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and conscientiously to the duties and studies of their profession; to preach with force and effect
. that word which is in the hearts of men as fire, enlightening the dark, warming the cold, melting the hard, and purifying the defiled. It is he who
gives them the tongue of the learned,” who both disposes and enables them “to speak a 'word in
season to him that is weary” and stands in need of consolation, till,“ in the midst of the sorrows “ that are in his heart, heavenly comforts refresh “ his soul.” Our commission is the same with that of our blessed Master, which he opened at Nazareth in the words of Isaiah—“ The Spirit of the “ Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath “ anointed me to preach good things to the meek; “ he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the
opening of the prison to those that are bound; “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, to “ comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them “ that mourn in Sion, to give unto them beauty “ for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the
gar“ment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that
they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”
What a variety of sublime and beautiful expressions is here employed to show, that our Gospel, as it proceeds from the Holy Ghost the Comforter, is and must ever be a Gospel of comfort!
But to whom is it such ? To many it is not; they find no comfort in it; they hate and dread the sight or thought of it. It is such only to the poor in spirit, to the meek, and to the mourners; to those
who have been made sensible of their fallen estate, and of the sins they have committed ; to those who
; by true repentance have cast out and put away their sins from them; to these it is a cordial indeed: but a cordial can be of no service, it will be of much disservice, if administered (should any unskilfully administer at) when the habit is loaded with humours, and the stomach overwhelmed and oppressed by crudities. A cordial here is not the remedy immediately wanted : proper discipline must prepare the way for it.
The Spirit comforts by strengthening, as the word, in our language, intimates. He is the Spirit of power, might, and courage, which are conferred upon us, in our due degree and measure, as they were upon the apostles. When convinced of the truth, we are no longer afraid to confess, to defend, or to practise it, before men, even the greatest men. We are not ashamed of being singular at any time in doing our duty, nor offended and grieved because we cannot have the approbation of those whose approbation is not worth having; since of what consequence to a wise man is the opinion of such as he thinks and knows to be, in this particular matter, not wise ? Tongues were given to be employed in speech ; and they should be employed (by the ministers of Christ more especially) with all freedom and boldness, in telling the people of their sins, calling them to repentance, and proclaiming to all the Gospel of pardon and peace.
Such is the gift prayed for by the Son, and bestowed on the church by the Father : “I will pray “the Father and he shall give you a Comforter."
IV. He is styled in the text, “another Com« forter.” While Christ continued to be present in person with his disciples, he was their Comforter. But, as he had informed them, he was about to leave them, to ascend into that glory from whence he descended, “the glory he had with the Father 6 before the world was," the church therefore would find herself in a melancholy, forlorn, and widowed state. “ How can the children of the “ bridechamber fast,” (or mourn) said he, “while “the bridegroom is with them? But the days will
come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away “ from them; and then shall they mourn in those
days.” The days immediately following Christ's ascension, were to be days of darkness and sorrow, of great tribulation, and severe persecution, first from the Jews, and then from the Gentiles. The disciples must have sunk under a trial like this, the church must have failed in its very beginning, and the Gospel have perished from among men, had it not been for the promise and the grant of another Comforter, or Advocate, as the word also signifies.
It was expedient that Christ should go away; that he should go into heaven, to appear in the presence of God for us, and to be our advocate there, to answer the slanders and calumnies of the great accuser of the brethren, who accused them before the throne; that he should not only do this, but rescue and save us even when the accusation was true. “ There is one that accuseth you,” said Christ, “ even Moses." The law accuses and condemns us all, because we all have broken it, and
are become guilty before God as a lawgiver and a judge. But what saith mercy by the Gospel ? “ Deliver the man; I have found a ransom." Christ was first our priest; he offered himself a sacrifice for our sins; and then went with his own blood, into the holy places, to make atonement for those, as sinners, whose innocence otherwise, as advocate, he could not defend. On this foot he went to reinstate us in the favour of God; to take possession of heaven for us, as our surety and representative,“ the first-born among many bre“ thren;" to prepare a place for us against that great and joyful day, when he shall return in like manner as he went to receive us to himself, that where he is, there we may be also.
In the mean time, while this was doing above, there was need of another Advocate, or Comforter, below; and he supplied the absence of his body by the presence of his Spirit; so that in all our troubles, under every possible calamity that can befall us, there is help at hand, both in heaven and on earth ; in heaven, Christ mediating ; on earth, the Spirit comforting. Of this latter it is said, that he also “maketh intercession for us with groanings “ that cannot be uttered,” praying with us and in us, “ bearing witness with our spirit, that we “ are the children of God," adopted sons, redeemed from the world, and evidenced to be so, by the testimony of a conscience purged from sin, through faith and the spirit of holiness. “ conscience,” says the apostle,“ beareth me wit“ ness in the Holy Ghost;"—an expression which answers exactly to that other, “ the Spirit wit
“ nesseth with our spirit that we are the children “ of God.”
We come now to the last clause in my text; “I “ will pray the Father, and be shall give you ano“ ther Comforter, that he may abide with you
We may consider this as spoken by Christ of the Holy Spirit, in contradistinction to himself. I go away, but he shall abide. The enjoyment of good, when obtained, may be, and generally is, damped and diminished by the apprehension of losing it again. The disciples found that their blessed Master was about to be taken from them. They might fear the same respecting this other Comforter who was promised, lest he too should, after a while, forsake them. But this was not to happen. The Son vouchsafed to descend from heaven for a certain purpose, and for a certain time necessary
а to accomplish that purpose: then he returned back to his celestial mansion. Though the disciples had known Christ after the flesh, yet henceforth they were to know him so no more. The office graciously sustained by the Spirit in the scheme of man's redemption, requires his constant abode and superintendence. Of the perpetuity of his influence we are therefore assured, “ to our great and endless comfort.”
And herein it is, that heavenly comforts differ from earthly ones. These may be used for a time; but they perish with the using, and we must look for others. Riches make themselves wings; of a still more uncertain tenure are fame and honour: and pleasures are more fleeting than either. They