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sin, death and the devil, sits at the right hand of the Father and protects us against the many assaults of these our foes. They are indeed relentless enemies, constantly on the alert to injure us; and yet they are in captivity, led captive by our ascended Lord. Christ furthermore sends us His Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth, to protect us from error, to console us in sorrow, to teach us how to pray, and to confer upon us various gifts and graces. Christ “ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things,” says St. Paul, and thus expresses the truth that we now have through our Lord all things that we need for time and for eternity. Let us therefore imitate the example of the apostles, as it is recorded by St. Luke, who “worshiped the Lord” and were filled “with great joy;" let us give hearty thanks unto our heavenly Father for His manifestation of mercy, and pray that He may keep us in true faith, so that in the end we may depart in peace from this world, following our ascended Lord into eternal life and happiness. O Christ, grant us this in mercy ! Amen.
SUNDAY AFTER ASCENSION.
(Exaudi.) John 15. 26–16, 4. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues : yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that wben the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.
ur text to-day consists of two parts. The first o speaks of the Holy Ghost; the second treats of the persecution awaiting those who preach the Gospel and confess it before the world.
You are aware that we believe the Holy Ghost to be true God, eternal and almighty. Christ designates Him in our text by an especial name when He calls Him “the Comforter.” This appellation would indicate that the Christians must be ready to endure dangers and to suffer pain; for what need would there be of a Comforter if sorrow and suffering were not our lot? The suffering of the Christians, according to the text, shall consist not only in being put to death, which would not be the severest trial of their faith, but in this also, that those who slay them shall think they are doing God service, and will proclaim abroad that their victims suffered deservedly. It is indeed a most appalling death and punishment when every one
is ready to exclaim: Ah, it is right thus; this heretic has but received his dues! Thus we see that the Christians have no sympathy nor consolation from the world; they are persecuted and slain as heretics. Sometimes they are even weak enough to think: Perhaps we acted amiss and were imprudent in our confession. Thus they are looked upon as evil-doers by the world, and are scarcely easy in their own conscience.
Christ had in view just this distressing condition of the Christians when He speaks of the Holy Ghost as a “Comforter.” By this name He tells us: I know how you will fare in the world, that you will often be without cheer and consolation; but I will not desert you then, nor permit you to perish in your misery; and when you are destitute of all comfort, when you are filled with anxiety and fear, then will I send you the Holy Ghost, the Conforter, to strengthen and to cheer you; listen therefore attentively to His words and remember them well.
There are two kinds of consolation. The one is of a worldly nature, false and deceptive; it directs man to trust in wealth, honor and power, in the friendship and favor of princes and rulers of this world. Christ teaches His disciples in our Gospel that they will not have this favor and friendship of the world, but that it will employ all its power, influence and wealth to oppose and crush them. He tells them that they ought not to be frightened nor downcast because they are in want of this kind of consolation, which is in every way miserable and unreliable; it lasts only a little while, perhaps till some fever, a pestilence, a headache, or some other
bodily ailment comes—then it amounts to nothing. But, says Christ, I will give you another Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who can indeed comfort you before the world and in your own hearts whenever you are distressed, timid, poor and forsaken. He is just what He is called, a Comforter; He brings no sorrow. Wherever sadness and grief dwells, there the Comforter has not His home. This Comforter is also called “the Spirit of truth,” because He does not comfort for a little while only, as the world does, but with an eternal consolation which deceives
Our hearts are apt to contradict this and to say: We feel nothing of this consolation, but, on the contrary, we see how the world enjoys pleasure and happiness, while the Christians must suffer much. John the Baptist is beheaded, but Herod and his harlot are banqueting and full of glee. Our experience is similar. The world begrudges us every bite of bread and thinks it does a praiseworthy deed when it persecutes the Christians; but the Pope, his cardinals, the bishops, and the whole host of enemies to the Gospel, live at ease in gardens of roses, without tribulation. Where now is the promised comfort? Christ answers: It is present; you have it with you; only distinguish between the two kinds of consolation. It is true, the world has its peculiar comfort, or it would not be so careless and jovial; but it is a lying comfort, which does not proceed from the Spirit of truth. It may happen in a moment that the world's consolation lies shattered and powerless.
On the other hand, this Comforter of the Christians is a “Spirit of truth," pouring into our hearts
a consolation unceasing. Though John had not that consolation which Herod and his concubine had, though he was by them cast into prison and cruelly beheaded, yet he was not without consolation; the Holy Spirit cheered him thus: John, make thou no account of the terrors surrounding thee; despair not because thou art imprisoned and subject to the taunts of the world, for thou knowest that its pleasures are of short duration; thy sufferings, however, will also be brief and will be followed by everlasting joy, one moment of which is more precious than a thousand years on earth with all its so-called pleasures. This consolation fills the heart of John, so that he does not fear death, but praises God for his liberation from this miserable, sinful body and for the entrance into eternal life.
Whence has the Holy Spirit this consolation ? “From the Father," as Christ here declares, "for He, the Spirit of truth, proceedeth from the Father.” This is a most valuable passage, which proves the doctrine of the Trinity. For if the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, it follows that this Spirit is eternal, since nothing can proceed from the Father which in its essence and nature is not like unto Him. Just as God the Son is eternal because He is born of the Father from eternity, and what is born of the Father must be like unto Him; so the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father, must likewise be eternal. And again: Because Christ, the Son of God, sends the Holy Spirit, as He here declares, this Spirit must proceed equally from the Son and the Father. This article of our Confession we will, however, pass by for the present, and will treat further of it at some other time.