Losing Comfort

Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
~ Isaiah 35:3-4

And Hezekiah spake comfortably unto all the Levites that taught the good knowledge of the LORD: and they did eat throughout the feast seven days, offering peace offerings, and making confession to the LORD God of their fathers.
2 Chronicles 30:22 (KJV)

Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not. Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.
~ Job 9:11, Psalm 97:2

My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
~ Psalm 62:5, Isaiah 12:2

After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. The king shall joy in thy strength, O LORD; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!
~ Genesis 15:1, Psalm 21:1

And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.
~ Revelation 15:3

Of the Way in Which Believers Lose Their Spiritual Comfort, by John Colquhoun. The following contains an excerpt from Chapter Three of his work, “A Treatise on Spiritual Comfort”.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem. Isa. xl. 1, 2.

Although thou sayest thou shalt not see him, yet judgment is before him; therefore trust thou in him. Job xxxv. 14.

My heart trusted in him and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth, and with my song will I praise him. Ps. xxviii. 7.

Chapter III. Of the Way in Which Believers Lose Their Spiritual Comfort.

Although a holy man cannot, so much as for a moment, lose that principle of comfort or joy, which the Holy Spirit, in regeneration, hath implanted in his heart, nor yet that entire habit of joy, which He hath, in sanctification, implanted there; yet he sometimes loses the sense or feeling of it: he is at times deprived of sensible comfort, or of the joy of God’s salvation. By his losing of spiritual consolation, I do not mean, his falling merely for an hour or a day, from a pleasant, into an unpleasant frame of spirit; for his frames are almost perpetually changing; but, his being more or less deprived of the sense of God’s peculiar favour to him, or of the sensible possession of spiritual comfort, and that for a considerable time. When the God of all comfort continueth, for a season, to withhold the cheering light of his gracious countenance from his soul; it cannot but be disquieted and disconsolate.

Though the Lord, on purpose to display his wisdom and sovereignty, to try the graces of believers, to mortify their pride, and to teach them the necessity of adventuring, as sinners, to trust simply in Christ, for all the grace of the promise, withholds for a time, sensible comfort from them; yet, for the most part, he doth it in order to chasten them, for their sins against him as their God and Father (o). At the same time, it is not for every sin of infirmity, that he suspends consoling influences from their souls; otherwise, as they can never so much as think a thought, without polluting it by some degree of sin, he would, at all times, be afflicting them with want of comfort; but, it is for some peculiarly aggravated transgressions, or, for relapsing often into the same sin. It is their iniquities and backslidings, that procure trouble of mind for them (p). Such are God’s love to them, and care of them, and such is his abhorrence of their sin; that he cannot but make even his dear children themselves feel, that he is displeased with them, when they backslide from him (q). His faithfulness also to his word, in which he threatens trouble as a fatherly chastisement, and even promises it as a blessing in disguise, to them, moves him to do so (r). And though the sins of some particular believers, as in the case of Job, may not in every instance, be the procuring cause of their loss of comfort; yet they are at least the occasion of it s.

All that, in this Chapter, I further propose to
(o) Isa. lix. 2. (p) Jer. ii. 19. (q) Heb. xii. 6. Amos iii. 2. (r) Psal. cxix. 75. (s) Jer. xxxi. 18.

do, is, to point out some of the leading sins and ways of sinning, by which, believers provoke their heavenly Father to suspend for a time, that degree of spiritual consolation from them, which they have formerly enjoyed.

1. In the first place, They provoke him to do this, by allowing themselves to continue, in a culpable degree, ignorant of his covenant of grace, and of their warrant to come, as sinners, and to trust in the Lord Jesus, for their own particular salvation. These are objects in which, the comfort of true believers, is at all times, intimately concerned; the spiritual and distinct knowledge of which, is necessary to qualify them, for deriving continual supplies of grace and consolation, from the fulness of Christ (t).

If believers then suffer themselves, surrounded as they are, by the clear light of the blessed gospel, to retain ignorance, or to cherish mistakes, respecting the covenant of Jehovah’s peace (u), and the infinite fulness and freeness of his grace treasured up in Christ, the glorious Trustee of that covenant; they do thereby undervalue the only doctrine, on which all true comfort depends, and so, provoke their heavenly Father, to suspend the consolations of his holy covenant, from their souls. The gospel is an exhibition of God’s covenant of grace, to lost sinners of mankind; and therefore it is good tidings of great joy to all people (w). To be willingly ignorant, then, of that gracious contract,
(t) 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. John xvii. 3. and vi. 40. Rom. xv. 13. (u) Isa. lv. 10. (w) Luke ii. 10.

is the same as to being willingly ignorant of the glorious gospel; and to retain mistaken notions of the former, is the same as to err concerning the latter. When true Christians satisfy themselves with superficial and indistinct views of the covenant of grace, or with knowing little more, than the first principles of the doctrine of that august contract; they so far despise the doctrine of redeeming grace, the joyful tidings of a free salvation, and so lose the joy of that salvation.

Moreover, in the administration of that everlasting covenant, Christ, with his righteousness and fulness, is freely and fully offered to sinners of mankind in common; and sinners, as such, are graciously invited, yea, and are peremptorily commanded, to believe on his name (x). The authentic offer, call, and command, founded upon the infinite intrinsic value of the righteousness of Christ, and addressed to every sinner who hears the gospel; afford to every one, a full warrant to trust in Christ, for all the salvation promised in the covenant. If Christians then allow themselves to remain, in a great measure, ignorant of their war. rant, as sinners in themselves, to place direct confidence in Christ for all their salvation, or if they cherish mistakes concerning it; they provoke the Lord, who is jealous for the honour of his covenant, and of his word of grace, to withhold from them, that peace and joy, which are in believing; and, at the same time, they indirectly invite Satan, to tempt them to conclude, that they have
(x) John vi. 32. Rev. xxii. 17. 1 John iï. 23.

no warrant whatever, to trust that Christ will save them. Were believers to attain a more spiritual, and clear, understanding of the eternal covenant, and of the authentic offer of it, than they commonly do; they would see that they have, in the word of grace without them, a full and unchangeable warrant, to trust at all times in the Lord Jesus, for their own particular salvation; and so, they would live a more holy and comfortable life, than they commonly do (y). They would in that case clearly see, that it is warrantable for them, and therefore lawful and reasonable, to trust, even with full assurance of faith, in their faithful Redeemer. Ah! how sinful, how displeasing to the God of all comfort, is it, to treat with neglect his holy covenant, and the warrant, which he graciously affords sinners of mankind as such, to take hold of it! and how effectually will it mar the comfort of one’s own soul!

2. They provoke the Lord to suspend influences of consolation from them, by their yielding often to disbelief and distrust of Jesus Christ. An Apostle says, “ We which have believed do enter into rest (z),” “ Thou wilt keep him,” saith the prophet Isaiah, “ in perfect peace, whose mind is
(y). It was a saying of an eminent Minister, on his deathbed, that he had much peace and quietness of mind, not so much from a greater measure of grace, than other Christians had, or from any immediate witnessing of the Spirit; but, because he had a more clear understanding of the covenant of grace, than many others, having studied it, and preached it, so many years as he had done.’ Brooks’ Cabinet, p. 113.
(z) Heb. iv. 3.

stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee (a).” And again, “ If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established (b).” If a Christian frequently neglect the exercise of trusting in Christ, for fresh supplies of grace and comfort; if, instead of trusting with all his heart, and at all times, in his infinitely faithful Redeemer, for the grace which is in Him, and is brought near in the promise, he often trusts to the grace that is in himself; his heart, by so doing, departeth from the Lord Jesus (c), the only Fountain of consolation; and he places that confidence in his own renewed nature, which he is commanded to place in his Divine Redeemer. By so doing, he idolises the new creature: he trusteth in his own heart: he leans to his own understanding: he makes a saviour of his own created grace. Thus he provoketh his heavenly Father, who is a jealous God, to hide his face from him, and to eclipse his evidences of grace from his view. It is now necessary, that the Lord, who “will ever be mindful of his covenant,” should perform to him, in a higher degree than formerly, this promise; “ From all your idols, will I cleanse you (d).” Accordingly God, in order to chasten him for his idolatry, and to teach, him the necessity of living continually by faith, withholds consolation from his soul, and ceases to shine upon bis evidences of grace. The consequence is, that the believer now, not only discerns no grace in his heart, to trust to, but begins to doubt if ever he had any.
(a) Isa. xxvi. 3. (b) Isa. vii. 9. (c) Jer. xvii. 5. d Ezek. xxxvi. 25.

He formerly looked for comfort to the principle of grace, which he discerned in himself, rather than to the fulness of grace, which is in Christ; contrary to this high command, “ Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace which is in Jesus Christ (e). But now, that he can see and feel nothing in his heart, but deep and strong corruption, nothing but a body of sin and death, he becomes at once, discouraged and disconsolate. Christian, thou never hast greater need, to trust simply and firmly in thy Divine Saviour, than when thy graces are most lively, and most discernible; for then, self-confidence is most ready, so to prevail against thee, as to provoke a jealous God, to withhold spiritual comfort from thy soul. If thou desirest to retain holy consolation, repose the unsuspecting confidence of thy heart, solely and constantly in thy faithful Redeemer. Apply and trust and plead His promises. If thou distrust Him; if thou yield to suspicious and hard thoughts of him, thou transgressest against him without a cause. The Lord Jesus hath never dealt so, in his ways of grace and providence, with any soul, as to give it cause to be suspicious of him. Ah! what dishonour, dost thou reflect upon the glorious Immanuel, by refusing to trust solely in him! Be not grieved, that thou hast nothing to trust to, for thy salvation, beside Christ and the promise; but rather rejoice, that thou needest nothing besides (f). Pray often and earnestly, that the Holy Spirit may convince thee more
(e) 2 Tim. ii. 1.
(f) Psal. lxii. 2, 5, 6.

deeply, of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and especially, of that greatest of all sins,—unbelief (g).

3. They lose their spiritual comfort, by making their graces, or duties, or lively frames, their warrant or ground of right, to trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. These, indeed, are great encouragements, to continue trusting in the Saviour; but, they form no part of a man’s warrant, to renew his actings of trust in him. They are fruits and evidences of saving faith; but are no part of the ground of it. To make them the ground, or even a part of the ground, of our right to confide in Jesus for salvation, would be as preposterous as it would be, when transplanting a young tree, to set the top-branches of it in the ground, instead of the roots. The faith of a believer, must be grounded on faithfulness in the word, and not on feelings in the heart. If the Christian, then, instead of making the authentic offer, call, and commandment to believe, all addressed in the gospel, to him as a sinner of mankind, his warrant, to renew his exercise of trusting in Christ for all his salvation, thinketh so highly of his experiences or evidences, as to make then his ground of right to do so, he is guilty of presumption. He sets aside the warrant which the Holy Spirit in the word affords him, and presumes to trust in Christ, upon the ground of that in himself, which is indeed the fruit, but not the root, the evidence, but not the ground, of faith. Thus, instead of a true, he places an unwarrantable, confidence
(g) John xvi. 8, 9.

in his Redeemer; and hereby, he discovers the pride and self-righteous propensity, that remain in him (h). Sensible that, his holy qualities and performances, can give him no right to salvation itself; his legal spirit prompts him to conclude, that they will afford him at least a right to the Saviour, a right to exercise particular trust in him for salvation. Hence, when he discerns his evidences of personal interest in Christ, he can freely trust him; but when these are eclipsed and cannot be seen, he counts it unwarrantable and presumptuous, to confide in him. Now, seeing it is pride or a legal spirit, that disposes the Christian to think, that his graces and evidences can give him a right, to apply and confide in Christ; and seeing the immutable design of God is, to exalt the Saviour, and to humble the sinner; he withholds the comfort able sense of his favour, from the believer (i): he ceases to shine upon his graces and evidences. He not only leaveth him, it may be, to fall repeatedly into some known sin; but he permitteth Satan, and the man’s own proud and unbelieving heart, to persuade him, that he hath now no right at all, to trust, that the holy Jesus will save such a sinner as he is. Thus he has procured for himself, the loss of his comfort. But even this loss, how great and grievous soever it may be, is almost less than nothing, in comparison of the infinite dishonour, which he hath reflected upon the Lord Jesus; by presuming to substitute his own graces and attainments, in the room of the authoritative offers and calls of the
(h) 1 Cor. ir. 7.
(i) Psal. cxxxviii. 6.

gospel, as his warrant to trust in him; and, by not venturing to rely upon him for grace, except he see grace already in himself, to give him a right to place confidence in him. Believer, if thou wouldst retain spiritual consolation, take heed that, thou never build thy faith upon the reports of sense; build it only, upon the sure, the unchangeable, record of God who cannot lie. Do not substitute sense, in the place of his true and holy word. Build thy faith and thy comfort upon Christ in the word, and not upon thy experiences. Do not live upon Christ as felt in the heart, but upon Christ as offered in the gospel.

4. They procure for themselves, the loss of spiritual comfort, by discontent and impatience, arising from the inordinate love of some earthly comfort. When a good man, instead of placing all his. happiness, and all his hope, in Christ and in God, as his God and portion; places much of them, in some external comfort, so as to be disposed often to say, “What would become of me, or, How uncomfortable should I be, were it not for this comfort!” he thereby provokes the Lord, who is always more ready to profit, than to please, his children, to tear the idol from his embrace (k). If he begins to “make gold his hope, and to say to the fine gold,
Thou art my confidence (l);” or, if “he trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, so that his heart departeth from the Lord; he shall,” under the chastening of his heavenly Father, be, for a season, ‘ like the heath in the desert, and shall not see:
(k) Exek. xxxvi. 25.
(l) Job xxxi. 24.

when good cometh, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited (m).” “The broken reed on which he leaneth,” will not only fail him, “ but will go into his hand and pierce it.” His comforts will be diminished: his hopes will be disappointed: his schemes will one after another be frustrated. His idol, whatever it be, will either be torn from him, or be turned into a source of daily vexation to him. The Lord will break his cisterns, and send a worm to his gourds. For the iniquity of his covetousness,” saith Jehovah, “ was I wroth and smote him; I hid me and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart (n).” The inordinate and immoderate love of any temporal benefit, doth, upon the loss of that benefit, commonly produce discontent, impatience, and fretfulness, which have a natural tendency to wear down the spirit. Were the Christian to bear his loss of outward comforts, in the exercise of faith, and of resignation to the holy will of God, he should still continue to experience inward consolation. But when he presumes to fret and murmur, as if the Lord had wronged him, or had been unkind to him; saying, “ Alas! My afflictions are very uncommon, are peculiarly severe;’ he thereby procures for himself, in addition to his outward losses, the loss of inward consolation. Such a behaviour as this, forms a combination of various sins, all of which, are inconceivably heinous, and exceeding sinful. Discontent, inclines a man to be impatient under afflictions; discontent
(m) Jer. xvii. 5, 6.
(n) Isa. Ii. 17.

and impatience set his mind as on the rack, and torment it with distracting cares how to be delivered, or how to have his loss retrieved: the secret root of these, is an inordinate love of the body, and of worldly enjoyments (o), this again, arises from a want of due resignation to the holy will of God, and of satisfaction with Him alone, as an all-sufficient portion for the whole man (p); and it is usually attended with much disbelief and distrust of his promise. The Lord, in his gracious promise, saith to every believer, “There shall no evil befall thee (q):” No;’ says the fretful Christian, “this which has befallen to me, is evil; otherwise I should not have been disquieted by it.” But should it not, on the contrary, even delight the Christian to find that, the Lord is drawing off provision from his worldly lusts? Knowing that he must shortly die, ah! why is he so fond of temporal and transitory enjoyments? Why so anxious to acquire them, so eager to embrace them; so disquieted by the loss of them?

Believer, thy Covenant-God is all-sufficient for thee; and He alloweth thee to call him thine. Why then, dost thou go a begging to creatures for supply? Consider that, it is a much greater felicity, to desire nothing earthly but what thou hast, than to have all that thou desirest. Do not any more provoke the Lord, by obstinate or sullen grief for any outward loss, “ lest a worse thing come upon thee.” Then only, art thou in a right frame, when God in Christ is enough for thee. Know
(o) James iv. 4.
(p) Psal. cxlii. 5.
(q) Psal. xci, 10.

that, it is in the absence or contempt of earthly comforts, that the Holy Spirit is most a Comforter. Remember that, God is never to be blamed, for depriving thee of things, which would carry away thy heart from himself, as thy sure and all-sufficient portion. Let not thy life, even for a moment, be bound up in any worldly enjoyment. O “take heed and beware of covetousness (r)”: it is idolatry; and “their sorrows shall be multiplied, that hasten after another god. (s)
(r) There are two words in the Greek Testament, which are rendered covetousness in our version. The one literally signifies, The love of money; the other, A desire of more. The senses are indeed coincident: for no man would desire more of that which he does not love; and as he that loveth silver, cannot be satisfied with the silver that he already possesses, he will of course desire more.’ Newton’s Works, vol. vi. p. 473.
(s) Psal. xvi. 4.