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safe from false confidence, high thoughts of itself, and from the pride which goeth before a fall? Nay, even those greater chastisements and dangers—the persevering attempts of sectarian bodies to alienate the hearts of its people, and the loss of many of its members by estrangement and perversion-even in these too there is safety. They are rebukes of love to deepen the interior life of the Church, to quicken a sense of compunction, to work in it the grace of humiliation, to raise the tone of its sympathy and the wisdom of its spiritual guides, to mature within it the gift of meekness, contrition, and spiritual mourning, and thereby to bring out into energy and act the great note of consolation and compassion which revealed the true Messiah at His coming.

2. Another thing we may learn from what has been said is, the design of God in afflicting the several inembers of the Church. It is to make them partakers of this true note of Christ's mystical body. We are all by nature hard and unsympathizing. By our regeneration we learn to see the great truth of Christian compassion : we receive the grace through which we may be perfected in love to the members of Christ : but it lies dormant in us, until by the visitations of His hand it is unfolded into contrition and spiritual sorrow. It is God's deepest way of teaching : and what we learn by affliction is our truest learning. We are thereby brought to know things by tasting their reality. The mystery of sin in us, of which we are so unconscious, becomes a vivid sense of personal unworthiness, and a source of deep humiliation and sorrow of heart. And these things make men strangely gentle and tender to others, full of pity and a softer tone. As they are taught to be themselves meek and contrite, so they learn also the exceeding fullness of the consolation which is in God; and


that secret of consolation is shown to them not for their own sakes alone, but for the sake of others. They are thereby constituted messengers of consolation, channels of the sympathy of Christ. As St. Paul says 10 the Corinthians, • Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any troulle by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your

consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer : or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation."* It is God's way of dealing with us, to make those by whom He will comfort others, first to go themselves through the darkness and realities of the world of

Buoyancy, high spirits, untamed vigor, great health of body, inexperience of the changes of life, make even the most amiable of men unapt to console the suffering and sorrowful. They cannot enter into the depth and reality of their trials. They are out of place in sick rooms. Houses of mourning are not their natural home. With the kindest intentions and most sincere desire to administer comfort, they do not know what to say, or how to address themselves to the offices of consolation. There is an admonition in the fact, that our blessed Lord was tempted before He began His ministry. It was the discipline, if we may so speak, of His perfect sympathy. So is it with His servants. And this goes far to explain the trials which fall chiefly on the most favored of His members;


* 2 Cor. i. 3-6.


on those that partake His office of love; on those who minister to His mystical body.

Therefore, whatsoever trial comes upon us, let us not shrink from it, nor lose any part of the full lesson of humiliation which it is sent to teach. Let us fully give ourselves to it, to suffer all it has to lay on us. There are, it may be, deeper things to be known of our own sinfulness than we can know without the teaching of some special chastisements. By them we learn to be severe to none but to ourselves; to be gentle to the sins of others, as He that breaks not the bruised reed, while we are unsparing to our own. It is by the knowledge that we are frail, and that we dwell on the very brink of great falls, if the grace of God should be for a moment withdrawn; by this we learn to pity them that are fallen, “ to heal the broken-hearted," " to set at liberty them that are bruised.” If He should deal with us as we deal with each other, who should stand in His sight? What unfair constructions, what hard views of the falls and failings, what hasty censures and unmerciful interprétations of other men do we indulge in! If we were true penitents; if we had learned the great lesson of humihation; if we knew how to say with St. Paul, “ For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting ;'* then we should learn to be gentle in eye, hand, and heart, towards the sins and humiliations of our brethren. For this reason He sometimes lets us fall, to break our harsh, unsympathizing nature, and puts on us à yoke of secret shame, which makes us for ever to look with tenderness and compunction on the sins of others.

So likewise in the sorrows of sickness or bereavement.

* I Tim. i. 16.

None know the unspeakable depth of such wounds but they who have endured them. It is all in vain to try to imagine their keen penetrating anguish; how they make the whole soul faint, and the whole heart sick. Sorrow is a season of peculiar temptations; and there are very few who do not yield to waywardness, selfishness, or irritation, when the affliction is upon them. How deeply do they resent the want of vivid sympathy in others! What thoughts and feelings of unkindness find their way into wounded hearts, and make all their wounds tenfold more piercing!

If we truly know what sorrow is, we should count it a high calling to be allowed to minister the least word of consolation to the afflicted. Therefore if we be called to suffer, let us understand it to be a call to a ministry of healing. God is setting us apart to a sort of pastoral office, to the care of the sick of His flock. There is a hidden ministry which works in perfect harmony with the orders of His Church; a ministry of secret comfort, diffusing itself by the power of sympathy and prayer. Within His visible Church are many companies of sorrow, many that weep alone, a fellowship of secret inourners; and to them the contrite and humbled are perpetually ministering, shedding peace, often unawares. Things that they have learned in seasons of affliction, long-pondered thoughts, realities learned by suffering, perceptions of God's love and presence,-all these are put in trust with them for the consolation of His elect. They know not oftentimes to whom they speak. Perhaps they have never seen them, nor ever shall. Unknown to each other, they are knit in bonds higher than all ties of blood; they are joined and constituted in that higher unity which is the order of Christ's kingdom. When all the relations of this lower life shall be dissolved, the bonds of their heavenly kindred shall be revealed.

Mourners and comforters shall meet at last in the holy city. “ And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain : for the former things are passed away."*

* Ror. xxi. 4.

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