"But the Comforter, which 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 14:26
GOOD old Simeon called Jesus the Consolation of Israel. And so He was. Before His actual appearance His name was the Day-Star, cheering the darkness and prophet of the rising sun. To Him they looked with the same hope which cheers the nightly watcher, when from the lonely castle top he sees the fairest of the stars and hails her as the usher of the morn. When He was on earth, He must have been the consolation of all those who were privileged to be His companions. We can imagine how readily the disciples would run to Christ to tell Him of their griefs and how sweetly with that matchless intonation of His voice, He would speak to them and bid their fears be gone. Like children, they would consider Him as their Father—and to Him every need, every groan, every sorrow, every agony, would at once be carried and He, like a wise physician, had a balm for every wound—He had mingled a cordial for their every care! And readily did He dispense some mighty remedy to allay all the fever of their troubles. Oh, it must have been sweet to have lived with Christ! Surely sorrows, then, were but joys in masks because they gave an opportunity to go to Jesus to have them removed! Oh, would to God some of us may say that we could have lain our weary heads upon the bosom of Jesus! And that our birth had been in that happy era when we might have heard His kind voice and seen His kind look—when He said, "Let the weary ones come unto Me."
But now He was about to die. Great prophecies were to be fulfilled and great purposes were to be answered. And therefore Jesus must go. It behooved Him to suffer, that He might be made a Propitiation for our sins. It behooved Him to slumber in the dust awhile, that He might perfume the chamber of the grave to make it—
"No more a morgue to fence
The relics of lost innocence."
It behooved Him to have a resurrection, that we who shall one day be the dead in Christ, might rise first and in glorious bodies stand upon earth. And it behooved Him that He should ascend up on high, that He might lead captivity captive—that He might chain the fiends of Hell—that He might lash them to His chariot wheels and drag them up high Heaven’s hill, to make them feel a second overthrow from His right arm when He should dash them from the pinnacles of Heaven down to deeper depths beneath. "It is right I should go away from you," said Jesus, "for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come." Jesus must go. Weep, you disciples. Jesus must be gone! Mourn, you poor ones who are to be left without a Comforter. But hear how kindly Jesus speaks—"I will not leave you comfortless, I will pray the Father and He shall send you another Comforter, who shall be with you and shall dwell in you forever." He would not leave those few poor sheep alone in the wilderness. He would not desert His children and leave them fatherless. Albeit that He had a mighty mission which did fill His heart and hand. Albeit that He had so much to perform that we might have thought that even His gigantic intellect would be overburdened. Albeit He had so much to suffer that we might suppose His whole soul to be concentrated upon the thought of the sufferings to be endured. Yet it was not so—before He left, He gave soothing words of comfort. Like the Good Samaritan, He poured in oil and wine. And we see what He promised—"I will send you another Comforter—one who shall be just what I have been, yes even more. He shall console you in your sorrows, remove your doubts. He will comfort you in your afflictions and stand as My vicar on earth, to do that which I would have done, had I tarried with you."
Before I discourse of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, I must make one or two remarks on the different translations of the word rendered, "Comforter." The Flemish translation, which you are aware is adopted by Roman Catholics, has left the word untranslated and gives it, "Paraclete." "But the Paraclete which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things." This is the original Greek word and it has some other meanings besides "Comforter." Sometimes it means the monitor or instructor—"I will send you another monitor, another teacher." Frequently it means "advocate." But the most common meaning of the word is that which we have here—"I will send you another Comforter." However, we cannot pass over those other two interpretations without saying something upon them.
"I will send you another teacher." Jesus Christ had been the official teacher of His saints while on earth. They called no man Rabbi except Christ. They sat at no men’s feet to learn their doctrines. But they had them direct from the lips of Him who "spoke as never man spoke." "And now," He says, "when I am gone, where shall you find the great infallible teacher? Shall I set you up a Pope at Rome, to whom you shall go and who shall be your infallible oracle? Shall I give you the councils of the church to be held to decide all knotty points?" Christ said no such thing. "I am the infallible Paraclete or Teacher, and when I am gone, I will send you another teacher and He shall be the person who is to explain Scripture. He shall be the authoritative oracle of God who shall make all dark things light, who shall unravel mysteries, who shall untwist all knots of Revelation and shall make you understand what you could not discover, had it not been for His influence." And beloved, no man ever learns anything aright, unless he is taught of the Spirit. You may learn election and you may know it so that you shall be damned by it, if you are not taught of the Holy Spirit. For I have known some who have learned election to their soul’s destruction. They have learned it, so that they said they were of the elect, whereas they had no marks, no evidences and no work of the Holy Spirit in their souls. There is a way of learning the truth of God in Satan’s college and holding it in licentiousness. But if so, it shall be to your souls as poison to your veins and prove your everlasting ruin. No man can know Jesus Christ unless he is taught of God. There is no doctrine of the Bible which can be safely, thoroughly and truly learned, except by the agency of the one authoritative teacher. Ah, tell me not of systems of divinity, tell me not of schemes of theology, tell me not of infallible commentators, of most learned and most arrogant doctors. But tell me of the Great teacher who shall instruct us, the sons of God and shall make us wise to understand all things! He is the teacher. It matters not what this or that man says. I rest on no man’s boasting authority, nor will you. You are not to be carried away with the craftiness of men, nor sleighs of words—this is the authoritative oracle, the Holy Spirit resting in the hearts of His children.
The other translation is advocate. Have you ever thought how the Holy Spirit can be said to be an advocate? You know Jesus Christ is called The Wonderful, The Counselor and Mighty God. But how can the Holy Spirit be said to be an advocate? I suppose it is thus—He is an advocate on earth to plead against the enemies of the cross. How was it that Paul could so ably plead before Felix and Agrippa? How was it that the Apostles stood unawed before the magistrates and confessed their Lord? How has it come to pass that in all times, God’s ministers have been made fearless as lions and their brows have been firmer than brass, their hearts sterner than steel and their words like the language of God? Why, it is simply for this reason—that it was not the man who pleaded—but it was God the Holy Spirit pleading through him. Have you ever seen an earnest minister, with hands uplifted and eyes dropping tears, pleading with the sons of men? Have you never admired that portrait from the hand of old John Bunyan? A grave person with eyes uplifted to Heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth written on his lips, the world behind his back, standing as if he pleaded with men and a crown of gold hanging over his head. Who gave that minister so blessed a manner and such goodly matter? From where came his skill? Did he acquire it in college? Did he learn it in a seminary? Ah, no. He learned it of the God of Jacob! He learned it of the Holy Spirit—for the Holy Spirit is the great Counselor who teaches us how to advocate His cause aright!
But, besides this, the Holy Spirit is the advocate in men’s hearts. Ah, I have known men reject a docpoor pleaders. We spoil our cause by the words we use. But it is a mercy that the brief is in the hand of a special Pleader who will advocate successfully and overcome the sinner’s opposition. Did you ever know Him to fail once? Brethren, I speak to your souls! Has not God in old times convinced you of sin? Did not the Holy Spirit come and prove that you were guilty, although no minister could ever get you out of your self-righteousness? Did He not advocate Christ’s righteousness? Did He not stand and tell you that your works were filthy rags? And when you had well-near still refused to listen to His voice, did He not fetch Hell’s drum and make it sound about your ears, bidding you look through the vista of future years and see the throne set, the books open, the sword brandished, Hell burning, fiends howling and the damned shrieking forever? And did He not thus convince you of the judgment to come? He is a mighty advocate when He pleads in the soul of sin, of righteousness and of the judgment to come. Blessed advocate! Plead in my heart, plead with my conscience! When I sin, make conscience bold to tell me of it. When I err, make conscience speak at once—and when I turn aside to crooked ways, then advocate the cause of righteousness and bid me sit down in confusion, knowing my guiltiness in the sight of God!
But there is yet another sense in which the Holy Spirit advocates and that is He advocates our cause with Jesus Christ, with groaning that cannot be uttered. O my soul, you are ready to burst within me! O my heart, you are swelled with grief. The hot tide of my emotion would well-near overflow the channels of my veins. I long to speak, but the very desire chains my tongue. I wish to pray, but the fervency of my feeling curbs my language. There is a groaning within that cannot be uttered. Do you know who can utter that groaning, who can understand it and who can put it into heavenly language and utter it in a celestial tongue so that Christ can hear it? Oh, yes, it is God the Holy Spirit! He advocates our cause with Christ and then Christ advocates it with His Father. He is the advocate who makes intercession for us, with groaning that cannot be uttered!
Having thus explained the Spirit’s office as teacher and advocate, we come now to the translation of our version—the Comforter. And here I shall have three divisions. First, the Comforter. Secondly, the comfort. And thirdly, the comforted.
I. First, then, the COMFORTER. Briefly let me run over in my mind and in your minds, too, the characteristics of this glorious Comforter. Let me tell you some of the attributes of His comfort so that you may understand how well adapted He is to your case.
And first, we will remark that God the Holy Spirit is a very loving Comforter. I am in distress and need consolation. Some passerby hears of my sorrow and he steps within, sits down and tries to cheer me. He speaks soothing words. But he loves me not—he is a stranger—he knows me not at all. He has only come in to try his skill. And what is the consequence? His words run over me like oil upon a slab of marble—they are like the pattering rain upon the rock. They do not break my grief. It stands unmoved, as adamant because he has no love for me. But let someone who loves me dearly as his own life come and plead with me. Then truly his words are music. They taste like honey. He knows the password of the doors of my heart and my ear is attentive to every word. I catch the intonation of each syllable as it falls, for it is like the harmony of the harps of Heaven. Oh, there is a voice in love—it speaks a language which is its own—it is an idiom and an accent which none can mimic! Wisdom cannot imitate it, oratory cannot attain unto it. It is love, alone, which can reach the mourning heart! Love is the only handkerchief which can wipe the mourner’s tears away. And is not the Holy Spirit a loving Comforter? Do you know, O saint, how much the Holy Spirit loves you? Can you measure the love of the Spirit? Do you know how great is the affection of His soul towards you? Go, measure Heaven with your span. Go, weigh the mountains in the scales. Go, take the ocean’s water and count each drop. Go count the sand upon the sea’s wide shore—and when you have accomplished this—you can tell how much He loves you! He has loved you long, He has loved you well. He loved you always and He still shall love you. Surely He is the person to comfort you, because He loves you. Admit Him, then, to your heart, O Christian, that He may comfort you in your distress!
But next He is a faithful Comforter. Love sometimes proves unfaithful. "Oh, sharper than a serpent’s tooth" is an unfaithful friend! Oh, far more bitter than the gall of bitterness to have a friend to turn from days of my trouble. Sad, indeed, but such is not God’s Spirit! He always loves me and loves even to the end—a faithful Comforter! Child of God, you are in trouble, a little while ago you found Him a sweet and loving Comforter. You obtained relief from Him when others were but broken cisterns. He sheltered you in His bosom and carried you in His arms. Oh, why do you distrust Him now? Away with your fears! For He is a faithful Comforter. "Ah, but" you say, "I fear I shall be sick and shall be deprived of His ordinances." Nevertheless, He shall visit you on your sick bed and sit by your side to give you consolation. "Ah, but I have distresses greater than you can conceive of, wave upon wave rolls over me. Deep calls unto deep at the noise of the eternal’s waterspouts." Nevertheless, He will be faithful to His promise. "Ah, but I have sinned." So you have, but sin cannot sever you from His love. He loves you still! Think not, O poor downcast child of God, that He loves you less because the scars of your old sins have marred your beauty. Oh, no. He loved you when He foreknew your sin. He loved you with the knowledge of what the aggregate of your wickedness would be. And He does not love you less now. Come to Him in all boldness of faith. Tell Him you have grieved Him and He will forget your wandering and will receive you again. The kisses of His love shall be bestowed upon you and the arms of His Grace shall embrace you. He is faithful—trust Him. He will never deceive you, Trust Him—He will never leave you.
Again—He is an unwearied Comforter. I have sometimes tried to comfort persons that have been tried. You now and then meet with the case of a nervous person. You ask, "What is your trouble?" You are told and you try, if possible, to remove it. But while you are preparing your artillery to battle the trouble, you find that it has shifted its quarters and is occupying quite a different position. You change your argument and begin again. But lo, it is again gone and you are bewildered. You feel like Hercules cutting off the ever-growing heads of the Hydra. And you give up your task in despair. You meet with persons whom it is impossible to comfort, reminding me of the man who locked himself up in fetters and threw the key away, so that nobody could unlock him. I have found some in the fetters of despair. "O, I am the man," they say, "who has seen affliction. Pity me, pity me, O my friends." And the more you try to comfort such people, the worse they get. And therefore, out of all heart, we leave them to wander alone among the tombs of their former joys. But the Holy Spirit is never out of heart with those whom He wishes to comfort. He attempts to comfort us and we run away from the sweet cordial. He gives some sweet draught to cure us and we will not drink it. He gives some wondrous potion to charm away all our troubles and we put it away from us. Still He pursues us. And though we say that we will not be comforted, He says we shall be and when He has said, He does it. He is not to be wearied by all our sins, not by all our murmurings.
And oh, how wise a Comforter is the Holy Spirit! Job had comforters and I think he spoke the truth when he said, "Miserable comforters are you all." But I dare say they esteemed themselves wise. And when the young man, Elihu, rose to speak, they thought he had a world of impudence. Were they not "grave and reverend seniors?" Did not they comprehend his grief and sorrow? If they could not comfort him, who could? But they did not find out the cause. They thought he was not really a child of God, that he was self-righteous. And they gave him the wrong medicine. It is a bad case when the doctor mistakes the disease and gives a wrong prescription and so, perhaps, kills the patient. Sometimes, when we go and visit people we mistake their disease—we want to comfort them on this point—whereas they do not require any such comfort at all. They would be better left alone than spoiled by such unwise comforters as we are. But oh, how wise the Holy Spirit is! He takes the soul, lays it on the table and dissects it in a moment. He finds out the root of the matter. He sees where the complaint is and then He applies the knife where something is required to be taken away, or puts a plaster where the sore is. And He never mistakes. Oh, how wise, the blessed Holy Spirit! From every comforter I turn and leave them all—for You are He who alone gives the wisest consolation!
Then mark how safe a Comforter the Holy Spirit is. All comfort is not safe. Mark that. There is a young man over there very melancholy. You know how he became so? He stepped into the House of God and heard a powerful preacher and the word of God was blessed and convinced him of sin! When he went home, his father and the rest found there was something different about him. "Oh," they said, to the ball or to the theater." John! Did you find any comfort there? "Ah, no, they made me worse, for while I was there, I thought Hell might open and swallow me up." Did you find any relief in the gaieties of the world? "No," you say, "I thought it was an idle waste of time." Alas, this is miserable comfort, but it is the comfort of the worldling! And when a Christian gets into distress, how many will recommend him this remedy and the other. "Go and hear Mr. So-and-So preach—have a few friends at your house—read such-and-such a consoling volume." And very likely it is the most unsafe advice in the world. The devil will sometimes come to men’s souls as a false comforter and he will say to the soul, "What need is there to make all this ado about repentance? You are no worse than other people." And he will try to make the soul believe that what is presumption is the real assurance of the Holy Spirit. Thus he deceives many by false comfort. Ah, there have been many, like infants, destroyed by elixirs given to lull them to sleep. Many have been ruined by the cry of "peace, peace," when there is no peace—hearing gentle things—when they ought to be stirred to the quick. Cleopatra’s asp was brought in a basket of flowers. And men’s ruin often lurks in fair and sweet speeches. But the Holy Spirit’s comfort is safe and you may rest on it. Let Him speak and there is a reality about it. Let Him give the cup of consolation and you may drink it to the bottom, for in its depths there are no dregs, nothing to intoxicate or ruin—it is all safe.
Moreover, the Holy Spirit is an active Comforter—He does not comfort by words, but by deeds. Some comfort by, "Be you warmed and be you filled," giving nothing. But the Holy Spirit gives. He intercedes with Jesus. He gives us promises, He gives us Grace and so He comforts us. Mark again—He is always a successful Comforter. He never attempts what He cannot accomplish!
Then to close up—He is an ever-present Comforter, so that you never have to send for Him. Your God is always near you and when you need comfort in your distress, behold, the word is near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart. He is an ever-present help in time of trouble. I wish I had time to expand these thoughts. But I cannot.
II. The second thing is the COMFORT. Now there are some persons who make a great mistake about the influence of the Holy Spirit. A foolish man who had a fancy to preach in a certain pulpit, though in truth was quite incapable of the duty, called upon the minister and assured him solemnly that it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he was to preach in his pulpit. "Very well," said the minister, "I suppose I must not doubt your assertion, but as it has not been revealed to me that I am to let you preach, you must go your way until it is." I have heard many fanatical persons say the Holy Spirit revealed this and that to them. Now that is very generally revealed nonsense! The Holy Spirit does not reveal anything fresh. He brings old things to our remembrance. "He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have told you." The canon of Revelation is closed. There is no more to be added. God does not give a fresh Revelation, but the rivets of the old one. When it has been forgotten and laid in the dusty chamber of our memory, He fetches it out and cleans the picture. But He does not paint a new one. There are no new doctrines, but the old ones are often revived! It is not, I say, by any new Revelation that the Spirit comforts. He does so by telling us old things over again. He brings a fresh lamp to manifest the treasures hidden in Scripture. He unlocks the strong chests in which the truth has long lain and He points to secret chambers filled with untold riches. But He comes no more, for enough is done. Believer, there is enough in the Bible for you to live upon forever. If you should outnumber the years of Methuselah, there would be no need for a fresh Revelation. If you should live till Christ should come upon the earth, there would be no necessity for the addition of a single word. If you should go down as deep as Jonah, or even descend as David said he did, into the belly of Hell, still there would be enough in the Bible to comfort you without a supplementary sentence. But Christ says, "He shall take of Mine and shall show it unto you." Now let me just tell you briefly what it is the Holy Spirit tells us.
Ah, does He not whisper to the heart, "Saint, be of good cheer. There is one who died for you—look to Calvary—behold His wounds. See the torrent gushing from His side. There is your Purchaser and you are secure. He loves you with an everlasting love and this chastisement is meant for your good. Each stroke is working your healing—by the blueness of the wound your soul is made better. Whom He loves He chastens and scourges every son whom He receives. Doubt not His Grace because of your tribulation, but believe that He loves you as much in seasons of trouble as in times of happiness." And then, moreover, He says, "What is all your suffering compared with that of your Lord’s or what, when weighed in the scales of Jesus’ agonies, is all your distress?" And especially at times does the Holy Spirit take back the veil of Heaven and lets the soul behold the Glory of the upper world! Then it is that the saint can say, "Oh, you are a Comforter to me!"—
"Let cares like a wild deluge come,
And storms of sorrow fall;
May I but safely reach my home,
My God, my Heaven, my all."
Some of you could follow, were I to tell of manifestations of Heaven. You, too, have left sun, moon and stars at your feet while in your flight. Outstripping the tardy lightning, you have seemed to enter the gates of pearl and tread the golden streets, borne aloft on wings of the Spirit. But here we must not trust ourselves, lest, lost in reverie, we forget our theme.
III. And now thirdly, who are the COMFORTED persons? I like, you know, at the end of my sermon, to cry out, "Divide! Divide!" There are two parties here—some who are the comforted and others who are the comfortless ones. Some who have received the consolation of the Holy Spirit and some who have not. Now let us try and sift you and see which is the chaff and which is the wheat. And may God grant that some of the chaff may this night be transformed into His wheat!
You may say, "How am I to know whether I am a recipient of the comfort of the Holy Spirit?" You may know it by one rule. If you have received one blessing from God, you will receive all other blessings, too. Let me explain myself—if I could come here as an auctioneer and sell the gospel off in lots, I should dispose of it all. If I could say, here is justification through the blood of Christ, free, giving away, gratis—many a one would say, "I will have justification—give it to me. I wish to be justified, I wish to be pardoned." Suppose I took sanctification, the giving up of all sin, a thorough change of heart, leaving off drunkenness and swearing? Many would say, "I don’t want that. I should like to go to Heaven, but I do not want that holiness. I should like to be saved at last, but I should like to have my drink. I should like to enter Glory, but then I must have an oath or two on the road." No, but sinner, if you have one blessing, you shall have all! God will never divide the gospel. He will not give justification to that man and sanctification to another. He will not give pardon to one and holiness to another. No, it all goes together! Whom He calls, them He justifies. Whom He justifies, them He sanctifies. And whom He sanctifies, them He also glorifies. Oh, if I could lay down nothing but the comforts of the gospel, you would fly to them as flies do to honey. When you come to be ill, you send for the clergyman. Ah, you all want your minister, then, to come and give you consoling words. But if he is an honest man, he will not give some of you a particle of consolation. He will not commence pouring oil when the knife would be better. I want to make a man feel his sins before I dare tell him anything about Christ. I want to probe into his soul and make him feel that he is lost before I tell him anything about the purchased blessing! It is the ruin of many to tell them, "Now just believe on Christ and that is all you have to do." If, instead of dying they get better, they rise up whitewashed hypocrites—that is all. I have heard of a city missionary who kept a record of two thousand persons who were supposed to be on their deathbed, but recovered and whom he would have put down as converted persons had they died. And how many do you think lived a Christian life afterwards out of the two thousand! Not two! Positively he could only find one who was found to live afterwards in the fear of God! Is it not horrible that when men and women come to die, they should cry, "Comfort, comfort"? and therefore their friends conclude that they are children of God, while, after all, they have no right to consolation, but are intruders upon the enclosed grounds of the blessed God. O God! May these people ever be kept from having comfort when they have no right to it! Have you the other blessings? Have you had conviction of sin? Have you ever felt your guilt before God? Have your souls been humbled at Jesus’ feet? And have you been made to look to Calvary, alone, for your refuge? If not, you have no right to consolation! Do not take an atom of it. The Spirit is a Convincer before He is a Comforter. And you must have the other operations of the Holy Spirit before you can derive anything from this!
And now I have done. You have heard what this babbler has said once more. What has it been? Something about the Comforter. But let me ask you, before you go, what do you know about the Comforter? Each one of you before descending the steps of this chapel—let this solemn question run through your souls— "What do you know of the Comforter?" Oh, poor souls, if you know not the Comforter, I will tell you what condemner in the next world, who shall cry, "Depart you cursed into everlasting fire in Hell." Well might Whitefield call out, "O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord!" If we were to live here forever, you might slight the gospel. If you had a lease of your lives, you might despise the Comforter. But sirs, you must die! Since last we met together, probably some have gone to their long last home. And before we meet again in this sanctuary, some here will be among the glorified above, or among the damned below! Which will it be? Let your soul answer. If tonight you fell down dead in your pews, or where you are standing in the gallery—where would you be?—In Heaven or in Hell?
Ah, deceive not yourselves—let conscience have its perfect work. And if, in the sight of God, you are obliged to say, "I tremble and fear lest my portion should be with unbelievers," listen one moment and then I have done with you. "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved and he that believes not shall be damned." Weary sinner, hellish sinner, you who are the devil’s castaway, reprobate, profligate, harlot, robber, thief, adulterer, fornicator, drunkard, swearer, Sabbath-breaker—listen! I speak to you as well as the rest. I exempt no man. God has said there is no exemption here. "Whoever believes in the name of Jesus Christ shall be saved." Sin is no barrier—your guilt is no obstacle. _Whoever_—though he were as black in sin as Satan, though he were filthy as a fiend—whoever this night believes, shall have every sin forgiven, shall have every crime erased, shall have every iniquity blotted out. He shall be saved in the Lord Jesus Christ and shall stand in Heaven safe and secure!
That is the glorious gospel. May God apply it home to your hearts and give you faith in Jesus!—
"We have listened to the preacher—truth
By Him has now been shown.
But we need a GREATER TEACHER,
From the everlasting throne—
APPLICATION is the work of God alone."