not their bonds: they do not 'consider the poor and needy,'Ps. xli. 1. They have not the graces of communion, they want loving spirits, they want ability, they are empty, they are not furnished, they have not knowledge laid up in store, they want humble spirits. The want of these graces makes us so barren in this practice of the communion of saints. Therefore we should bewail our own barrenness when we should do such duties, and cannot. And beg of God the spirit of love and wisdom, that we may do things wisely, that we may speak that which is fit. 'A word in season is as apples of gold with pictures of silver,'Prov. xxv. 11. And let us beg a humble spirit, that we may be abased to comfort others. As Christian love to us he abased himself, he became man, and when he was man, he became a servant, he abased himself to wash his disciples'feet, talk with a silly woman, and such base offices. And if the Spirit of Christ be in us, it will abase us to offices of love, to support one another, to bear one another's burthens,'Gal. vi. 2.
(3.) Again, if we would comfort others as we should, let us labour to get experience of comfort in ourselves. God comforteth us that we might be able to comfort others. He will easily kindle others that is all on fire himself, and that is comforted himself. He can easily comfort others with that comfort he feels himself. Those that have experience can do it best.
As we see in physicians, if there be two physicians, whereof the one hath been sick of the disease that he is to cure in another; the other perhaps is more excellent than he otherwise, but he hath never been sick of it; the patient will sooner trust himself with the experienced physician than with the other ; for undoubtedly he is better seen in that than the other, though perhaps the other may be a greater booked learned physician than he. As it is with the physicians of the body, so it is with the physician of the soul the experienced physician is the best. What is the reason that old men, and wise men, are the mercifulest of all? Because they have had experience of many crosses and miseries. A wise man knows what crosses are; he understands them best.
The way, then, to comfort others, is to get experience of divine comforts ourselves. And that we may get experience of God's comforts, let us mark what was said before of the rules of comfort, and work upon our own hearts whatsoever may be comfortable to others ; that we may not be empty trunks to speak words without feeling.
He that is well may speak very good things to a sick man, but the sick man sees that he speaks without pity and compassion. Those that have been sick of the same disease, when they come to comfort, they do it with a great deal of meekness and mildness. Those that are fit to comfort others must be spiritual themselves first, as the apostle saith, Gal. vi. 1. Saith the wise and holy apostle, 'If any man be overtaken,'as, alas! we are all overtaken with some corruption or other, 'ye that are spiritual, restore such a one,'set him in joint, as the word is (i), 'with the spirit of meekness, knowing that thou thyself mayest be tempted.'
The Spirit of God is a Spirit of comfort. The more we have of the Spirit, the fitter we are to comfort others. We see many men will speak very good things, but they do but personate sorrow, and personate comfort. It comes from them without feeling. As he saith, If thou didst believe these things that thou speakest, wouldst thou ever say them so? He that speaks good things without experience, he speaks as if he did never believe them. Those that speak things with experience, that have wrought them upon their hearts and spirits, there is such a demonstration in the manner of their speaking, of a spirit of love and meekness, and compassion, that it prevails marvellously. It is so true that our Saviour Christ himself, that he might have the more tender bowels of compassion towards us, he made it one end of his incarnation, as it is pressed again and again in Heb. ii. and Heb. iv. The apostle dwells upon it, It became him to be man, to take upon him our infirmities, that he might be a merciful Redeemer, a merciful high priest,'Heb. ii. 17. It was one end of his incarnation that he might not only save us, but that he might be a merciful Redeemer, that he might have experience of our infirmities. Of persecution, he was persecuted himself; of want, he wanted himself; of temptation, he was tempted himself; of wrath, he felt it himself, I My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'Mark xv. 34.
Here is the comfort of a Christian soul, that Christ hath begun to him in all. Therefore it became him to be man, not only to redeem us, but to be a merciful high priest, a comfortable high priest.
The way, then, you see, how to comfort others, is, to get our own hearts sensible of spiritual comfort. Two irons, if they be both hot, do close together presently, but unless both be hot, they do not join together handsomely. So that that makes us join together strongly is, if two spirits meet, and both be warm; if one godly man comfort another godly man; if one holy man labour to breed an impression of heat in another, there is a knitting of both spirits, they join strongly together. Therefore we ought to labour to get experience, that we may comfort others, seeing none can comfort so well as experimental Christians.
Quest. Why is experience such an enabling to spiritual comfort?
Ans. 1. I answer, because it brings the comfort home to our own souls. The devil knows comfort well enough, but he feels none. Experience helps faith, it helps all other knowledge. Our Saviour Christ is said to learn by experience, for 'he learned obedience in that he suffered,'Heb. v. 8. Experience is such a means of the increasing of knowledge, as that it bettered the knowledge of Christ, that had all knowledge in him. He had knowledge by looking upon God, being the 'wisdom of God,'1 Cor. i. 30, yet he learned somewhat by the experience, he bettered himself by experience. He knew what to bear the cross was by experience. He knew what infirmities were by experience. He knew what he could suffer by experience. So it added to his knowledge as man. And so the angels themselves are continual students in the mysteries of the gospel. They get experimental knowledge to the knowledge that they have inbred, and that knowledge that they have by the presence of God. To that they add experimental knowledge.
So then, if it bettered the knowledge of our blessed Saviour, and increased it, [if] it was a new way increased by experience, and it adds to the knowledge of the angels, much more to ours.
2. Then, again, it gains a great confidence in the speaker; for what we speak with experience, we speak with a great deal of boldness.
3. Again, experimental comforts, those that we have felt ourselves, and have felt likewise the grievance, we speak them with such expressions as no other can do, in the apprehension of the party whom we comfort, so well as an experienced person. For he goes about the work tenderly and gently and lovingly, because he hath been in the same himself. And that is the reason that the apostle St Paul, in the place I named before, Gal. vi. 1, presseth this duty upon spiritual men, especially because themselves have been tempted, and may be tempted. Those that have been tempted, and think they may be afterward, this doth wondrously fit them for this world of comforting others. But to add a little in this point, to shew how to comfort others by our own experience and skill, I spake before of an art of comforting ourselves. There is a skill likewise in comforting others. Even as we comfort ourselves, in that method we must comfort others. When we comfort ourselves, we must first consider our need of comfort, search our wounds, our maladies, have them fresh in our sight, that so we may be forced to seek for comfort; and as we ought to do this daily, so when we are to comfort others,
(1.) We ought not only to comfort them, but to search them as much as we can, what sin is in them, and what misery is upon them, and acquaint them with their own estate that they are in, as far as we can discern. We may judge of them partly by ourselves. For we must not prostitute comforts to persons that are indisposed, till we see them fitted. God doth comfort, but it is the abject. Christ heals, but [it] is the wounded spirit. He came to seek, but it is those that are lost. He came to ease, but it is those that are 'heavy laden.'Therefore, that we may comfort them to purpose, we ought to shew, and discover to them, what estate they are in, that we may force them to comfort, if they be not enemies to comfort and to their own souls.
He is an unwise physician that administers cordials before he gives preparatives to carry away the noisome humours. They will do little good. We ought therefore to prepare them this way, if we intend to do them good.
(2.) And then when we see what need they stand in, bring them to Christ and the covenant of grace. That is the best way to comfort them, to bring them to see that God is their Father, when we discern some signs of grace in them. For this is the main stop in all comfort, that there is none but they shall find by experience. They are ready to say, You teach wondrous comforts, that there is an inheritance in heaven that God hath provided; and on earth, there is an issue of all for good, and there is a presence of God in troubles! This is true; but how shall I know this belongs to me
This is the cavil of flesh and blood, that turns the back to the most heavenly comforts that are. The main and principal thing therefore in dealing with others, and with our own hearts, is to let them see that there are some signs and evidences that they are in the covenant of grace, that they belong to God. Unless we see that, all the comfort we can give them is to tell them that they are not yet sunk into hell, and that they have space to repent. But as long as men live in sinful courses, that they are not in a state of grace, we can tell them no comfort, except they will devise a new Scripture, a new Bible. If they do so, they may have comfort. But this word of God, God herein speaks no comfort to persons that live in sin, and will do so. We should labour therefore to discern some evidence that they are in the state of grace.
And ofttimes those are indeed most entitled to comfort that think it furthest from them. Therefore we should acquaint them with the conditions of the covenant of grace, that God looks to truth. Therefore if we discern any true, broken, humble spirit, a hungering and a thirsting after righteousness, and a desire of comfort, Blessed are those that hunger and thirst,'Mat. v. 6 ; it belongs to them, we may comfort them. If we see spiritual poverty, that they see their wants, and would be supplied, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit,'Mat. v. 3 ; 'Be of good comfort,'Christ calls such, Mat. x.49. If they see and feel the burden of their sins, we may comfort them. Christ calls them, 'Come unto me, ye that are weary and heavy laden,' Mat. xi. 28. If we discern spiritual and heavenly desires to grow in grace and overcome their corruptions, if we discover and discern this in their practice and obedience, God will fulfill the desires of them that fear him,'Ps. cxlv. 19. And he accepts the will for the deed.
There is a desire of happiness in nature that comforts not a man.
It is no sign of grace to desire to be free from hell and to be in heaven.
It is a natural desire. Every creature wishes well to heaven. But if there
be a desire of the means that tend to heaven, a desire of grace, these
are evidences of grace. These are the pulses that we may find grace by;
when they see their infirmities, and groan under them, and would be better,
and complain that they are not better, and are out of love with their own
hearts. There is a combat in their hearts, they are not friends with
themselves. When we see this inward conflict, and a desire to better, and
to get victories against their corruptions, though there be many corruptions
and weaknesses, a man may safely say, they are in a state of grace, they
are on the mending hand. For 'Christ will not break the bruised reed, nor
quench the smoking flax,'Mat. xii. 20. 'And where he hath begun a
good work, he will perfect it to the day of the Lord,'Philip. i. 6. He will cherish these weak beginnings, therefore we may comfort them on good ground.
(3.) Then, besides that, in our dealing with them, when we have discovered, by some evidence, that they belong to the covenant, that we see, by some love to good things, and to God's image in his children, and by other evidences, then we may comfort them boldly; and then to fetch from our own experience, what a comfort will it be to such! When we can say, My estate was as yours is; I found those corruptions that you groan under; I allowed not myself in them as you do not. When a man can say from his own experience, that notwithstanding these I have evident signs of God's Spirit that I am his, then he can comfort others by his own experience.
(4.) And what a comfort is it to go to the experiments/examples of Scripture! It is an excellent way. As now, let a man be deserted of God, David will comfort him by his experience, Ps. lxxvii. 2, 8, 10, where he saith he found God as his enemy; and as Job saith, 'the terrors of God drank up his spirit,'Job vi. 4. Be of good comfort! David would come and comfort thee if he were alive. If the terror of God be against thee for sin, that thy conscience is awakened, be of good comfort! Christ, if he were on earth, would chew thee by his own example that he endured that desertion on the cross: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' Mark xv. 34. If thou be molested and vexed with Satan, Job will comfort thee by his example. His book is most of it combating and comfort. And so for all other grievances, go to the Scriptures. Whatsoever is written, is written for our learning,'Pray to God, and he will hear thee as he did Elias.
Obj. Oh! but Elias was an excellent man.
Ans. The Scripture prevents/anticipates the objection: 'he was a man subject to infirmities,'James v. 17. If God heard him, he will hear thee. Believe in Christ, as Abraham did, 'the father of the faithful,'in the promised Messiah, and he will forgive thee all thy sins.
Obj. Oh! but he had a strong faith.
Ans. What hath the Scripture to take away this objection? In Rom. iv. 23, 'This was not written for Abraham only, but for those that believe with the faith of Abraham.'
Obj. Aye, but I am a wretched sinner, there is little hope of me.
Ans. Yes! St Paul will come and comfort thee by his example and experience: 'This is a faithful saying, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief,'1 Tim. i. 15.
Obj. Aye, he came to save such sinners as St Paul was.
Ans. Aye, saith St Paul, 'and that I might be an example to all that shall believe in Christ, to the end of the world,'1 Tim. i. 16. He takes away that objection. And the apostle is so heavenly wise, that where he speaks of privileges, he enlargeth it to others. 'There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus,'Rom. viii. 1. 'And what shall separate us from the love of God?'Verse. 35. But when he speaks of matter of abasement, that we may see that he was, in regard of his corruptions, as much humbled as we, then he speaks in his own person: '0 wretched man that I am! who shall delivere me from this body of death?' Rom. vii. 24. Therefore his comforts belong to thee. Now, as these examples in Scripture, and the experiences of God's children there, be applicable to us, so much more the experience of God's children that are alive. Therefore we should be willing to do offices of comfort in this kind.
Those that are of ability, either men or women, they will have in their houses somewhat to comfort others, they will have strong waters, and cordials, and medicines; and they account it a glory to have somewhat that their neighbours may be beholden to them for. And though they bestow it freely, yet they think and account it a sufficient recompence that they can be beneficial to others. People do this for things of this life, and think they deserve a great deal of respect for their goodness in this kind. Surely, if we consider, there is a life that needs comfort more than this fading life, and there are miseries that pinch us more than the miseries of the body! Every one should labour to have in the house of his soul somewhat, some strong waters of comfort, that he may be able to tell others, This refreshed my soul, this hath done me good; I give you no worse than I took myself first. This wondrously commends the comfort in the party that gives it, and it commends it to the party that receives it, to take benefit by the comforts of other men. For is it not a strengthening to our case when another shall say to our comfort, It was my case? Is it not sealed by the evidence of two? Surely it is a great assurance when we have another to tell us his experience.
Use 1. Again, if this be God's order, that he will convey comfort to us by others, then we ought to depend upon God's ordinance, we ought to expect comfort one from another, especially from the ministers, who are messengers of comfort. I speak it the rather, because in what degree we neglect any one means that God hath ordained to comfort us, though he be the God of comfort, yet in that measure we are sure to want comfort. And this is one principal ordinance, the ministry, and the communion of saints.
Some there be that will neglect the means of salvation. They have dead spirits, and live and die so, for the most part. They have much ado to recover comfort. Those men that retire themselves, that will work all out of the flint themselves, they are commonly uncomfortable. God hath ordained one to help another, as in an arch one stone strengtheneth another. The ministry especially is ordained for comfort.
2. And likewise God hath ordained one Christian to comfort another, as well as the ministers. Let us therefore regard much the communion of saints. Let one Christian labour to comfort another, and every one labour to be fit to receive comfort from others, labour to have humble and willing spirits. It is so true that God doth convey comfort, even by common Christians as well as the ministers, that St Paul himself, Rom. i. 12 ; he desires to see the Romans, 'that he might receive mutual comfort from them.'For a minister may have more knowledge and book learning perhaps than another Christian that may have better experience than he, especially in some things; and there is not the meanest Christian but he may comfort the greatest clerk in the world, and help him by his experience that God hath shewed to him, by declaring how God chewed him comfort at such a time, and upon such an occasion. The experience of God's people, the meanest of them may help the best Christians. Therefore he will have none to be neglected.
There is never a member of Christ's body, but hath some ability to comfort another; for Christ hath no dead members. God will have it so, because he will have one Christian to honour another, and to honour them from the knowledge of the use and necessity that one hath of another. If God should not derive comfort from one to another in some degree, and from the meanest to the greatest, one would despise another. But God will not have it so. He will have the communion of saints valued to the end of the world. What will one Christian regard another, what would weak Christians regard the strong, and what would strong Christians regard the weak, if there were not a continual supply one from another? Therefore God hath ordained that by the ministry, and by the communion of saints, we should comfort one another.
Let us not think that this doth not concern us. It concerns us all. Therefore when we have any trouble in mind, let us regard the communion of saints, let us regard acquaintance. And let us know this, that God will hold us in heaviness till we have used all the means that he hath appointed. If one help not, perhaps another will; perhaps the ministry will help, perhaps acquaintance will help. But if we find not comfort in one, let us go over all. And, would you have more? Christ himself, did ha not take two disciples into the garden with him when his spirit was heavy? Did not he know that God had ordained one to comfort another? 'Two are better than one,'Eccles. iv. 9. If one be alone, he shall be a cold, but if there be two, they heat one another. If there be one alone, there can hardly be true spiritual heat. If two be together, if one fall, 'the other may raise him up,'Eccles. iv. 10, but if one be alone and fall, who shall raise him up? It is meant spiritually, as well as bodily and outwardly by Solomon.
We cannot have a better precedent than our blessed Saviour. Solitariness in such times in spiritual desertion 'it is the hour of temptation.'When did the devil set on Christ? When he was alone. It was the fittest time to tempt him when Christ was severed. So the devil sets on single, persons when they are alone, and tempts them, and presseth them with variety of temptations. 'Woe to him that is alone,'Eccles. iv. 10. Christ sent his disciples by two and two, that one might comfort another, and one might strengthen another, Mark vi. 7.
Now, though in particular it belong to ministers in a more eminent sort ; yet let every one lay it to heart, you ought to have abilities to comfort others, and to receive comfort of others. And consider it is an angelical work to comfort others. We imitate God himself, and the most excellent creatures the angels, whose office is to comfort. Even our very Saviour, they came to comfort him in his greatest extremity. A man is a good to a man when he comforts. When he discomforts, and directs, and withdraws, he is a devil to a man. Men are beasts to men, devils to men, that way. But he that is an instrument to convey comfort, he is a good to a man. God is the God of comfort. Thou art in the place of God to a man when thou comfortest him, thou shalt save thyself and others. God honours men with his own title when they comfort. Not only ministers, but others save men. Thou shalt gain thy brother,'by thy admonition and reproof. What greater honour can ye have than God's own title, to be saviours one of another ? It is the office, I say, of angels. They were sent to comfort Christ. It is their duty to pitch their tents about God's children, to suggest holy thoughts, as the devil suggests evil, and to be about us, though we think not of it. Nay, it is not only an angelical work, but it is the work of God's Spirit. The sweetest style of the Holy Ghost is to be a comforter.'
What shall we think of cursed spirits that insult over others' misery, that give them gall to eat, and vinegar to drink, that add affliction to the afflicted? What shall we say to barren spirits, that have not a word of comfort to say, but come in a profane and dead manner, I am sorry to see you thus, and I hope you will better. Barren soul, as the wilderness ! What! a member of Christ, of the communion of saints, and no way furnished, no word of comfort to a distressed soul! We may know the comfort we have ourselves to be comfort indeed, and from the grace and favour of God, when we have hearts enlarged to do good to others with it.
How do gifts and grace differ, to add that useful distinction? And a man may have a great many gifts and be proud, and full of envy, and have a devilish poisonful spirit to draw all to himself, and not be good, but be carried with self love, and die a devil, notwithstanding his excellent parts. Why? Here are such gifts, and parts, but there is a bitter root of self-love to draw all to himself, to deify himself, to make an idol of himself. But grace with gifts works otherwise. That turns all by a spirit of love and humility to the good of others.
There is no envy in a gracious heart. So far forth as it is gracious there is no pride, no scorn to do good to others. How shall we distinguish men of excellent parts, whether they be Christians or not Christians? They have both of them wit and memory, they have both courage. Aye, but whether of them improve their parts and abilities most to the good of others ? Whether of them hath the most humble spirit, the most loving spirit, the most discreet spirit, to be witty/wise to do good to others upon all advantages. There is the Christian that hath God's grace with his gifts. But for the other, 'Knowledge puffeth up,'saith the apostle, 1 Cor. viii. 1. What edifies and builds us? 'Love edifieth,'1 Cor. viii. 1. Knowledge gathers many materials, stone, and timber, etc. What builds the house, the body of Christ? It is a loving and humble spirit.
Therefore let us think that we have nothing in Christianity, by any parts we have, of memory or wit, or reading, etc., unless we have a humble spirit, that we can deny ourselves and debase ourselves to do good to others upon all the beat advantages ; or else we have not the spirit of Christ, that sweet spirit of Christ that denied himself to do good to us.
Where grace is established once, and is in the right nature, there is a public mind; and it is one of the best signs of a heart that is fashioned to the image of Christ, who denied himself, and became all in all to us, to have a public mind, to have self love killed, to think I have nothing to purpose as I should have, except I can make use of it to the good of others. Therefore let us be willing to do good in this kind.
And as I said, let us make use of comfort from others. Think that they are reserved to the times and place where thou livest, that thou mightest make use of them. Therefore those that need comfort should not flatter themselves in their grief, but humbly depend upon the means that God hath ordained. And let every man think, what if God have hid my comfort in another man? What if he have given him the tongue of the learned,'Isa. 1. 4, to speak a word in season unto me? Let no man think to master his trouble and grief by himself. We are members of the body, and the good that God will convey to us, must be from and by others. Therefore it is a mutual duty. Those that have comfort ought to comfort others ; and those that do need comfort, ought to repair to others. It is the ordinance of God, as Job saith, for one of 'a thousand to skew a man his righteousness,' Job xxxiii. 23. Though a man be never so wise, yet sometimes he knows not his own comfort. He knows not that portion of comfort that belongs to him, till some others discover it to him. Physicians will have others to heal themselves, to judge of their diseases; and certainly one reason why persons that are excellent in themselves, have passed their days in darkness, it hath been this, that they think to overmaster their heaviness and distraction of spirit with their own reason, etc., which will not be. God, what he will do, he will do by his own means and ordinance.
Use 3. Let us therefore learn, hence, to see the goodness of God, that besides the ministry that he hath ordained, and the salvation that he keeps for us, and the promises that he hath given us, and the angels that attend us, etc., he doth even ordain others, that are men, and have bodies with ourselves, other fellow Christians, to be instruments to convey comfort. He trains them up, that they may be able to comfort, and do good to us; and he hides the good he intends to us in them, and conveys it to us by them. It is a special goodness of God, that everything should tend to our good. Thus all things are for us. The sufferings of others tend to increase our comfort, and the comfort of others is for our comfort. There is such a sweet prudence in directing us to heaven, that God makes everything help ; not only our own troubles that we suffer ourselves, but he doth sweetly turn the troubles of others, and the comforts of others to our good.
It ministereth an argument of praising and blessing of God; and that
we should answer him in the like, that as he hath devised all the ways
that may be of comforting us, of turning all to our good, that that we
suffer ourselves, and that that others suffer; so we should study by all
means and ways to set forth his glory, and no way to grieve the Spirit
of so gracious a God, that thus every way intends our comfort.
PeaceMakers International, Inc.