The Promise of the Comforter
George Everard, 1868
"I have told you these things while I am still with you. But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you." John 14:25-26 (Amplified Bible)
"These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said unto you." John 14:25, 26. (Compare 16,17; also 15:26, 16:7-15.)
The consolation of His people is one chief purpose for which God has given to us the revelation of His Word. He has inspired His servants to write them, that we "through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." He has confirmed His promise by an oath, that "we might have strong consolation." Hence the Father is spoken of as "the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort." The Son is sent "to comfort all who mourn," and He bears the name of "the Consolation of Israel." And so likewise the Holy Spirit is named the Comforter, and in a part of Scripture to which the Christian almost invariably turns in the day of trouble.
No less than five times is the promise made that the Comforter shall abide with the Lord's people. In the 14th and following chapters of this Gospel our Lord repeatedly bids His people wait for the aid of His Spirit. And why is this? Is it not because all the promises here made to us — the abiding presence of the Father and the Son, the manifestation of Christ, the peace which the world gives not — all these can only be enjoyed as the Spirit dwells within the heart. Without His special help . . .
not one throb of spiritual life,
not one holy desire,
not one joyful hope,
not one drawing of love —
can exist within the soul. May He Himself assist our meditations, and reveal to us the fullness of His own grace and love!
The consolations of the Spirit depend much upon the fact that He is a living, personal Friend and Helper of Christ's flock. He was to take Christ's place, to be His Substitute on earth. Because Christ had gone away, He would come to abide with those who would otherwise have been left comfortless. Far greater is the benefit we thus derive from Him as our Almighty, Personal Comforter and Helper, than it would be possible to obtain from any mere gift, however precious it might be.
We might imagine a man living all alone by himself with very insufficient means for his support in some remote and solitary part of the country. Very acceptable might be a present of money, or food, or clothes, or an interesting book. But how much more would it promote his happiness, if you could send one to live with him — a congenial companion, a kindly counselor, a ready helper, a friend in need — one who had both the desire and the ability to supply all that was lacking.
The parallel will hold in the case of the believer. He is often solitary, for his home is above, and He finds but little sympathy from many around. He is poor and needy, without any goodness or merit of his own, without wisdom and without strength. But the Spirit makes His abode with Him, imparting all that is needful, and by His presence bringing sunshine into the sad and sorrowful heart.
For such a Friend, how gladly should we prepare a guest-chamber and invite Him to enter. The Shunammite prepared for Elisha a little chamber, doubting not that if he would turn in thither — the presence of so holy a man would bring a blessing to her household. Nor was she disappointed. Doubtless he gave her much profitable instruction; and when the joy of her home was gone, Elisha prayed, and her son was restored to life. And never, never will you regret opening the door of your heart to welcome the Spirit. Joys never before known will He bestow — everlasting peace shall be the fruit of His indwelling.
The term "Comforter" — includes the idea of help and strength afforded. A man is faint from loss of blood through some accident, a friend comes up and lends him an arm upon which he leans and thus reaches his home. Or a man is carrying a heavy load, another comes and takes hold of it with him, so that the weight, before intolerable, becomes now comparatively easy to be borne. Or a little child is trying to open a door; the tears are just ready to flow because the attempt has been made again and again in vain — but a strong hand is put forth to help the feeble one, and the door flies open in a moment.
In like manner does the Spirit afford His help. He gives power to the faint, strengthening with might in the inner man, upholding the soul along the homeward path; He helps our infirmities, placing, as it were, His own shoulder beneath the load of our cares and sorrows. He takes away that which hinders.
Many a door is too hard for Christian too open, his own corruptions block the way to the mercy-seat, so that prayer becomes a duty more than a pleasure. Plans of usefulness seem unavailing through the perverseness or indifference of those for whom they are made — hence he is often cast down and ready to give up, but the Spirit is near to help, and in some way the difficulty is met and overcome.
But the Comforter is also the Instructor of Christ's disciples: "He shall teach you all things." "He shall guide them unto all truth." Very wonderful was the fulfillment of this promise at Pentecost. Only read the address of Peter — how clearly from Psalm and Prophecy could he tell of Christ; and then compare it with his counsel to our Lord a short while before, when he would have had him turn from that cross which was to be the means of salvation to the world.
Nor is the teaching of the Spirit confined to inspired Apostles, or to those engaged in the public ministry of the Word of life. All believers need it, and all may look for it. "They shall be all taught of God."
Do you desire to enter more into the full understanding of Holy Scripture? The Spirit will shine upon the sacred page, and bring the truth to light. It is no less than a perpetual miracle to see the change in this respect, when for the first time the Spirit is earnestly sought. A new meaning seems to start up in every part of the Word, almost in every verse, and those to whom the Bible had hitherto been little better than a dictionary find in it a fountain of heavenly joy!
Would you know more of your own true character? The Spirit will be your Teacher. He will reveal, gradually as you are able to bear it, the evil that lurks within. He will reveal to you the selfishness, the pride, the unbelief, or the impatience that may be your chief snare — and while revealing, He will also enable you to resist and overcome it.
Would you know more of Jesus? The Spirit will take of the things of Christ and show them unto you. He will testify of His grace as the Savior of the lost. He will manifest to you His invitations and promises as reaching yourself and all the peculiarities of your own sin or temptation. He will enable you to see in Christ the good Physician exactly suited to your necessities. He will set Christ before you . . .
as your Counselor in difficulty,
as your Intercessor in the hour of prayer,
as your everlasting Refuge and Strength in the days of feebleness and decaying health.
But the Holy Spirit is also a Remembrancer. He recalls to the memory that which would otherwise be forgotten. "He shall bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said unto you." Hence were the Apostles kept from error in recording the discourses of our Lord, and giving precisely those gracious promises, upon a single word of which so much of our comfort depends. Very interesting examples of this office of the Spirit may be found in two passages of this Gospel: namely, John 11:22; 12:14-16.
But all believers need the work of the Spirit in recalling the truth to mind. For all that is evil our memories are very retentive; for all that is good they are very treacherous — justly compared to "leaking vessels." (See Hebrews 2:1)
But the Spirit in this grants His aid. He gives an increasing relish for heavenly things that makes it so much the easier to remember them. He brings back at the right moment a particular prayer, or promise, or precept — some act of Christ, or some feature of His holy character that may just then be requisite to counteract a temptation, or to support the heart through some pressing emergency. And even when the memory fails as to the very words of a passage, not seldom through the Spirit a savor of the truth abides which effects the very same result.
For this blessed Spirit to be your Comforter, your Helper, your Teacher, your Remembrancer, let me entreat each reader of these pages continually to pray. Our Father knows well that there is no gift which so honors Himself or brings such blessedness to His people, as His Spirit abiding in them. Hence there is no petition which He delights more to answer than for this. The old promise of Luke 11 is not yet worn out, and never shall be while a sinner remains to be saved or a saint to be made fit for the inheritance of the saints in light: "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"
Hence to ask for this gift in the name of our exalted High Priest, and believingly to anticipate its bestowal, becomes one of the greatest possible means of grace. Ask it for the glory of God; ask it for the honor of Christ; ask it because of your own deep necessities. And while you ask for yourself, ask for the whole Church of the Redeemed that the Spirit may come down in power, that the Temple of the Lord may be filled with His light and truth.
And take heed lest in any way you grieve the Divine Spirit to depart from you. In the case I supposed in a former part of this chapter, it might be possible in many ways for the man to grieve his guest to forsake his roof. If the house were not properly ordered, if other guests were introduced whose company were distasteful to him, if a word of kindly counsel were disregarded, if he were in any way slighted or his presence undervalued, he would be most likely to leave the dwelling of one who thus requited his benefactor. And thus the loving Spirit may also be vexed and provoked to leave the heart where He has taken up His abode.
If impurity or ill-will defiles the temple,
if pride or envy or selfishness or unbelief are permitted to gain a footing,
if wrath or malice or unchristian tempers are allowed to lodge within,
if the still small voice of reproof or counsel is unheeded,
if prayer, or the Word, or the Holy Communion be reckoned of small importance
— then you will drive your Friend away; you will be left wretched, desolate, and comfortless. And though in pity He may yet return again, great will be your loss, great will be the advantage the enemy of souls will gain.
Christian, be watchful, be circumspect. If you live in the Spirit — then walk in the Spirit. Cherish His presence as the chief joy of your soul. As the deer pants after the water-brooks, so you should long for His refreshing grace. Do this, and the Holy Spirit will ever abide with you; thus your peace shall be as a river, the foretaste of that joy which is laid up for you in Heaven.
Our blessed Redeemer, before He breathed
His tender last farewell,
A Guide, a Comforter bequeathed,
With us to dwell.
He came sweet influence to impart;
A gracious, willing guest,
While He can find one humble heart
Wherein to rest.
And His that gentle voice we hear,
Soft as the breath of even,
That checks each thought, that calms each fear,
And speaks of Heaven.
And every virtue we possess,
And every victory won,
And every thought of holiness,
Are His alone.
Spirit of purity and grace,
Our weakness, pitying, see;
O make our hearts Your dwelling place,
And meet for Thee.