Notes of a sermon by Charles Hodge
Man is a child of sorrow. Though possessed of numerous sources of enjoyment and much happiness, there is no man who has not to drink of the cup of sorrow. The sources of sorrow are numerous. 1. Bodily pain and infirmity. 2. Pressure of external circumstances, poverty, disappointment, loss of reputation, and of confidence of friends. 3. Bereavements. 4. Sin in others, more or less nearly connected with us. 5. Sin in ourselves. Its power and its effects on the conscience. Its effect on faith and hope, and therefore despondency and fear of reprobation or final condemnation. From all these sources, man is certain to be more or less affected.
There are three sources of consolation. 1. The world. 2. Satan, who comforts his children with false hopes, with unbelief, and with sinful pleasures, as the drunkard drowns his sorrows in the bowl. 3. The Holy Ghost. He is set forth in the Scriptures as the Comforter.
The Holy Ghost as Comforter. The word παραχλητος (paraclete) means indeed more than Comforter, but it includes that idea. It was when speaking of the sorrow of His disciples that Christ promised to send them the Holy Ghost.
1. The need of a Divine Comforter arises, first, from the insufficiency of man for himself. He has no adequate resource in himself of knowledge, holiness or happiness. He must go out of himself for all these forms of good. Secondly, from the insufficiency of the creature. The world can never give the good we need. The soul of man, formed for God, can only be holy or happy in communion with God.
2. The way in which the Holy Ghost acts as our Comforter is, therefore, first, by bringing us to God, as the overflowing source of all good. Christ has opened the way, but we have access only through or by the Holy Spirit. This is the first great work of the Spirit.
Secondly, it is by taking the things of Christ and showing them unto us. That is, by revealing to us the glory of the Son of God. He thus fills the soul with a new affection, causes it to overflow with such admiration and delight, in view of Christ, that all our sorrows are lost in that sea of joy. This is a matter of daily experience. A man has been sadly afflicted by the sense of evil, when the accession of a far greater good has caused him to forget his sorrow in his joy.
Thirdly, by revealing and applying the truth to the heart and conscience, and giving us faith to embrace and appropriate it. Thus the convinced sinner is consoled by a view of Christ as a sacrifice and priest, and by having faith given to embrace Him. Thus the soul, harassed and discouraged by the power of sin, is comforted by the promise, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Thus those who are weighed down by outward afflictions are comforted by the Spirit enabling them to see that these afflictions will work out for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. This is often carried so far that the believer glories in infirmities. It can be made so great that the stake itself has no terror.
Fourthly, by giving the soul such views of heaven as to render all earthly things inconsiderable.
Fifthly, by shedding abroad the love of God in the heart and testifying with our spirit that we are the children of God. Christ by His spirit nourishes and cherishes His people as a tender mother her infant, Eph.5:29.
How to enjoy these consolations.
1. We must not seek consolation elsewhere. If we turn to the world, God will leave us to the world. It is only by looking to the Spirit, we can enjoy the consolations of the Spirit.
2. We must be careful not to grieve the Holy Ghost, by whom we are sealed unto the day of redemption.