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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 78 - 2 Corinthians 1:5 - The Sufferings and the Consolation Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


The following paraphrase will help to bring out the meaning of this large passage concerning sorrow, and sympathy, and consolation. "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 trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are (and have been) comforted of God. For as Christ's sufferings overflow to us (like a river swelling over till they reach us, so that we get these overflowings, Colossians 1:24), so our consolation also overflows through Christ. Whether, then, we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is accomplished in (or by) the patient endurance of the same sufferings as we ourselves suffer; or whether we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope regarding you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so also shall ye be of the consolation."

Here are several striking expressions worthy of being noted, such as, "the God of all comfort;" "He comforteth us in all our tribulation;" "the comfort wherewith we are comforted of God," "partakers (partners) of Christ's sufferings;" "partakers (partners) of the consolation." On these, however, we do not dwell.

Our cross is not the same as Christ's, yet we have a cross. Our sufferings are not the same as Christ's, yet we have sufferings. The cross is like Christ's, and the sufferings are like His, but yet not the same in kind or object. Our cross is the shadow of His; our sufferings the overflowings of His. Yet there is a wide difference; for our trials have nothing to do with expiation. That was His work alone. He finished that on His cross when there "by Himself He purged our sins," leaving no part of the sacrifice uncompleted. The sacrifice was finished on Calvary. There the blood was shed which reconciles, and purges, and saves. After that there remains only its acceptance by God, and its application to the sinner upon believing.

But it is not of the likeness or unlikeness between our sufferings and those of Christ that we would speak, but simply of the meaning and use of trial. It needs to be interpreted to us, for often we misunderstand and pervert it.

I. It shews God to be in earnest with us. He does not let us alone. He takes great pains with our spiritual education and training. He desires fruit and progress. Therefore He prunes His vines and chastens His sons. He is no careless Father.

II. It assures us of His love. "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten." This was said to Laodicea, the worst of the seven churches, of whom the Master has not one good word to speak, and of which we may affirm that, judging from appearances, it had became totally worldly. Yet to Laodicea God speaks of His love, and announces chastisement as a proof of His love to her! Truly many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it.

III. It draws prayer to us. When one member suffers all the others suffer with it. As soon as it is said, "such a brother or sister is in sorrow," all who hear of this begin to pray for the afflicted one. Thus sorrow becomes a magnet which attracts the prayers of the church. It is God's prayer-bell, which whosoever heareth should immediately begin to plead for the sufferer.

IV. It knits us in sympathy to the whole body. There is but one body, past, present, and to come, the church from the beginning. It has been an ailing body, a suffering church. Were we exempt from trial, we should be out of harmony with the body to which we belong. But when sorrow comes, we are made to feel communion with the whole body, and to know that we are part of a great community of sufferers of all ages.

V. It teaches us sympathy with brethren. We cannot properly feel for others without having passed through sorrow. It is sorrow that creates or calls up the sympathetic feeling. Having tasted the cup, we know its bitterness, and feel for those who are called to drink it. Having known the cross, and the sharpness of its nails, we sympathize with them on whom we see it laid, and whose flesh we see pierced by the like nails that wounded ours.

VI. It brings us into a mood more receptive of blessing. It makes our spirits tender; it softens our hearts; it makes our consciences alive; it empties us of adverse influences; it makes us willing to receive and to learn; it breaks our stubborn wills; it makes us say, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.

VII. It makes us prize the word. The Bible assumes a new aspect to us. All else darkens; but it brightens. It is like the sky at night when the stars appear, which were hidden by the day. How precious the word becomes! Each verse acquires new meaning; each promise sparkles with double light; each word of grace seems doubly gracious and suitable.

VIII. It shuts out the world. It all at once draws a curtain round us, and the world becomes invisible. The fairest things of a fair world lose their fairness and become dim. We are alone with our sorrow, or rather alone with God. What is the world to a man whose soul is filled with a sorrow which the world cannot heal?

IX. It bids us look up. Set your affection on things above. Look upwards now; the objects that drew your gaze downwards are vanishing away. Earth is fast becoming a blank; heaven is now all. You have nothing to expect here. All is vanity. Paradise and its dwellers are real and true. There is no sorrow there.

X. It turns our hope to the Lord's great coming. There is really nothing at any time worth caring for on this side the coming. But we often need sorrow to shew us this. Then when the trial comes we turn to that blessed hope, and find in it all we need for consolation, and strength, and glory. "Comfort one another with these words."