Delivered on Sabbath Morning, February 19th, 1860, by the
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you."John 14:27.
UR LORD WAS now about to die, to depart from this world, and to ascend to his Father; he therefore makes his will; and this is the blessed legacy which he leaves to the faithful"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you."
He doth preserve it; he doth steer,
Even when the bark seems most to reel.
Storms are the triumph of his art;
Sure he may hide his face, but not his heart."
No wonder, then, that he has peace, when he can feel this, and knows that he who hath begun the good work, has both the will and the power to perfect it, unto the day of Christ.
II. Having hurriedly unveiled the secret groundwork of the Christian's peace, we must dwell for a few minutes upon ITS NOBLE CHARACTER.
The peace of other men is ignoble and base. Their peace is born in the purlieus of sin. Self-conceit and ignorance are its parents. The man knows not what he is and therefore thinks himself to be somethingwhen he is nothing. He says"I am rich and increased in goods," while he is naked, and poor, and miserable. Not such is the birth of the Christian's peace. That is born of the Spirit. It is a peace which God the Father gives, for he is the God of all peace; it is a peace which Jesus Christ bought, for he has made peace with his blood, and he is our peace; and it is a peace which the Holy Spirit worksbe is its author and its founder in the soul.
Our peace then, is God's own child, and God-like is its character. His Spirit is its sire, and it is like its Father. It is "my peace," saith Christ! not man's peace; but the unruffled, calm, the profound peace of the Eternal Son of God. Oh, if we had but this one thing within our bosoms, this divine peace, a Christian were a glorious thing indeed; and even now kings and mighty men of this world are as nothing when once compared with the Christian; for he wears a jewel in his bosom which all the world could not buy, a jewel fashioned from old eternity and ordained by sovereign grace to be the high boon, the right royal inheritance of the chosen sons of God.
This peace, then, is divine in its origin; and it is also divine in its nourishment. It is a peace which the world cannot give; and it cannot contribute towards its maintenance. The daintiest morsels that ever carnal sense fed upon, would be bitter to the mouth of this sweet peace. Ye may bring your much fine corn, your sweet wine and your flowing oil, your dainties tempt us not, for this peace feeds upon angels food, and it cannot relish any food that groweth earth. If you should give a Christian ten times as much riches as he has, you would not cause him ten times as much peace; but probably, ten times more distress; you might magnify him in honor, or strengthen him with health; yet, neither would his honor or his health contribute to his peace, for that peace flows from a divine source; and there are no tributary streams from the hills of earth to feed that divine current; the stream flows from the throne of God, and by God alone is it sustained.
It is, then, a peace divinely born and divinely nourished. And let me again remark, it is a peace that lives above circumstances. The world has tried hard to put an end to the Christian's peace, and it has never been able to accomplish it. I remember, in my early childhood, having heard an old man utter in prayer, a saying which stuck by me"O Lord, give unto thy servants that peace which the world can neither give nor take away." Ah! the whole might of our enemies cannot take it away. Poverty cannot destroy it, the Christian in his rags can have peace with God. Sickness cannot mar it; lying on his bed, the saint is joyful in the midst of the fires. Persecution cannot ruin it, for persecution cannot separate the believer from Christ, and while he is one with Christ his soul is full of peace. "Put your hand here," said the martyr to his executioner, when he was led to the stake, "put your hand here, and now put your hand on your own heart, and feel which beats the hardest, and which is the most troubled." Strangely was the executioner struck with awe, when he found the Christian man as calm as though he were going to a wedding feast, while he himself has all agitation at having to perform so desperate a deed. Oh, world! we defy thee to rob us of our peace. We did not get it of thee, and thou canst not rend it from us. It is set as a seal upon our arm; it is strong as death and invincible as the grave. Thy stream, O Jordan, cannot drown it, black and deep though thy depths may be; in the midst of thy tremendous billows our soul is confident, and resteth still on him that loved us, and gave himself for us. Frequently have I had to remark, that Christians placed in the most unfavourable circumstances are, as a rule, better Christians than those who are placed in propitious positions. In the midst of a very large church of persons in all ranks, with the condition of most of whom I am as thoroughly conversant as man can well be, I have observed that the women who come from houses where they have ungodly husbands, and trying childrenthat the young people who come from workshops where they are opposed and laughed atthat the people who come from the depths of poverty, from the dens and kens of our city, are the brightest jewels that are set in the crown of the church. It seems as if God would defeat naturenot only make the hyssop grow on the wall, but make the cedar grow there toohe finds his brightest pearls in the darkest waters, and bring up his most precious jewels from the filthiest dung hills.
Repeat his mercies in your song."
And this I have found too, that often the more disturbed a Christian man is, the purer is his peace, the heavier the rolling swell his griefs and sorrow, the more still, and calm, and profound is the peace that reigns within his heart. So then, it is peace divinely born, divinely nourished, and one which is quite above the influence of this poor whirling world.
Further, I must remark briefly upon the nature of this peace, that it is profound and real. "The peace of God," saith an apostle, "that passeth all understanding." This peace not only fills all the senses to the brim, till every power is satiated with delight, but the understanding which can take in the whole world, and understand many things which are not within the range of vision, even the understanding cannot take in the length and the breadth of this peace. And not only will the understanding fail to compass it, but all understanding is outdone. When our judgment hath exerted itself to the utmost, it cannot comprehend the heights and depths of this profound peace. Have you ever imagined what must be the stillness of the caverns in the depth of the seas, a thousand fathoms beneath the bosom of the floods, where the mariners' bones lie undisturbed, where pearls are born, and corals that never see the light, where the long lost gold and silver of the merchants lie sprinkled on the sandy floordown in the rock caves, and the silent palaces of darkness where waves dash not, and the intruding foot of the diver hath never trodden? So clear, so calm is the peace of God, the placid rest of the assured believer. Or lift up your eyes to the stars. Have you never dreamed a sweet dream of the quietude of those noiseless orbs? Let us mount beyond the realm of noise and riot, let us tread the noiseless highway of the silent orbs. The thunders are far below us, the confused tumult of the crowd defiles not the sanctity of this wondrous quiet. See how the stars sleep on their golden couches, or only open their bright eyes to keep watch upon that stormless sea of ether, and guard the solemn boundaries of the reign of peace. Such is the peace and calm that reigns in the Christian's bosom. "Sweet calm," one calls it; perfect peace," David styles it; another one calls it "great peace." "Great peace have all they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them." Last yearI tell you now a secret of my own heartI had one text which thrust itself upon my recollection many times a day I dreamed of it when I slept; when I awoke it went with me, and I verified it, and rejoiced in it: "His soul shall dwell at ease." It is my promise now. There is such an easequite consistent with labor, with agony for the souls of men, with an earnest desire for yet greater attainments in divine life; there is such an easeit is not to be gained by all the appliances of luxury, by all the aggrandisement of wealthan ease in which "not a wave of trouble rolls across the peaceful breast," but all is calm, and all is clear, and all is joy and love. May we evermore dwell in that serene atmosphere, and never lose our hold of this peace.
Lest there should be any of you who do not understand what I have said, I will try and say it over again briefly in an example. Do you see that man? He has been taken up before a cruel tribunal; he is condemned to die. The hour draws nigh: he is taken to prison, and placed there with two soldiers to guard him, and four quarternions of soldiers outside the door. The night comes on: he lies down, but in how uncomfortable a position! Chained between two soldiers! He lies down and he falls asleepnot the sleep of the guilty criminal, whose very sense of dread makes his eyelids heavy; but a calm sleep which is given by God, and which ends in an angelic vision, by which he is delivered. Peter sleeps, when the death sentence is above his head, and the sword is ready to penetrate his soul. See you another picture? There are Paul and Silas yonder: they have been preaching, and their feet are thrust in the stocks for it. They will die on the morrow; but in the midnight they sing praises unto God, and the prisoners hear them. One would have thought in such a loathsome dungeon as that, they would have groaned and moaned all night long, or that at best they might have slept; but no, they sang praises to God, and the prisoners heard them. There is the peacethe calm, the quietude of the heir of heaven. I might give you another pictureof our ancient Nonconformists, in the days of that most persecuting Queen Elizabeth. She cast into prison among very many others, two of our forefathers, of the name of Greenwood and Barrow. They were caused to lie in that loathsome stinking dungeonthe Clink Prisonshut in one huge room with maniacs, murderers, felons, and the like, compelled to listen to their frightful conversation. One day there came a warrant, that they must die. The two men were led out, and tied to the cart, and were about to be taken away to death; but they were no sooner outside the gate than a messenger rode up. The Queen had sent a reprieve. They were taken back; calmly and quietly they returned to their prison; and the next day they were taken to Newgate, and, just as suddenly, there come a second messenger, to say they must be taken away to Tyburn to die. They were again tied to the cart; they ascended the scaffold, the ropes were put round their necks, and they were allowed to stand in that position end address the assembled multitude, and bear witness to the liberty of Christ's church, and to the right of private judgment among men. They concluded their speech, and a second time that wretched Queen sent them a reprieve, and they were taken back a second time to the dungeon, and there they lay in New gate, but only for few days more, and then a third time they were taken out, and this time they were hanged in reality; but they went as cheerfully to the scaffold on each occasion as men go to their beds, and seemed as joyous, as though they were going to a crown, rather than to a halter. Such specimens all the churches of Christ can show. Wherever there has been a true Christian, the world has tried its best to put out his peace; but it is a peace that never can be quenchedit will live on, what halter about its neck with the hot pincers tearing away its flesh, with the sword in its very bones; it will live, till, mounting from the burning bush of earth, this bird of paradise shall wear its glittering plumage in the midst of the garden of paradise.
III. Having detained you longer on this point than I thought I should do, I hasten to the third point, THE EFFECTS OF THIS DIVINE PEACE.
The blessed effects of this divine peace are, first of all, joy. You will notice that the words "joy," and "peace" are continually put together; for joy without peace were an unhallowed and an unhappy joythe crackling of thorns under a pot, unsound, mere flames of joy, but not the red glowing coals of bliss. Now, divine peace gives joy to the Christian; and such joy! Have you ever seen the first gleam of joy when it has come into the eve of the penitent? It has been my happy lot to pray with many a convinced sinner, to witness the deep agony of spirit, an l deeply to sympathise with the poor creature in his trouble for sin. I have prayed and have exhorted to faith, and I have seen that flash of joy, when at last the hopeful word was spoken "I do believe on the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart." Oh! that look of joy! It is as if the gates of heaven had been opened for a moment, and some flash of glory had blazed upon the eye and had been reflected therefrom I remember my own joy, when I first had peace with God. I thought I could dance all the way home I could understand what John Bunyan said, when he declared he wanted to tell the crows on the ploughed land all about it. He was too full to hold, he felt he must tell some one. Oh! there was joy in the household that day, when all heard that the eldest son had found a Savior and knew himself to be forgivenbliss compared with which all earth's joys are less than nothing and vanity. As the counterfeit to the real coin, so are the base joys of earth to the real joy which springs from peace with God. Young man! Young woman! if you could have at bliss such as you never knew before, you must be reconciled to God through the blood of Christ; for till then, real joy and lasting pleasure you can never know.
The first effect of this peace, then, is joy. Taken follows anotherlove. He that is at peace with God through the blood of Christ is constrained to love him that died for him. "Precious Jesus!" he cries, "help me to serve thee! Take me as I am, and make me for something. Use me in thy cause; send me to the farthest part of the green earth, if thou wilt, to tell to sinners the way of salvation; I will cheerfully go, for my peace fans the flame of love, that all that I am and all I have shall be, must be, for ever thine."
Then next, there comes an anxiety after holiness. He that is at peace with God does not wish to go into sin; for he is careful lest he should lose that peace. He is like a woman that has escaped from a burning house; he is afraid of every candle afterwards, lest he should come again into the like danger. He walks humbly with his God. Constrained by grace, this sweet fruit of the Spirit, peace, leads him to endeavor to keep all the commandments of God, and to serve his Lord with all his might.
Then again, this peace will help us to bear affliction. Paul describes it as a shoe. As he says, "Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." It enables us to tread on the sharpest flints of sorrow, yea, on adders, and on serpents also; it gives us power to walk over the briars of this world, and our feet are not wounded; we tread the fires, and we are not burned. This divine shoe of peace makes us walk without weariness, and run without fainting. I can do all things when my soul is at peace with God. There are no sufferings that shall move my soul to pain, no terrors that shall blanch my cheek, there are no wounds that shall compel me to an ignominious fear when my spirit is at peace with God. It makes a man a giantswells the dwarf to a Goliath size. He becomes mightiest of the mighty; and while the weaklings creep about this little earth, bowed down to the very dust, he strides it like a Colossus. God has made him great and mighty, because he has filled his soul with peace, and with overflowing joy.
More might I tell you of the blessed effects of this peace, but I shall be content, after I have simply noticed that this peace gives boldness at the throne, and access to a Father's mercy-seat. We feel we are reconciled, and therefore we stand no longer at a distance, but we come up to him, even to his knees, we spread our wants before him, plead our cause, and rest satisfied of success, because there is no enmity in our Father's heart to us, and none in ours to him. We are one with God, and he is one with us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
IV. And now I have a practical duty to perform, and with this I shall close after having said a few words to those who know nothing of this peace. The practical remarks I have to make are upon the subject of INTERRUPTIONS OF PEACE.
All Christians have a right to perfect peace, but they have not all the possession of it. There are times when gloomy doubts prevail, and we fear to say that God is ours. We lose a consciousness of pardon, and we grope in the noonday as in the night. How is this? I think these interruptions may be owing to one of four causes.
Sometimes they are due to the ferocious temptations of Satan. There are periods when with unexampled cruelty Satan assaults the children of God. It is not to be expected that they will maintain perfect peace while they are fighting with Apollyon. When poor Christian was wounded in his head, and in his hands, and in his feet, no wonder that he did groan exceedingly, and as Bunyan hath it, "I never saw him all the while give so much as one pleasant look, till he perceive I he had wounded Apollyon with his two-edged sword; then, indeed, he did smile and look upward; but it was the dreadfullest fight that ever I saw." Mark, there is no such thing as a disturbance of the reality of the peace between God and the soul; for God is always at peace with those who are reconciled to him by Christ; but there is a disturbance of the enjoyment of that peace, and that is often effected by the howlings of that great dog of hell. He comes against us with all his might, with his mouth open ready to swallow us up quick, and were it not for divine mercy he would do so. It is but little marvel that sometimes our peace is affected, when Satan is fierce in his temptations.
At another time a want of peace may arise from ignorance. I do not wonder that a man who believes Arminian doctrine, for instance, has little peace. There is nothing in the doctrine to give him any. It is a bone without marrow, it is a religion that seems to me to be cold, sapless, marrowless, fruitlessbitter and not sweet. There is nothing about it but the whip of the law; there are no grand certaintiesno glorious facts of covenant love, of discriminating grace, of Almighty faithfulness, and suretyship engagements. I will never quarrel with the man that can live on such stones and scorpions as conditional election, haphazard redemption, questionable perseverance, and unavailing regeneration. There may be some, I suppose, who can live on this dry meat. If they can live on it, be it so; but I believe many of our doubts and fears arise from doctrinal ignorance. You have not, perhaps, a clear view of that covenant made between the Father and his glorious Son, Jesus Christ; you do not know how to spell the word "gospel" without mixing up the word "law" in it. Perhaps you have not learned fully to look out of self to Christ for everything. You do not know how to distinguish between sanctification, which varies, and justification, which is permanent. Many believers have not come to discern between the work of the Spirit and the work of the Son; and what marvel, if ye are ignorant, that ye sometimes lack peace? Learn more of that precious Book, and your peace shall be more continual.
Then again this peace is usually marred by sin. God hides his face behind the clouds of dust which his own flock make as they travel along the road of this world. We sin, and then we sorrow for it. God still loves his child, even when he sins; but he will not let the child know it. That child's name is in the family register; but the Father clasps up the book, and will not let him read it till he thoroughly repents again, and comes back once more to Jesus Christ. If you can have peace and yet live in sin, mark this, you are unrenewed. If you can live in iniquity, and yet have peace in your conscience, your conscience is seared and dead. But the Christian men, he sins, begins to smart; it not the very moment he falls, it is not long before his Father's rod is on his back, and he begins to cry,
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and his Word?"
Once more: our peace may be interrupted also by unbelief. Indeed, this is the sharpest knife of the four, and will most readily cut the golden thread of our enjoyments.
And now, if ye would maintain unbroken peace, take advice from God's minister this morning, young though he be in years. Take advice, which he can warrant to be good, for it is Scriptural. If ye would keep your peace continual and unbroken, look always to the sacrifice of Christ, never permit your eye to turn to any thing but Jesus. When thou repentest, my hearer, still keep thine eye on the cross; when thou labourest, labor in the strength of the Crucified One. Everything thou doest, whether it be self-examination, lasting, meditation, or prayer, do all under the shadow of Jesus' cross; or otherwise, live as thou wilt, thy peace will be but a sorry thing; thou shalt be full of disquiet and of sore trouble. Live near the cross, and your peace shall be continual.
Another piece of advice. Walk humbly with your God. Peace is a jewel; God puts it on your finger, be proud of it, and he will take it off again, Peace is a noble garment; boast of your dress, and God will take it away from you. Remember the hole of the pit whence you were digged, and the quarry of nature whence you were hewn; and when you have the bright crown of peace on your head, remember your black feet; nay, even when that crown is there, cover it and your face still with those two wings, the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. In this way shall your peace be maintained.
And again, walk in boldness, avoid every appearance of evil. "Be not conformed to this world." Stand up for truth and rectitude. Suffer not the maxims of men to sway your judgment. Seek the Holy Spirit that you may live like Christ, and live near to Christ, and your peace shall not be interrupted.
As for those of you who have never had peace with God, I can entertain but one sentiment towards you, namely, that of pity. Poor souls! poor souls! poor souls! that never knew the peace which Jesus Christ gives to his people. And my pity is all the more needed, because you do not pity yourselves. Ah! souls, the day is coming when that God to whom you are now an enemy, shall stare you in the face. You must see him; and he is "a consuming fire." You must look into that blazing furnace, and sink, and despair; and die. Die, did I say? Worse than that. You must be cast into the pit of damnation, where dying were a boon that can never be granted. Oh! may God give you peace through his Son! If you are now convinced of sin, the exhortation is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." Just as thou art, thou art bidden to put thy trust in him that did die upon the tree; and if thou doest this, thy sins shall all be forgiven now, and thou shalt have peace with God; and, ere long, thou shalt know it in thine own conscience and rejoice. Oh! seek this peace and pursue it. and above all, seek the Peace-maker, Christ Jesus, and you shall be saved. God bless you for Jesus' sake. Amen.