The Broken Heart Bound Up
or The Spirit a Comforter

"The Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit." John 14. 26.

In several parts of this work, we have had occasion to touch upon the sanctifying tendency of the discipline of the covenant. We have been led to trace the goodness, and to justify the wisdom of God, and to mark some of the blessed results in His appointing the suffering state to be the special allotment of His children. But there is one important view of the subject yet reserved. It is this: That in no one aspect does the happy tendency and indispensable necessity of that discipline more manifestly appear, than in the fact that through this channel the believer is brought into communion with, and into the enjoyment of, the tenderness and sympathy of the Spirit. The wisdom, the faithfulness and the power of the Spirit, the soul has been brought to acknowledge and experience in conversion; but to know the Spirit as a Comforter, to experience His tenderness and sympathy, His kindness and gentleness, we must be placed in those special circumstances that call it into exercise. In a word, we must know what sorrow is, to know what comfort is; to know what true comfort is, we must receive it from the blessed and eternal Spirit, the Comforter of the church.
The God and Father of His people foreknew all their circumstances. He knew that He had chosen them in the furnace of affliction, that this was the particular path along which they should all walk. As He foreknew, so He also fore-arranged for all those circumstances. In the eternal purposes of His wisdom, grace and love, He went before His church, planning its history, allotting its path and providing for every possible position in which it could be placed; so that we cannot imagine an exigency, a trial, a difficulty or a conflict which is not amply provided for in the covenant of grace. Such is the wisdom and the goodness of God towards His covenant family!
The great provision for the suffering state of the believer is the Holy Spirit, the special, personal and abiding Comforter of the church. It was to this truth our dear Lord directed the sorrowing hearts of His disciples, when on the eve of His return to glory. He was about to withdraw from them His bodily presence. His mission on earth was fulfilled, His work was done, and He was about to return to His Father and to their Father, to His God and to their God. The prospect of separation absorbed them in grief. Thus did Jesus speak of it, and thus, too, he consoled them: "But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asks me, Where are you going? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart
I will send him unto you." Note the circumstances of the disciples; it was a season of deep sorrow. Then observe how Jesus mitigated that sorrow, and chased away the dark cloud of their grief- by the promise of the Spirit as a Comforter- assuring those who the presence and abiding of the Spirit as a Comforter would more than recompense the
loss of His bodily presence. What the Spirit then was to the sorrowing disciples, He has been in every successive age, is at the present moment, and will continue to be to the end of time- the personal and abiding Comforter of the afflicted family of God. May He now sanctify and comfort our hearts, by leading us into the consideration of this great and most precious doctrine.
In the sacred Word great stress is laid upon the subject of comfort. It is clearly God's revealed will that His people should be comforted. The fulness of Christ, the exceeding great and precious promises of the Word, the covenant of grace and all the dealings of God are closely related to the comfort and consolation of the saints. A brief reference to the Divine Word will convince us of this. This is the very character God Himself bears, and this is the blessed work He accomplishes. Thus, "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God." Similarly we have those striking words in Isaiah, "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God." This was God's command to the prophet. It was His declared will that His people should be comforted, even though they dwelt in Jerusalem, the city which had shed the blood of the prophets, and more than that, which was later to witness the crucifixion of the Lord of life and glory. What an unfolding does this give us of Him who is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, and that, too, in every place!
The comforting of the saints is one important purpose of the Scriptures. "Whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." And thus the exhortation runs- "Comfort the feeble minded." "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one an other, even as also you do." "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." Thus has the Holy Spirit testified to this subject. Thus it is clear that it is the will of God and in His heart that His people should be comforted.
The necessity of comfort springs from the existence of sorrow in some one or more of its varied and multiplied forms. For each and every kind of sorrow the blessed Spirit is the Comforter; but as He comforts in various ways according to the nature of the sorrow, we would select a few of the prominent sources of grief, common alike to all the Lord's people, and show how He binds up, heals and comforts.
With regard to the spiritual sorrows of a child of God, those peculiar to a believer in Jesus, we believe that a revelation of Jesus is the great source of comfort to which the Spirit leads the soul. He comforts all the spiritual grief of a believer, dries up all his spiritual tears, by testifying of Christ, and that according to the peculiar feature of the case. Our Lord told His sorrowing disciples this: "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me." Notice that He was to comfort their hearts by testifying of Jesus. Here is the true source of comfort. What higher comfort do we need? What more can we have? This is enough to heal every wound, to dry up every tear, to assuage every grief, to lighten every cross, to fringe with brightness every dark cloud, and to make the roughest place smooth- that a believing soul has Jesus. Having Jesus, what has a believer?
He has the entire blotting out of all his sins. Is not this a comfort? Tell us what can give comfort to a child of God apart from this. If this fail, where can he look? Will you tell him of the world, of its many schemes of enjoyment, of its plans for the accumulation of wealth, of its domestic happiness? Wretched sources of comfort to an awakened soul! Poor empty channels to a man made acquainted with the inward plague of sin! That which he needs to know is, the sure payment of the ten thousand talents, the entire cancelling of the bond held against him by stern justice, the complete blotting out, as a thick cloud, of all his iniquity. Until this great fact is made sure and certain to his conscience, all other comfort is but as a dream of boyhood, a shadow that vanishes, a vapor that melts away. But the Holy Spirit comforts the believer by leading him to this blessed truth- the full pardon of sin. This is the great controversy which Satan has with the believer. To bring him to doubt the pardon of sin, to unhinge the mind from this great fact, is the constant effort of this arch-enemy. And when unbelief is powerful, and inbred sin is powerful, and outward trials are many and sore, and, in the midst of it all, the single eye is removed from Christ, then is the hour of Satan to charge home upon the conscience of the believer all the iniquity he ever committed. And how does the blessed Spirit comfort at that moment? By unfolding the greatness, perfection and efficacy of the one offering by which Jesus has forever blotted out the sins of His people, and perfected those who are sanctified. O what comfort does this truth speak to a fearful, troubled, anxious believer, when (the Spirit working faith in his heart) he can look up and see all his sins laid upon Jesus in the solemn hour of atonement, and no condemnation remaining! However poor and worthless you may feel yourself to be, this truth is still for you. O rise to it, welcome it, embrace it, do not think that it is too costly for one so unworthy. It comes from the heart of Jesus, and cannot be more free. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."
Having Jesus, what has the believer more? He possesses a righteousness in which God views him complete and accepted, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Is it not a comfort to stand "complete in Him," in the midst of many and conscious imperfections, infirmities, flaws and proneness to wander? What a comfort for the sorrowing and trembling heart to turn and take up its rest in this truth, that "he that believes is justified from all things," and stands accepted in the Beloved, to the praise of the glory of Divine grace. God beholds him in Jesus without a spot, because He beholds His Son in whom He is well pleased, and viewing the believing soul in Him, can say, "You are all beautiful, my love; there is no spot in you!" The blessed Comforter unfolds this truth to the troubled soul, bringing it to take up its rest in it. And as the believer realizes his full acceptance in the righteousness of Christ, and rejoices in the truth, he weeps as he never wept and mourns as he never mourned, over the perpetual bias of his heart to wander from a God that has so loved him. The very comfort poured into his soul from this truth lays him in the dust, and draws out the heart in ardent longings for holiness.
And what a Comforter is the Spirit in seasons of temptation! Few of the children of God are ignorant of Satan's devices. Few are exempt from the "fiery darts" of the adversary. Our Lord Himself was not. Many, varied and great are Satan's temptations. They are often those which touch the very vitals of the gospel, which attempt to undermine the believer's faith in the fundamentals of Christianity, and which affect his own personal interest in the covenant of grace. Satan is the sworn enemy of the believer. He is his constant, unwearied foe. There is a subtlety, a malignity, which is not present with other enemies of the soul. The Holy Spirit, in Rev. 2. 24, speaks of the "depths of Satan." There are "depths" in his malice, in his subtlety, in his sagacity, which many of the beloved of the Lord are made in some degree to plumb. The Lord may allow them to go down into those "depths," just to convince them that there are depths in His wisdom, love, power and grace which can out-fathom the "depths of Satan."
But what are some of the devices of the wicked one? What are some of his fiery darts? Sometimes he fills the mind of the believer with the most blasphemous and atheistical thoughts, threatening the utter destruction of his peace and confidence. Sometimes he takes advantage of periods of weakness and trial and perplexity to stir up the corruptions of his nature, bringing the soul back as into captivity to the law of sin and death. Sometimes he suggests unbelieving doubts respecting his adoption, beguiling him into the belief that his professed conversion is all a delusion, that his religion is all hypocrisy, and that what he had thought was the work of grace is only the work of nature. But by far the greatest and most general controversy which Satan has with the saint of God, is to lead him to doubt the ability and the willingness of Christ to save a poor sinner. If the anchor of his soul is removed from this truth, he is driven out upon a rough sea of doubt and anguish, and is at the mercy of every wind of doctrine and of every billow of unbelief that may assail his storm-tossed bark. But in the midst of it all, where flows the comfort and the victory of the tempted believer? From the promise which assures him that "when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him." And what is the standard which the Spirit, the Comforter, lifts up to stem this flood? A dying, risen, ascended, exalted and ever-living Savior. This is the standard that strikes terror into the foe; this is the gate that shuts out the flood. So the disciples proved. This is their testimony: "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through your name." Immanuel is that name which puts to flight every spiritual foe. And the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, leads the tempted soul to this name, to shelter itself beneath it, to plead it with God, and to battle with it against the enemy. Are you a mark against which the fiery darts of the devil are leveled? Are you strongly tempted? Do not be astonished as though some strange thing had happened unto you. The holiest of God's saints have suffered as you are now suffering; indeed even your blessed Lord your Master, your Pattern, your Example, and He in whose name you shall be more than conqueror- was once assailed as you are, and by the same enemy. And let the reflection console you, that temptations only leave the traces of guilt upon the conscience, and are only regarded as sins by God, as they are yielded to. The mere suggestion of the adversary, the mere presentation of a temptation, is no sin, so long as (in the strength that is in Christ Jesus) the believer firmly and resolutely resists it. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." "Above all, take the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one." Jesus has already fought and conquered for you. He well knew what the conflict with Satan was. And He remembers too what it is. Lift up your head, tempted soul! You shall obtain the victory. The Seed of the woman has bruised the serpent's head, has crushed him so that he can never obtain supremacy over you again. He may harass, annoy and distress you, but pluck you from the hollow of the hand that was pierced for you he never can.
But in seasons of deep trial and affliction, the Spirit specially shows Himself the Comforter of His people. It was under circumstances of peculiar and keen trial that Jesus promised the Spirit as a Comforter. Nor is He confined to any peculiar trial. Whatever is a cause of depression to the believer, whatever grieves his heart, wounds his spirit or casts him down, is a trial. If it is only a cold look from eyes that once shone with love, it is still a trial. If it is only an unkind word from the tongue that once flowed with affection, it is still a trial; and in proportion to the heart's tenderness the keenness of the trial is felt.
Many of the saints of God tend to forget the appointed path of believers through the world. They forget that that path is to be one of tribulation; that far from being a smooth, a flowery and an easy path, it is rough, thorny and difficult. The believer often expects all his heaven on earth. He forgets that whatever spiritual enjoyment there may be here, related in its nature to the joys of the glorified, and of this he cannot expect too much- the present is only the wilderness state of the church. The life that now is is only that of a pilgrimage and a journey. Kind was our Lord's admonition "In the world you shall have tribulation"; and equally so that of the apostle, "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom." Affliction, in some of its many and varied forms is the lot of all the Lord's people. If we do not have it, we lack an evidence of our true sonship, for the Father "scourges every son whom He receives." But whatever the trial or affliction is, the Spirit is the Comforter.
Now, how does He comfort the afflicted soul? He unfolds the love of his God and Father in the trial. He shows the believer that his sorrow, so far from being the result of anger, is the fruit of love; that it comes from the heart of God, sent to draw the soul nearer to Himself, and to unfold the depths of His own grace and tenderness; that "whom He loves He rebukes." And oh, how immense the comfort that flows into a wounded spirit when love- deep, unchangeable, covenant love- is seen in the hand that has stricken; when the affliction is traced to the covenant, and through the covenant to the heart of a covenant God!
He comforts by revealing the purpose for which the affliction is sent. He convinces the believer that the discipline, though painful, was yet needed; that the world was, perhaps, making inroads upon the soul, or earthly love was shutting out Jesus; some indulged sin was perhaps crucifying Him afresh, or some known spiritual duty was neglected. The Comforter opens the believer's ears to hear the voice of the rod, and Him who has appointed it. He begins to see why the Lord has smitten, why He has caused His rough wind and His east wind to blow, why He has blasted, why He has wounded. And now the Achan is discovered, cast out, and stoned. The heart, disciplined, returns from its wanderings and, wounded, bleeding, suffering, seeks more fondly than ever a wounded, bleeding, suffering Savior. Who can fully estimate the comfort which flows from the sanctified discipline of the covenant when the purpose for which the trial was sent is accomplished? Accomplished, it may be, in the discovery of some departure, or in the removal of an obstruction to the growth of grace, of some object that obscured the glory of Jesus, and that suspended His visits of love to the soul. "Blessed discipline," he may exclaim, "that has produced so much good; gentle chastisement that has corrected so much evil; sweet medicine that has produced so much health!"
But it is in unfolding the tenderness and sympathy of Jesus that the Spirit most effectually restores comfort to the tried, tempted and afflicted soul. He testifies of Christ especially in the sympathy of His manhood. There can be no question that, in His assumption of our nature, Jesus had in view, as one important end, a closer affinity with the suffering state of His people with a view to their more immediate comfort and support. The great object of His incarnation, we are well assured, was obedience to the law in its precept, and the suffering of its penalty. But connected with, and resulting from this, is the channel that is thus open for the outflowings of that tenderness and sympathy of which the saints of God so constantly stand in need, and as constantly receive. Jesus is the "brother born for adversity" "it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High priest" "in that he himself has suffered, being tempted, he is able to support those who are tempted" "we have not a High priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."
Here is the true and blessed source of comfort in the hour and the circumstance of sorrow. The Lord's people are a tried people, Jesus was a tried Savior. The Lord's people are an afflicted people; Jesus drank deeply of affliction's bitter cup. The Lord's people are a sorrowing family; Jesus was a "man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." He brought Himself down on to a level with the circumstances of His people. He completely identified Himself with them. However, we are not to suppose that in every peculiarity of trial there is an identity with our dear Lord. There are trials growing out of peculiar circumstances and relations in life to which he was a stranger. But Jesus took upon Himself pure humanity in its suffering form and was deeply acquainted with sorrow as sorrow- and from these two circumstances He became fitted in all points to support, to sustain and to sympathize with His afflicted, sorrowing people, whatever the cause of that affliction or sorrow was. It is enough for us that He was "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh." It is enough for us that His heart was composed of all the tenderness and sympathy and gentleness of our nature, and that, too, freed from everything growing out of the infirmity of sin that could weaken, impair and blunt the sensibilities. It is enough for us that sorrow was no stranger to His heart, that affliction had deeply furrowed His soul, and that grief had left its traces upon every line of His countenance. What more do we require? What more can we ask? Our nature? He took it. Our sicknesses? He bore them. Our sorrows? He felt them. Our crosses? He carried them. Our sins? He pardoned them. He went before His suffering people, trod out the path and left his footprint, and now invites them to walk in no way, to sustain no sorrow, to bear no burden and to drink no cup in which He has not Himself gone before. It is enough for Him that you are a child of grief, that sorrow is the bitter cup that you are drinking. He asks no more. A chord is in a moment touched in His heart, which vibrates to that chord touched in yours, whether its note be a pleasing or a mournful one. For let it be ever remembered that Jesus has as much sympathy for the joys as He has for the sorrows of His people. He rejoices with those that rejoice and He weeps with those that weep. But how does Jesus sympathize? Not in the sense in which some may suppose, that when we weep He actually weeps, and that when we suffer He actually suffers. This may once have been so, but we no more know Christ in the flesh, as He was once known. Ah! there was a period when "Jesus wept"! There was a period when His heart wrung with anguish, and when His body agonized in pain. That period is no more. However there still is a sense (and an important one) in which Jesus feels sympathy. When the believer suffers, the tenderness of Jesus is drawn forth. His sustaining strength, sanctifying grace and comforting love are all unfolded in the experience of His child while passing through the furnace. The Son of God is with him in the flames. Jesus of Nazareth is walking with him on the billows. He has the heart of Christ. And this is sympathy- this is fellowship- this is to be one with Christ Jesus.
What is your sorrow? Has the hand of death smitten? Is
the beloved one removed? Has the desire of your eyes been taken away with a stroke? But who has done it? Jesus has done it. Death was only His messenger. Your Jesus has done it. The Lord has taken away. And what has He removed? Your wife? Ah, Jesus has all the tenderness that your wife ever had. Hers was only a drop from the ocean that is in
His heart. Is it your husband? Jesus is better to you than
ten husbands. Is it your parent, your child, your friend, your
all of earthly bliss? Is the cistern broken? Is the earthen
vessel dashed to pieces? Are all your streams dry? Jesus is still enough. He has not taken Himself from you, and never, never will. Take your bereaved, stricken and bleeding heart to Him, and rest it upon His, once bereaved, stricken and bleeding, too; for He knows how to bind up the broken heart, to heal the wounded spirit and to comfort those that mourn.
What is your sorrow? Has health failed you? Has property forsaken you? Have friends turned against you? Are you tried in your circumstances? Perplexed in your path? Are providences thickening and darkening around you? Are you anticipating seasons of approaching trial? Are you walking in darkness, having no light? Simply go to Jesus. He is an ever open door. A tender, loving faithful friend, ever near. He is a brother born for your adversity. His grace and sympathy are sufficient for you. The life you are called to live is that of faith; that of sense, you have done with. You are now to walk by faith and not by sight. This, then, is the great secret of a life of faith- to hang upon Jesus daily, to go to Him in every trial, to cast upon Him every burden, to take the infirmity, the corruption, the cross as it arises, simply and immediately to Jesus. You are to set Christ before you as your Example to imitate; as your Fountain to wash in; as your Foundation to build upon; as your Fulness to draw from; as your tender, loving and confiding Brother and Friend, to go to at all times and under all circumstances. To do this daily, constitutes the life of faith. O to be enabled with Paul to say, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." O holy, happy life! O unearthly, heavenly life! The life Jesus Himself lived when below, the life all the patriarchs and prophets and apostles and martyrs and the spirits of just men made perfect once lived, and the life every true-born child of God is called and privileged to live, while yet a stranger and pilgrim on the earth!
There are three important aspects in which a believer should never fail to view his present lot. The first is to remember that the present is, by the appointment of God, the afflicted state of the believer. It is God's ordained, revealed will that His covenant children should be here in an afflicted condition. When called by grace, they should never take into their account any other state. They become the disciples of the religion of the cross; they become the followers of a crucified Lord; they put on a yoke, and assume a burden. They must, then, expect the cross inward and the cross outward. To escape it, is impossible. To pass to glory without it, is to go by another way than God's ordering, and, in the end, to fail of arriving there. The gate is strait, and the way is narrow, which leads to life, and a man must become nothing if he would enter and be saved, Matt. 7.14. He must deny himself. He must become a fool that he may be wise, 1 Cor. 3. 18. He must receive the sentence of death in himself, that he should not trust in himself, 2 Cor. 1. 9. The wise man must cease to glory- in his wisdom, the mighty man must cease to glory in his might, the rich man must cease to glory in his riches. Their only ground of glory in themselves must be their insufficiency, infirmity, poverty and weakness; and their only ground of glory out of themselves must be that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The believer in Jesus, then, must not forget that if the path he treads is rough and thorny, if the sky is wintry and the storm is severe, and if the cross he bears is heavy, that this is the road to heaven. He is only in the wilderness; why should he expect more than belongs to the wilderness state? He is on a journey; why should he look for more than a traveler's fare? He is far from home; why should he murmur and complain that he has not all the rest, the comfort and the luxuries of his Father's house? If your covenant God and Father has allotted to you poverty, be satisfied that it should
be your state; indeed, rejoice in it. If bitter adversity, if deep affliction, if the daily and the heavy cross, still do not breathe one murmur, do not shed one tear, do not heave one sigh, but rather rejoice that you are led into the path that Jesus Himself walked in, that you "go forth by the footsteps of the flock," and that you are counted worthy thus to be one in circumstance with Christ and His people.
The second aspect in which the suffering believer should view his present lot is that a state of humiliation or casting down is invariably followed by a state of exaltation or lifting up. The Lord empties before He fills. He makes room for Himself, for His love and for His grace. He dethrones the rival, casts down the idol and claims to occupy the temple, filled and radiant with His own ineffable glory. Thus does He bring the soul into great straits, lays it low, but only to school and discipline it for richer mercies, higher service and greater glory. Be sure of this, that when the Lord is about to favor you with some great and peculiar blessing, he may prepare you for it by some great and peculiar trial. If He is about to advance you to some honor, He may first lay you low that He may exalt you. If He is about to place you in a sphere of great and distinguished usefulness, he may first place you in His school, that you may know how to teach others. If He is about to bring forth your righteousness as the noon-day, He may cause it to pass under a cloud, that, emerging from its momentary obscuration, it may shine with richer and more enduring luster. Thus does He deal with all His people.
Thus He dealt with Joseph. Intending to elevate him to great distinction and influence, He first cast him into a dungeon, and that, too, in the very land in which he was so soon to be the gaze and the astonishment of all men. Thus, too, he dealt with David and Job; and thus did God deal with his own Son, whom He advanced to His own right hand from the lowest state of humiliation and suffering. "It is the way of God to work by contraries, to turn the greatest evil into the greatest good. To grant great good after great evil, is one thing, and to turn great evils into the greatest good, that is another, and yet that is God's way. The greatest good that God intends for His people, many times He works it out of the greatest evil; the greatest light is brought out of the greatest darkness."
The third aspect is to regard the present suffering as only preparatory to future glory. This will greatly mitigate the sorrow, reconcile the heart to the trial and tend materially to secure the important purpose for which it was sent. The life of a believer is only a disciplining for heaven. All the covenant dealings of his God and Father, are only to make him a partaker of His holiness here, and thus to prepare him to be a partaker of His glory hereafter. Here he is only being trained for a high position in heaven. He is only preparing for a more holy and (for all we know) a more active and essential service in the upper world. So every infirmity overcome, every sin subdued, every weight laid aside and every step advanced in holiness only strengthens and matures the life of grace below, until it is fitted for, and terminates in, the life of glory above. Let the suffering believer then see that he emerges from every trial of the furnace with some dross consumed, some iniquity purged and with a deeper impress of the blessed Spirit's seal of love, holiness and adoption on his heart. Let him see that he has made some advance towards the state of the glorified; that he is more perfected in love and sanctification- the two great elements of heaven; and that therefore he is becoming fit for the inheritance of the saints in light. "Every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit." Blessed and holy tendency of all the afflictive dispensations of a covenant God and Father towards a dear and covenant child!
But there is a sorrow, even keener and deeper than this, in which the Spirit the Comforter is seen directly and manifestly to work. It is the sorrow of a heart broken on account of sin. A wounded conscience, a humble and contrite spirit, a broken heart- who can adequately describe? Though he may have experienced it, yet no mortal can fully unfold it, as no mortal can alone heal and comfort it. It is the deep and wonderful work of God the Holy Spirit; and he who approaches a spirit wounded by sin, either to describe the state, or to attempt its healing, has need of much wisdom, tenderness and sympathy. This part of our work addresses itself especially to the poor in spirit, to the humble and the contrite, to the wounded conscience, to the broken heart; let it then be read, as it is written, in the spirit of prayer, that the Comforter (who is the Holy Spirit) may take the work into His own hands, and heal where He has wounded and bind up where He has broken.
Shall we attempt a faint description of your feelings? Allow one who has walked to some degree the path you are now treading, and who is prepared to sympathize with every tear and sigh that comes from a convinced and wounded conscience, with all tenderness and humility to draw aside the veil which conceals the deep and conflicting emotions that now agitate your heart, with a view to leading you to Jesus, whose voice alone can hush the tempest, and say to the waves of conviction and guilt, "Peace, be still."
You feel yourself to be the very chief of sinners. You seem to stand out from the great mass a lone and solitary being, more vile, polluted, guilty and lost than all the rest. Your sentiments in reference to yourself, to the world, to sin, to God and to Christ, have undergone a rapid, total and surprising change. Yourself, you see to be guilty and condemned; the world, you feel to be a worthless portion, a cheat and a lie; sin, you see to be the blackest and most hateful of all things; God, you regard in a light of holiness, justice and truth, as you never did before; and Christ, as possessing an interest entirely new and overpowering. Your views in relation to the law of God are reversed. You now see it to be immaculately holy, strictly just and infinitely wise. Your best attempts to obey its precepts you now see are not only utterly powerless, but in themselves are so polluted by sin, that you cannot look at them without the deepest self-loathing. The justice of God shines with a glory unseen and unknown before. You feel that, in now bringing the condemnatory sentence of the law into your conscience, He is strictly holy, and were He now to send you to eternal woe, He would be strictly just. But ah! what seems to form the greatest burden? What is that which is more bitter to you than wormwood or gall? Oh, it is the thought that you should ever have lifted your arm of rebellion against so good, so holy, so just a God as He is. That you should ever have cherished one treasonable thought, or harbored one unkind feeling. That your whole life, thus far, should have been spent in bitter hostility to Him, His law, His Son, His people, and that yet, in the midst of it, yes, all day long, He has stretched out His hand to you, and you did not regard it! O the guilt that rests upon your conscience! O the burden that presses your soul! O the sorrow that wrings your heart! O the pang that wounds your spirit! Is there a posture of humility more lowly than all others? You would assume it. Is there a place in the dust more humiliating than all others? You would lie in it. Now you are looking wistfully around for a refuge, a resting place, a balm, a quietness for the conflict in your soul. Is this your real state?
Are these your true feelings? Then the Lord is blessing you!
"Blessing, do you say?" Yes! Those tears are a blessing! Those convictions are a blessing! Those humbling, lowly views are a blessing! That broken heart, that contrite spirit, that awakened, convicted and wounded conscience, despite all its guilt, is a blessing! Why? because the Spirit that convicts men of sin, of righteousness and of judgment has entered your soul and worked this change in you. He has opened your eyes to see yourself lost and wretched. He has broken the spell which the world has woven around you. He has dissolved the enchantment, unveiled the delusion and made you feel the powers of the world to come. Then you have received a blessing.
But "is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there?" There is! The Physician is Jesus, the balm is His own most precious blood. He binds up the broken heart, He heals the wounded spirit. See how the Holy Spirit testifies to this, and how He comforts by the testimony: "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord's favor has come, and with it, the day of God's anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair." Isaiah 61:1-3.
And if the reader will compare this precious announcement with Luke 4 from the 16th verse, he will find our Lord quoting it, and declaring that it was then fulfilled in Himself. "This day," says He, "is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."
Jesus is the binder-up of a broken heart. All the skill, all the efficacy, all the tenderness and acute sympathy needed for the office, meet and center in Him in their highest degree. Here then you can bring your wounded heart. Bring it simply to Jesus. One touch of His hand will heal the wound. One whisper of His voice will hush the tempest. One drop
of His blood will remove the guilt. Nothing but applying to Him in faith will do for your soul now. Your case is beyond
the skill of all other physicians. Your wound is too deep for
all other remedies. It is a question of life and death, heaven or hell. It is an emergency, a crisis, a turning point with you. Oh, how solemn, how eventful is this moment! Eternity seems suspended upon it. All the intelligences of the universe, good spirits and bad, seem to be gazing upon it with intense interest. Decide the question by closing immediately with Jesus. Submit to God. All things are ready. The blood is shed, the righteousness is finished, the feast is prepared, God stands ready to pardon, indeed He advances to meet you, His returning child, to fall upon your neck and embrace you with the assurance of His full and free forgiveness.
Do not let the simplicity of the remedy keep you back. Many stumble at this. It is only a look of faith: "Look unto me, and be saved." It is only a touch, even though with a paralyzed hand: "And as many as touched Him were made whole." It is only believing the broad declaration that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." You are not called to believe that He came to save you; but that He saves sinners. Then if you inquire, "But will He save me? How do I know that if I come I shall meet a welcome?" Our reply is, only test Him. Do not settle down with the conviction that you are too far gone, too vile, too guilty, too unworthy, until you have gone and tried Him. You do not know how you wound Him, how you dishonor Him, and grieve the Spirit, by yielding to a doubt, even a shadow of a doubt, as to the willingness and the ability of Jesus to save you, until you have gone to Him believingly and put His readiness and His skill to the test.
Do not let the freeness of the remedy keep you away. This, too, is a stumbling-block to many. Its very freeness holds them back. But it is "without money, and without price." The simple meaning of this is that no worthiness on the part of the applicant, no merit of the creature, no tears, no convictions, no faith, is the ground on which the healing is bestowed. O no! It is all of grace- all of God's free gift, irrespective of any worth or worthiness in man. Your warrant to come to Christ is your very sinfulness. The reason why you go to Him is that your heart is broken, and that only He can bind it up, your spirit is wounded, and only He can heal it; your conscience is burdened, and only He can lighten it; your soul is lost, and only He can save it. And that is all you need to recommend you. It is enough for Christ that you are covered with guilt; that you have no plea that springs from yourself; that you have no money to bring in your hand, but have spent your all upon physicians and are no better; that you have wasted your substance in riotous living and are now insolvent; and that you really feel a drawing towards Him, a longing for Him. You ask, you seek, you crave, you earnestly implore His compassion- that is enough for Him. His heart yearns, His love is moved, His hand is stretched out. Come and welcome to Jesus, come.
Let this thought keep you from despair: your present convictions, being the work of the blessed Spirit, must end in your full conversion to God. The Lord never leaves His work unfinished. He never wounds except to heal. He never convicts of sin except to lead the soul into the pardon and peace of the Gospel. Do not think that He has brought you thus far, to leave you and abandon you; that He has excited emotions only to smother them, and has awakened hopes only to disappoint. Oh no! The first tear of godly sorrow you shed was a link in the golden chain of eternal glory. The first sigh you heaved from your broken heart was a pulse of that life that shall never end. May you be encouraged to go on (like the author of Psalm 138) by the thought that the Lord will perfect that which concerns you; He will conduct you out of the dark storm into the serene sunlight of His precious love. Only we would remind you that He chooses His own way and time. Do not be impatient. Press hard after Him- seek Him in His word, seek Him at the throne of grace, seek Him diligently but seek Him with a patient, submissive and childlike spirit. It is as certain that you will find Him as it is that He is now exalted upon His throne, "a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins."
A word in conclusion. The Spirit comforts the believer by revealing the nearness of the coming glory. Heaven is near at hand. It is only a step out of a poor, sinful, sorrow- stricken world into the rest that remains for the people of God. It is only a moment, the twinkling of an eye- and we are absent from the body and present with the Lord. Then will the days of our mourning be ended, then sin will grieve no more, affliction will wound no more, sorrow will depress no more, and God will hide Himself no more. There will be the absence of all evil, and the presence of all good; and they who have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, shall take their stand before the throne of God, and shall "serve him day and night in his Temple. And he who sits on the throne will live among them and shelter them. They will never again be hungry or thirsty, and they will be fully protected from the scorching noontime heat. For the Lamb who stands in front of the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to the springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe away all their tears." Rev. 7:15-17. Wherefore, beloved in the Lord, let us comfort one another with these words and with this prospect.