THE CONSOLATION"He will comfort us." Genesis 5:29
Thus speaks the patriarch Lamech. Such is his voice of joy, when he receives his first-born Noah. He was tilling a soil hardened by the curse—fruitful only in thorns and thistles. But now a son is given to share the painfulness of his daily toil. Cheered by this hope, he calls his name Noah, which has the meaning of Rest or Comfort. Reader! in these simple pages there is but one thing sought: the best good of undying souls. Therefore I examine not whether this name was designed as another ray of the coming Savior. I rather proceed to realities, which all experience. I rather turn to tidings, which are bright on the Gospel surface.
I first state a fact, which is ancient as the fall, and wide-spread as man. It is this—A sinful world is a tearful world. Wherever we stand, our shadow is sorrow. It s so before the flood. It is so now. In all climates and ranks, the head is weary, and the heart is sick.
I next state a truth, which came in, as twin-born, with the earliest promise. It is this—Consolation is provided. God has sent forth Christ Jesus from the bosom of His love to be the Consolation of this woe-worn world. It is my longing desire that this heavenly knowledge would more largely shed its pure balm. I mourn that men should drink nothing but the dregs of bitterness, while healing streams flow close beside them. Let me invite you, then, to come with me for a few moments into some of the chambers of earth's grief. I can show you there, with the Spirit helping, that in Jesus Christ there is a pillow for the throbbing brow—a cordial for the fainting spirit—a plank for the sinking—a haven for the tempest-tossed.
I need scarcely say that the heart of misery is misery of heart—the soul of anguish is anguish of soul. But where is the home of this extreme distress? Surely in the breast of him whose conscience is awake to discern the nature—the evil—the wages—of his sins. The nest of self-delusion has now become a bed of thorns. Before his eyes God frowns, dreadful in justice. In his ears the law thunders a tremendous curse. He moves forward, and there is a gaping hell. Shall he stir—the next step may cast him headlong into flames. Shall he sleep—he may awake among the lost. Where can comfort reach a mind thus tortured? It cannot spring from earth. For let the world now present its every charm; how worthless are they! The world has nothing, but for a sin-blinded man. When things are seen as they really are, earthly toys are worse than empty bubbles.
Comfort, to be comfort now, must come from heaven. All is mockery, except it can tell of God reconciled—sin pardoned—the soul safe. Now Jesus can raise out of these lowest depths; and He alone. He can guide the trembler to His cross. He can reveal to him there a heavenly Father, arrayed in glories of eternal love. He can point to His own dying as the death of wrath. He can show the sword of justice sheathed in His own heart—the flames of vengeance quenched in His own blood—the hand, that was uplifted to strike, now extended to bless—all hell piled upon the Guiltless, and heaven freely given to the guilty! Is not this Consolation? It is! And Jesus pours it from His wounded hands and pierced side!
Is not this, I repeat, Consolation? Ask those who have tasted it. Ask the jailor. Terror-stricken he sprang in—wrath was at his heels—he heard of Jesus—peace soothed his fears, and he rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. But it occurs, alas! too often, that they who have escaped, as drowning mariners, to this rock, are enticed again to stray. They cease to watch and pray. Then the tempter finds an open door. They neglect the preserving means of grace. Then the foe creeps in. The Spirit is grieved and withdraws. Corruptions regain their power. Woe to backsliders! what wretchedness is theirs! Consciousness of peril returns, and it is embittered by keen self-reproach. They see how basely they have deserted the Friend, who had said to them, while in their blood, Live.
Reader! perhaps this agony is yours. You once had rest in Jesus, but it is gone. The fault is wholly your own. He did not drive you from Him. You have departed from Him. And now you sigh, Oh! that it were with me, as in the days when the Sun of Righteousness shone upon my path. Do not be tearless, for grievous is your fall. But do not be hopeless, for Jesus is yet near. His voice still follows you, "Return, and I will not cause My anger to fall upon you." In nothing is His tenderness more tender, than in stilling the sobs of those who sob in penitence before Him. Return then. The Lord still extends the arms of His pitifulness. He is the balm in Gilead. He is the Physician there. He cannot be silent to the cry, "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation."
There are others who closely cling to the Lord, and yet are disquieted. They gratefully acknowledge, "Hitherto has the Lord helped us;" but heaven seems far off; the pilgrimage is long; adversaries are many; their own strength totters—they look to the winds and waves, and trembling takes hold upon them; they say with David, we shall one day perish by the hand of Saul.
Reader! perhaps you have such heart-felt misgivings. Truly if Jesus were other than He is, you might thus faint. But now I am bold to bid you arise and shake yourself from the dust. Open your eyes and read His heart. It speaks one language. It is all encouragement. It tells of faithful love, which, as it never had beginning, so it can have no end. He draws you to the shelter of His wings, and there stifles each rising doubt by assurances as large as they are free—as gentle as they are countless. He tells you, "Because I live, you shall live also." "Your life is hidden with Christ in God." If you ask richer Consolation, you ask more than God can give.
But afflictions break upon you with ceaseless tide. This is to be expected. It is our common lot. There is no home so lowly, but some sorrow finds the door. There is no palace so upraised, but some sorrow mounts the steps. Faith shields not from this. "In the world you shall have tribulation." But welcome all sorrow, if Jesus enters by its side! This always is so to the true believer. Health may wither like a fading flower; languor and disease may feed upon the frame; there may be tossings to and fro until the dawning of the day. But Jesus can relax with smiles the pain-contracted brow, and charm with songs the wakeful night. Earthly possessions may crumble to decay; poverty may sit where affluence used to smile.
But can the believer's portion fail? Oh, no! he has all the treasures in the word, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not lack." Friends may forsake; averted looks may chill. There may be treachery or open hate, where once much love was pretended. Jesus knew this trial in its bitterest form. Hence He is quick to prove that He changes not with the changing world. He magnifies His sympathy by sticking closer than a brother. His own presence more than fills each void within.
But death draws on with rapid step. Yes! it will soon draw back the covers of your bed, and extend an icy hand to bear you there. You will then need strong Consolation. Long-tried props can prop no more. Alone you must go through the dark valley. But not alone! For Jesus whispers, "I am with you. Thus I guide to my many-mansioned home." So the last trial is the last and largest Consolation.
Believer, let me beg you to live and die leaning on Jesus as your Consolation. Would you be expert in this happy state? Make it, then, your daily habit to meditate upon Himself—His promises—His dealings. Hold close communion with Him. Measure the breadth, the length, the depth, the height of His office and His work. Be assured that all that He is, and all that He has, and all that He has done, and all that He is doing, and all that He will do, is yours. You have never been absent from His heart, and never can be. You are a member "of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones." Abide in Him at all seasons, and all seasons will be comfort.
Strike, too, the rock of the promises with the rod of faith. Sweet waters will gush out. They will flow very deep, and very broad, and all within this channel, "Comfort, comfort, my people, says your God." Take frequent walks also by the side of the faithful pilgrims of old. Precious is their companionship. They may be sorrowful, yet they are always rejoicing. They may be homeless wanderers, as Jacob was, yet they are comforted. They may pine long in dungeons and under evil fame, as Joseph did, yet they are comforted. They may be destitute of all things, as Elijah was, yet they are comforted. They may flee for their lives and hide themselves in caves of the earth, as David did, yet they are comforted. They may be in the hottest fire of persecution, as the three captive youths were, yet they are comforted. They may be in all perils, and in the wildest storms, as Paul was; they may be called to bear faithful witness in scoffing crowds, or before frowning tyrants, as this apostle was, yet they are comforted. They may die the martyr's death under showers of crushing stones, as Stephen did, yet they are comforted. They may lose all things, yet they never lose the Consolation, which is in Christ Jesus. It is the work of His Spirit. It is the gift of His grace. It is the token of His indwelling. It is the foretaste of His heaven!
Perhaps the eyes of some rest upon these pages, who are strangers to this deep well-spring of Consolation. Unhappy men! Your hearts are a disconsolate blank. You have been sowing vanity, and what do you now reap? You have made the world your all, what has it given you? If much be obtained, more is coveted. Possessions do not content. Pursuits only weary. This hour is fretfulness. The next is a dreaded abyss. You wander over fields of anxiety, and there is no place of rest. Society is a hollow insipidity. Solitude is a dismal gloom. Where are your comforts? There are none in the retrospect, none in hand, none in the horizon. The past upbraids, the present dissatisfies, the future terrifies! A condemning voice within tells you, that is true. Turn not, then, from the beseeching voice of this page. Be persuaded. Consent, consent to be happy. "Seek the Lord while He may be found." "Take with you words." Plead with Him His office, "The Lord has anointed Me to comfort all that mourn in Zion." Plead with Him His call, "Come unto Me, all you that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Plead with Him His promise, "I will not leave you comfortless." Plead with Him His title, "The Consolation of Israel." Plead with Him His tender voice, "As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you." Plead with Him the dreadful gulf between the saved and the lost, "Now he is comforted, and you are tormented." Plead with him the command from heaven, "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God." Cease not thus to plead, until you can say of Him, who is far greater than Noah, "This same shall comfort us."
d with favor on Abel and his offering." Genesis 4:4
A long course of years has fled since the earth drank in the blood of Abel. His was the earliest of all graves. But he is not silent in it. His faith has an ever-living voice. No time can stop its warning sound. "By it, he, being dead, yet speaks." Such is the heaven-told fact. Surely then there must be much most worthy of notice in his testimony, since it thus rolls on from age to age. Its subjects must be all-important. It is so—none can be compared to it. It is so—for it proclaims the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the purpose of its call to every child of man, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." Trust in His blood. Plead nothing but His death before God. Make His cross your only hope.
Reader! perhaps you have never found all this Gospel in Abel's brief life. But it is there. Unfold with me the record; and let us do so in humble prayer, that the Spirit may graciously teach. For without His aid, none ever see the Lord. Abel stands before us in the lovely character of one whose spirit rejoices in God his Savior. This is the prominent feature in his portrait. He selects the firstborn of his flock. He brings it as an offering. He lays it on the altar. He raises the knife. He takes the life, as a debt due to God. Such is his conduct. But what moves him to this mode of worship? He must have some grand intent. Let us trace it.
Did reason convince him that he was a sinner, and show him that, as such, his own life was forfeited? Did it whisper the hope, that he might recover it, by giving another in its place? Did it suggest the idea that the death of a guiltless victim might be the release of a guilty soul? That could not be. A sinner's blindness never suspects the real desert of sin—much less can it imagine a blood-stained ransom. There is God in that thought.
But while we thus inquire, Scripture draws back the veil and tells us the principle, which lived in his heart. It was faith. "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." Thus the case is cleared. For faith is trust in God, and humble reliance on His Word. God speaks—and faith hears—believes—obeys. Faith can breathe only in the atmosphere of revelation. It can stand only on the rock of divine promise. It has no ear, but for heavenly tidings. It can read only what the finger of God writes. It can always give a reason, even this, "The mouth of the Lord has spoken it."
We are sure, then, that since Abel offered in faith, he was following the positive directions of God. We are thus led to read many of the workings of his soul in this service. It cannot be, but that his parents had made known to him, in terms of shame, the enormity of their willful fall. Hence he knew how it occurred, that he was born a child of wrath, and an heir of corrupted nature. But could they pause here? Oh! no. Adoring gratitude would constrain them to add that pardon was provided, and that a Redeemer, all-qualified and mighty to save, was coming to lay down His life. They would teach, too, that a holy rite had been ordained by God to exercise faith, and to keep alive the expectation of the atoning lamb. This was the Bible unto Abel. Here he would read the main lessons of the Gospel of salvation. He staggered not through unbelief. He embraced the truth wholly unto life eternal. In the twilight of the world, he saw the Sun of Righteousness.
Reader! does not this bring condemnation to multitudes, who in the full blaze of light never get saving faith? We thus gain insight into the spiritual man of Abel. He stands at this altar, a man of humility—faith—love. He is full of self-abasement. He abhors himself in dust and ashes. His act confesses that he is a lost, and ruined, and undone sinner. He sees that eternal rejection is his due. He feels that he has no power of himself to help himself.
But he is full of faith. In looking off from himself he looks upward to another. He knows, that in the heaven of heavens there lives a Savior ready to fly down with healing in His wings. He sees in the blood of his victim, a pledge of the blood prepared to cleanse him to the very uttermost. He is full, too, of sanctifying love. For no man can trust in mercy so full, so unmerited, so suitable, so effectual, without feeling, that thus purchased from perdition, he must live a willing sacrifice to the God of grace.
At this time there was another by the side of Abel. But now a great gulf parts them. It was his brother Cain. He was born in like guilt. He doubtless shared the same parental instruction. In outward advantages there was no difference. But is their spiritual character the same? Far otherwise. The truth which melts the one, only hardens the other. One receives the blessing. The other abides under the curse. Their dealings with God manifest them. It is a sad sight. But we must not shrink from observing how Cain discovers himself. He seems to come to God. This is good. But what does he bring?—"The fruit of the ground." The first appearance is fair. But the disguise falls; and we see the hideous marks, which prove that he "was of that wicked one."
We find self-will at the root of his religion. God has ordained the way in which He was to be approached. Cain thinks that he can use a course more suited to the majesty of heaven and the dignity of man. He places his puny reason above the counsels of the All-wise. He turns from a revealed will to grope in the darkness of his own vain conceits.
Reader! is not this a pitiful case? But it is the delusion of many. "Professing themselves to be wise, they become fools." Self-will first makes a god—then a religion—and at last a pit of destruction for itself.
We next see pride in him. This must be, for it is the first-born of unenlightened reason. Creation leaves man dust. Sin makes him the vilest of dust. But still he walks vaingloriously, until grace opens his eyes, and lays him low in his proper humility. So it is with Cain. He feels neither sin, nor need of pardon. Therefore he proudly tramples on an offering, which tells him of nature's pollution. High-minded, he will not wash in the blood of the Redeemer, that he may be purified. Thus he is a model of that class, who, in every age, say, "We are rich and have need of nothing; and know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
There was unbelief, too. God had set before him the redemption of Jesus Christ. It was proclaimed in promise and in type. What more could have been done? But Cain believes not. Unbelief closes his eyes—he will not look to Jesus. It closes his hand—he will not lay hold on Him. It clogs his feet—he will not run to Him. It closes his ear—he will not hear of Him. It closes his mouth—he will not cry unto Him. It closes his heart—he will not receive Him. Do you marvel at his folly? Take heed! Take heed! Conscience may know, "You are the man."
The end is quickly told. Bad soon becomes worse. Unbelief swiftly goes down to its place, where the Gospel is never preached, and hope never comes. God expostulates. Cain yields not. He sees the righteousness of faith, only to hate it. He seeks, by the murder of his faithful brother, to extinguish the light which upbraids him. He falls into the recklessness of despair. And now, from his everlasting chains, he cries, "Beware of rejecting the more excellent sacrifice."
Reader! it may be, that, careful about many things, you have, until now, been careless concerning that which should be the main concern of man. Listen, then, for a moment, I beseech you. Do you not hear a startling question from this story? It is this. Are you a follower of Abel or of Cain? In simpler terms, are you receiving or neglecting the Lord Jesus? I say the Lord Jesus. For this is the real point. He was the end of the "more excellent sacrifice," which Abel brought, which Cain scorned. He is the Lamb appointed by God, accepted of God, and led to our very doors in our Bibles. Who can utter the mighty motives which urge the sinner to avail himself of this sacrifice? They are more than the moments of eternity. Each speaks as loud as the thunders of Sinai. Each has a thrilling clang, as the trumpet of God.
Only consider its real power. It is just this. It saves forever all the souls of all poor sinners, who present it to God in faith. Now, is not your soul precious? It is so beyond all thought. It needs redemption from wrath and ruin. Are you prepared to offer its equal price? Suppose the balances of heaven brought out. What can you place as a counterpoise in the counter-scale? You have nothing, but what is lighter than vanity. Produce now "the more excellent sacrifice." Its worth is beyond all weight. Offer this, and you are saved. Will you now be Cain-like, and reject "the more excellent sacrifice"? Your sins are many. The sands of the sea-shore are few in comparison. But each must be blotted out, or you die. A sin unpardoned cannot enter heaven. What, then, will you do? One thing is clear. You cannot undo the done. You cannot recall the past. But behold "the more excellent sacrifice." It cleanses from all sin. Through it all manner of sin is forgiven to the children of men. It makes the scarlet, white as now, and the crimson, like wool. It changes the vilest into perfect purity. Its merits can render you spotless.
Will you be Cain-like, and reject "the more excellent sacrifice"? You need peace. Satan threatens. The law condemns. Conscience accuses. Your wounds are deep. Your burdens heavy. Memory shows frightful specters. The heart bleeds. You go mourning and heavy laden. You look to self. It is despair. You look to the world. It mocks your woe. You look to reform. It is a broken cistern. You fly to outside performances of devotion. They are reeds, which break and pierce the hand.
How different is "the more excellent sacrifice!" It tells you that God is satisfied, guilt remitted, and all accusers silent. It thus brings peace—perfect peace, which passes all understanding. Will you now be Cain-like, and reject "the more excellent sacrifice"?
You desire sanctification. You pant to be conformed to the image of Christ. This is well; for it is an eternal law of God, that without holiness no man shall see His face. But holiness can be learned only at this altar. It is a sight of the dying Jesus, which kills lust. It is the shadow of the cross, which causes evil to wither. A lover of iniquity cannot dwell on this hallowed ground. But there never was a holy man, who did not live in glory in "the more excellent sacrifice." If ever you would walk with God in true righteousness, you must not be Cain-like, and reject it. But remember this sacrifice is only one. Jesus by the one offering of Himself, once made, "has perfected forever those who are sanctified." Pass by it, and you can find none else. Pass by it today, and you may seek it in vain tomorrow.
Hear, then, the voice of Abel, which calls you without delay to hasten to the one altar of salvation. Reader! turn not from these humble lines, until in truth you can say, I rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ, I find Him to be "the more excellent sacrifice."
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