21.A woman, when she is in labor. He employs a comparison to confirm the statement which he had just now made, or rather, he expresses his meaning more clearly, that not only will their sorrow be turned into joy, but also that it contains in itself the ground and occasion ofjoy It frequently happens that, when adversity has been followed by prosperity, men forget their former grief, and give themselves up unreservedly tojoy, and yet the grief which came before it is not the cause of the joy But Christ means that the sorrow which they shall endure for the sake of the Gospel will be profitable. Indeed, the result of all griefs cannot be otherwise than unfavorable, unless when they are blessed in Christ. But as the cross of Christ always contains in itself the victory, Christ justly compares the grief arising from it to the sorrow of a woman in labor, which receives its reward when the mother is cheered by the birth of the child. The comparison would not apply, if sorrow did not producejoy in the members of Christ, when they become partakers of his sufferings, just as the labor in the, woman is the cause of the birth. The comparison must also be applied in this respect, that though the sorrow of the woman is very severe, it quickly passes away. It was no small solace to the apostles, therefore, when they learned that their sorrow would not be of long duration.
We ought now to appropriate the use of this doctrine to ourselves. Having been regenerated by the Spirit of Christ, we ought to feel in ourselves such a joy as would remove every feeling of our distresses. We ought, I say, to resemble women in labor, on whom the mere sight of the child born produces such an impression, that their pain gives them pain no longer. But as we have received nothing more than the first-fruits, and these in very small measure, we scarcely taste a few drops of that spiritual gladness, to soothe our grief and alleviate its bitterness. And yet that small portion clearly shows that they who contemplate Christ by faith are so far from being at any time overwhelmed by grief, that, amidst their heaviest sufferings, they rejoice with exceeding great joy.
But since it is an obligation laid
on all creatures to labor till the last day of redemption,
let us know that we too must groan, until, having been delivered from the incessant afflictions of the present life, we obtain a full view of the fruit of our faith. To sum up the whole in a few words, believers are like women in labor, because, having been born again in Christ, they have not yet entered into the heavenly kingdom of God and a blessed life; and they are like pregnant women who are in childbirth, because, being still held captive in the prison of the flesh, they long for that blessed state which lies hidden under hope.