I. What is comfort?

Comfort is that which results from a certain process of reasoning, in which we oppose something good to something evil, that by a proper consideration of this good, we may mitigate our grief, and patiently endure the evil. The good therefore, which we oppose to the evil, must necessarily be great, and certain, in proportion to the magnitude of the evil with which it is contrasted. And as consolation is here to be sought against the greatest evil, which is sin, and eternal death, it is not possible that any thing short of the highest good, can be a sufficient remedy for it. Without the word of God, however, to direct and reveal the truth, there are almost as many opinions entertained as to what this highest good is, as there are men. The Epicureans place it in sensual pleasure; the Stoics in a proper regulation and moderation of the affections, or in the habit of virtue; the Platonists in ideas; the Peripatetics in the exercise of virtue; whilst the ordinary class of men place it in honors, riches, and pleasure. But all these things are transitory, and are either lost already in life, or they are at best interrupted and left behind in the hour of death. But the highest good after which we seek never fades away—no, not in death. It is true, indeed, that the honor of virtue is immortal, and, as the Poet says, survives men's funerals; but it is rather with others than with ourselves. And it has well been said by a certain one, that virtues cannot be considered the highest good, since we have them witnesses of our calamities. Hypocrites, both within and without the church, as Jews, Pharisees and Mahommetans, seek a remedy against death in their own merits, in outward forms and ceremonies. The Papists do the same thing. But mere external rites can neither cleanse nor quiet the consciences of men; nor will God be mocked with such offerings.

Therefore, although philosophy, and all the various sects, enquire after and promise such a good as that which affords solid comfort to man, both in life and death, yet they neither have, nor can bestow, that which is necessary to meet the demands of our moral nature. it is only the doctrine of the church that presents such a good, and that imparts a comfort that quiets, and satisfies the conscience; for it alone uncovers the fountain of all the miseries to which the human race is subject, and reveals the only way of escape through Christ. This, therefore, is that christian comfort, spoken of in this question of the catechism, which is an only and solid comfort, both in life and death—a comfort consisting in the assurance of the free remission of sin, and of reconciliation with God, by and on account of Christ, and a certain expectation of eternal life, impressed upon the heart by the holy Spirit through the gospel, so that we have no doubt but that we are the property of Christ, and are beloved of God for his sake, and saved forever, according to the declaration of the Apostle Paul:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress… c. (Rom. 8:35.)