Whatever means may be used to minister comfort to us as we pass along, it is well always to bear in mind that God is its source; and though He takes knowledge of the sorrows of all human kind, and alleviates them as it pleases Him, yet His own people are His chief objects in this ministry, which is His continual desire and delight.
There are three great channels He uses to thus minister comfort to His people which they ought to understand - channels which are entirely outside the comprehension of the natural mind. Nature is always occupied with its own little circle, and the trials or sorrows found therein; for these and from these it seeks deliverance, and without this deliverance it feels no comfort. But it is not so with the believer. Comfort is continually ministered to him in the circumstances of trial and sorrow in which he finds himself here, and oftentimes without their removal.
In so far therefore as I am as an individual thus occupied in ministering comfort to His people - comfort which of course I must first myself have received - I am in harmony with this desire and purpose of God respecting them. Let us see what these three channels are which He so uses - the means which God the Holy Ghost, the COMFORTER, has continually employed since the moment of His taking up His abode upon earth on the day of Pentecost until now. In order to this I turn to Isa. 40: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God." God is here found addressing those whom He would use in this blessed service. Then we read three words which are to be spoken by them for His people's comfort. "Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem" (margin to the heart of Jerusalem, He cares for our affections), "and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins." Here we have the first testimony of the Holy Ghost, the first drop in the cup of comfort which He administers, the testimony from God Himself that every question is eternally and divinely settled between Himself and them; this to that nation is doubtless future, to us it is present. Every question is set at rest, and those who were once enemies are now at peace with God through the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross; of this the Holy Ghost is the witness in many places, as in Acts 2, also in Heb. 10:14-17. Here we find that, looking back at it, it is the solid ground of comfort for us now as to Israel by-and-by. The cross, the past of God's ways, is here used for our comfort, and the Holy Ghost administers it.
Secondly, for our comfort we are instructed that the Lord's coming is at hand. Solid comfort is this to the soul which has already so blessedly profited by all that God has wrought in the past; i.e. in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is the future laid under contribution for the present comfort and blessing of God's people. "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." This, fulfilled when the Baptist's voice was heard in the desert, and with reference therefore to the Lord's first coming, is still the testimony of the Holy Ghost for the comfort of His people, but now it is His testimony to the Lord's second coming; nearly every part of the New Testament contains it, and with the especial desire of comforting the saints in varied circumstances of trial here. In illustration we think of John 14, the chapter to which the saints have in such tried moments invariably turned - blessed words which we have so often read, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again." In view also of the temporary separation of believers by death - it is the same thing - "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout . . . . wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thess. 4:16, 18.) Other passages might be quoted - they are numerous - where the Spirit of God uses in the Word the second coming of the Lord for the present comfort of His people.
And, thirdly, and also for our comfort, we have the testimony of the Holy Ghost concerning the flesh. "The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass." Now it is the flesh that "the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon" which troubles the child of God. Either working in himself as an individual, or working in the church of God, what a fertile source of trouble and discomfort is the flesh! And what is the remedy, the comfort found here? To ever hold it in the place of death, and under the judgment which God has here assigned to it. "The Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it." "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit." And the New Testament in many, many places fully unfolds God's judgment of it.
Believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, are YOU profiting by this ministry of the Spirit? You are confided to the care of the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, until the return of your Lord and Saviour. Are you enjoying the comfort of His ministrations to you? He testifies to the eternal settlement and blotting out of your sins in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. He testifies to the speedy second coming of the Lord, the Accomplisher of that blessed work. He testifies to you of the utter worthlessness and corruption of the flesh, the evil nature for which you are exhorted to "make no provision." His testimony therefore as to the past, as to the present, and as to the future, is all for your comfort. And if you are comforted by the knowledge of these things as you travel along, then go and comfort others with "the same comfort wherewith you yourself are comforted of God," as the blessed apostle did of old. Thus will you be found in fellowship with our God, who is not only "the Father of mercies," but "the God of all comfort" and consolation, and who will thus use you as the minister of blessing to God's people in the power of the Holy Ghost, "the Comforter." May many now thus be found for present blessing to His eternal praise. Amen. H. C. Anstey.
The failures of a godly man are the most dangerous of all failures.