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18. Concerning peaceableness
Blessed are the peacemakers.
This is the seventh step of the golden ladder which leads to blessedness. The name of peace is sweet, and the work of peace is a blessed work. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’.
Observe the connection. The Scripture links these two together, pureness of heart and peaceableness of spirit. ‘The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable’ (James 3:17). ‘Follow peace and holiness’ (Hebrews 12:14). And here Christ joins them together ‘pure in heart, and ‘peacemakers’, as if there could be no purity where there is not a study of peace. That religion is suspicious which is full of faction and discord.
In the words there are three parts:
1. A duty implied, viz. Peaceable-mindedness.
2. A duty expressed to be peacemakers.
3. A title of honour bestowed ‘They shall be called the children of God’.
1 The duty implied, ‘peaceable-mindedness’. For before men can make peace among others, they must be of peaceable spirits themselves. Before they can be promoters of peace, they must be lovers of peace.
Christians must be peaceable-minded. This peaceableness of spirit is the beauty of a saint. It is a jewel of great price: ‘The ornament of a quiet spirit which is in the sight of God of great price’ (1 Peter 3:4). The saints are Christ’s sheep (John 10:27). The sheep is a peaceable creature. They are Christ’s doves (Canticles 2:14), therefore they must be without gall. It becomes not Christians to be Ishmaels but Solomons. Though they must be lions for courage, yet lambs for peaceableness. God was not in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the ’still small voice’ (1 Kings 19:12). God is not in the rough fiery spirit but in the peaceable spirit.
There is a fourfold peace that we must study and cherish.
(i) An Oeconomical peace, peace in families. It is called ‘the bond of peace’ (Ephesians 4:3). Without this all drops in pieces. Peace is a girdle that ties together members in a family. It is a golden clasp that knits them together that they do not fall in pieces. We should endeavour that our houses should be ‘houses of peace’. It is not fairness of rooms makes a house pleasant, but peaceableness of dispositions. There can be no comfortableness in our dwellings till peace be entertained as an inmate into our houses.
(ii) There is a parochial peace, when there is a sweet harmony, a tuning and chiming together of affections in a parish; when all draw one way and, as the apostle says, are ‘perfectly joined together in the same mind’ (1 Corinthians 1:10). One jarring string brings all the music out of tune. One bad member in a parish endangers the whole. ‘Be at peace among yourselves’ (1 Thessalonians 5:13). It is little comfort to have our houses joined together if our hearts be asunder. A geometrical union will do little good without a moral union.
(iii) There is a political peace, peace in city and country. This is the fairest flower of a prince’s crown. Peace is the best blessing of a nation. It is well with bees when there is a noise; but it is best with Christians when (as in the building of the Temple) there is no noise of hammer heard. Peace brings plenty along with it. How many miles would some go on pilgrimage to purchase this peace! Therefore the Greeks made peace to be the nurse of Pluto, the god of wealth. Political plants thrive best in the sunshine of peace. ‘He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat’ (Psalm 147:14). ‘Peace makes all things flourish’.
The ancients made the harp the emblem of peace. How sweet would the sounding of this harp be after the roaring of the cannon! All should study to promote this political peace. The godly man when he dies ‘enters into peace’ (Isaiah 57:2). But while he lives peace must enter into him.
(iv) There is an ecclesiastical peace, a church-peace, when there is unity and verity in the church of God. Never does religion flourish more than when her children spread themselves as olive-plants round about her table. Unity in faith and discipline is a mercy we cannot prize enough. This is that which God has promised (Jeremiah 32:39) and which we should pursue (Zechariah 8:18-23). Saint Ambrose says of Theodosius the Emperor, that when he lay sick he took more care for the Church’s peace than for his own recovery.
The reasons why we should be peaceable-minded are two:
First, we are called to peace (1 Corinthians 7:15). God never called any man to division. That is a reason why we should not be given to strife, because we have no call for it. But God has called us to peace.
Second, it is the nature of grace to change the heart and make it peaceable. By nature we are of a fierce cruel disposition. When God cursed the ground for man’s sake, the curse was that it should bring forth ‘thorns and thistles’ (Genesis 3:18). The heart of man naturally lies under this curse. It brings forth nothing but the thistles of strife and contention. But when grace comes into the heart it makes it peaceable. It infuses a sweet, loving disposition. It smooths and polishes the most knotty piece. It files off the ruggedness in men’s spirits. Grace turns the vulture into a dove, the briar into a myrtle tree (Isaiah 55:13), the lion-like fierceness into a lamb-like gentleness. ‘The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid . . .’ (Isaiah 11:6-9). It is spoken of the power which the gospel shall have upon men’s hearts; it shall make such a metamorphosis that those who before were full of rage and antipathy shall now be made peaceable and gentle ‘The leopard shall lie down with the kid’.
It shows us the character of a true saint. He is given to peace. He is the keeper of the peace. He is ‘a son of peace’.
Caution: Not but that a man may be of a peaceable spirit, yet seek to recover that which is his due. If peace has been otherwise sought and cannot be attained, a man may go to law and yet be a peaceable man. It is with going to law as it is with going to war, when the rights of a nation are invaded (as 2 Chronicles 20:2, 3), and peace can be purchased by no other means than war; here it is lawful to beat the ploughshare into a sword. So when there is no other way of recovering one’s right but by going to law, a man may commence a suit in law yet be of a peaceable spirit. Going to law (in this case) is not so much striving with another as contending for a man’s own. It is not to do another wrong, but to do himself right. It is a desire rather of equity than victory. I say as the apostle, ‘the law is good if a man use it lawfully’ (1 Timothy 1:8).
You may ask, Is all peace to be sought; how far is peace lawful? I answer, Peace with men must have this double limitation:
1 The peace a godly man seeks is not to have a league of amity with sinners. Though we are to be at peace with their persons, yet we are to have war with their sins. We are to have peace with their persons as they are made in God’s image, but to have war with their sins as they have made themselves in the devil’s image. David was for peace (Psalm 120:7), but he would not sit on the ale-bench with sinners (Psalm 26:4, 5). Grace teaches good nature. We are to be civil to the worst, but not twist into a cord of friendship. That were to be ‘brethren in iniquity’. ‘Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness’ (Ephesians 5:11). Jehoshaphat (though a good man) was blamed for this: ‘Shouldest thou help the ungodly and love them that hate the Lord?’ (2 Chronicles 19:2). The fault was not that he entertained civil peace with Ahab, but that he had a league of friendship and was assistant to Ahab when he went contrary to God. ‘Therefore was wrath upon Jehoshaphat from before the Lord’ (verse 2). We must not so far have peace with others as to endanger ourselves. If a man has the plague, we will be helpful to him and send him our best recipes, but we are careful not to have too much of his company or suck in his infectious breath. So we may be peaceable towards all, nay helpful. Pray for them, counsel them, relieve them, but let us take heed of too much familiarity, lest we suck in their infection. In short we must so make peace with men that we do not break our peace with conscience. ‘Follow peace and holiness’ (Hebrews 12:14). We must not purchase peace with the loss of holiness.
2 We must not so seek peace with others as to wrong truth. ‘Buy the truth and sell it not’ (Proverbs 23:23). Peace must not be bought with the sale of truth. Truth is the ground of faith, the rule of manners. Truth is the most orient gem of the churches’ crown. Truth is a deposit, or charge that God has entrusted us with. We trust God with our souls. He trusts us with his truths. We must not let any of God’s truths fall to the ground. Luther says, It is better that the heavens fall than that one crumb of truth perish. The least filings of this gold are precious. We must not so seek the flower of peace as to lose the pearl of truth.
Some say, let us unite, but we ought not to unite with error. ‘What communion has light with darkness?’ (2 Corinthians 6:14). There are many would have peace with the destroying of truth; peace with Arminian, Socinian, Antiscripturist. This is a peace of the devil’s making. Cursed be that peace which makes war with the Prince of peace. Though we must be peaceable, yet we are bid to ‘contend for the faith’ (Jude 3). We must not be so in love with the golden crown of peace as to pluck off the jewels of truth. Rather let peace go than truth. The martyrs would rather lose their lives than let go the truth.
If Christians must be peaceable-minded, what shall we say to those who are given to strife and contention? To those who, like flax or gunpowder, if they be but touched, are all on fire? How far is this from the spirit of the gospel! It is made the note of the wicked. ‘They are like the troubled sea’ (Isaiah 57:20). There is no rest or quietness in their spirits, but they are continually casting forth the foam of passion and fury. We may with Strigelius wish even to die to be freed from the bitter strifes which are among us. There are too many like the salamander who live in the fire of broils and contentions. ‘If ye have bitter envying and strife, this wisdom descends not from above, but is devilish’ (James 3:14, 15). The lustful man is brutish; the wrathful man is devilish. Everyone is afraid to dwell in an house which is haunted with evil spirits, yet how little afraid are men of their own hearts, which are haunted with the evil spirit of wrath and implacableness.
And then, which is much to be laid to heart, there are the divisions of God’s people. God’s own tribes go to war. In Tertullian’s time it was said, See how the Christians love one another. But now it may be said, See how the Christians snarl one at another, ‘They are comparable to ferocious bears’. Wicked men agree together, when those who pretend to be led by higher principles are full of animosities and heart-burnings. Was it not sad to see Herod and Pilate uniting, and to see Paul and Barnabas falling out? (Acts 15:39). When the disciples called for fire from heaven, ‘Ye know not (saith Christ) what manner of spirit ye are of’ (Luke 9:55). As if the Lord had said, This fire you call for is not zeal, but is the wildfire of your own passions. This spirit of yours does not suit with the Master you serve, the Prince of peace, nor with the work I am sending you about, which is an embassage of peace. It is Satan who kindles the fire of contention in men’s hearts and then stands and warms himself at the fire. When boisterous winds are up, we are accustomed to talk of conjurors. Sure I am, when men’s spirits begin to bluster and storm, the devil has conjured up these winds. Discords and animosities among Christians bring their godliness much into question, for ‘the wisdom which is from above is peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated’ (James 3:17).
Be of a peaceable disposition. ‘If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men’ (Romans 12:18). The curtains of the tabernacle were to be looped together (Exodus 26:3, 4). So should the hearts of Christians be looped together in peace and unity. That I may persuade to peaceablemindedness, let me speak both to reason and conscience.
1 A peaceable spirit seems to be agreeable to the natural frame and constitution. Man by nature seems to be a peaceable creature, fitter to handle the plough than the sword. Other creatures are naturally armed with some kind of weapon wherewith they are able to revenge themselves. The lion has his paw, the boar his tusk, the bee his sting. Only man has none of these weapons. He comes naked and unarmed into the world as if God would have him a peaceable creature. ‘White-robed peace is becoming to men, fierce anger is fitting for wild beasts.’ Man has his reason given him that he should live amiably and peaceably.
2 A peaceable spirit is honourable. ‘It is an honour for a man to cease from strife’ (Proverbs 20:3). We think it a brave thing to give way to strife and let loose the reins to our passions. Oh no, ‘it is an honour to cease from strife’. Noble spirits are such lovers of peace that they need not be bound to the peace. It is the bramble that rends and tears whatever is near it. The cedar and fig-tree, those more noble plants, grow pleasantly and peaceably. Peaceableness is the ensign and ornament of a noble mind.
3 To be of a peaceable spirit is highly prudential. ‘The wisdom from above is peaceable’ (James 3:17). A wise man will not meddle with strife. It is like putting one’s finger into a hornets, nest; or to use Solomon’s similitude, ‘The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water’ (Proverbs 17:14). To set out the folly of strife, it is as letting out of water in two respects:
(i) When water begins to be let out there is no end of it. So there is no end of strife when once begun.
(ii) The letting out of water is dangerous. If a man should break down a bank and let in an arm of the sea, the water might overflow his fields and drown him in the flood. So is he that intermeddles with strife. He may mischief himself and open such a sluice as may engulf and swallow him up. True wisdom espouses peace. A prudent man will keep off from the briars as much as he can.
4 To be of a peaceable spirit brings peace along with it. A contentious person vexes himself and eclipses his own comfort. He is like the bird that beats itself against the cage. ‘He troubles his own flesh’ (Proverbs 11:17). He is just like one that pares off the sweet of the apple and eats nothing but the core. So a quarrelsome man pares off all the comfort of his life and feeds only upon the bitter core of disquiet. He is a self-tormentor. The wicked are compared to a ‘troubled sea’ (Isaiah 57:20). And it follows ‘there is no peace to the wicked’ (verse 21). The Septuagint renders it ‘There is no joy to the wicked’. Froward spirits do not enjoy what they possess, but peaceableness of spirit brings the sweet music of peace along with it. It makes a calm and harmony in the soul. Therefore the psalmist says, it is not only good, but pleasant, to live together in unity (Psalm 133:1).
5 A peaceable disposition is a Godlike disposition.
God the Father is called ‘the God of peace’ (Hebrews 13:20). Mercy and peace are about his throne. He signs the articles of peace and sends the ambassadors of peace to publish them (2 Corinthians 5:20).
God the Son is called ‘the Prince of peace’ (Isaiah 9:6). His name is Emmanuel, God with us, a name of peace. His office is to be a mediator of peace (1 Timothy 2:5). He came into the world with a song of peace; the angels sang it: ‘Peace on earth’ (Luke 2:14). He went out of the world with a legacy of peace: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you’ (John 14:27).
God the Holy Ghost is a Spirit of peace. He is the Comforter. He seals up peace (2 Corinthians 1:22). This blessed dove brings the olive-branch of peace in his mouth. Now a peaceable disposition evidences something of God in a man. Therefore God loves to dwell there. ‘In Salem is God’s tabernacle’ (Psalm 76:2). Salem signifies ‘peace’. God dwells in a peaceable spirit.
6 Christ’s earnest prayer was for peace. He prayed that his people might be one (John 17:11, 21, 23), that they might be of one mind and heart. And observe the argument Christ uses in prayer [it is good to use arguments in prayer. They are as the feathers to the arrow, which
make it fly swifter, and pierce deeper. Affections in prayer are as the fire in the gun; arguments in prayer are as the bullet]. The argument Christ urges to his Father is ‘that they may be one, even as we are one’ (verse 22). There was never any discord between the Father and Christ. Though God parted with Christ out of his bosom, yet not out of his heart. There was ever dearness and oneness between them. Now Christ prays that, as he and his Father were one, so his people might be all one in peace and concord. Did Christ pray so earnestly for peace, and shall not we endeavour what in us lies to fulfil Christ’s prayer? How do we think Christ will hear our prayer if we cross his?
7 Christ not only prayed for peace, but bled for it. ‘Having made peace through the blood of his cross’ (Colossians 1:20). Peace of all kinds! He died not only to make peace between God and man, but between man and man. Christ suffered on the cross that he might cement Christians together with his blood. As he prayed for peace, so he paid for peace. Christ was himself bound to bring us into the ‘bond of peace’.
8 Strife and contention hinder the growth of grace. Can good seed grow in a ground where there is nothing but thorns and briars to be seen? ‘The thorns choked the seed’ (Matthew 13:7). When the heart is, as it were, stuck with thorns and is ever tearing and rending, can the seed of grace ever grow there? Historians report of the Isle of Patmos that the natural soil of it is such that nothing will grow upon that earth. A froward heart is like the Isle of Patmos. Nothing of grace will grow there till God changes the soil and makes it peaceable. How can faith grow in an unpeaceable heart? For ‘faith works by love’. Impossible it is that he should bring forth the sweet fruits of the Spirit who is ‘in the gall of bitterness’. If a man has received poison into his body, the most excellent food will not nourish till he takes some antidote to expel that poison. Many come to the ordinances with seeming zeal, but being poisoned with wrath and animosity they receive no spiritual nourishment. Christ’s body mystical ‘edifieth itself in love’ (Ephesians 4:16). There may be praying and hearing, but no spiritual concoction, no edifying of the body of Christ without love and peace.
9 Peaceableness among Christians is a powerful loadstone to draw the world to receive Christ. Not only gifts and miracles and preaching may persuade men to embrace the truth of the gospel, but peace and unity among the professors of it. When as there is one God and one faith, so there is one heart among Christians, this is as cummin seed, which makes the doves flock to the windows. The temple was adorned with ‘goodly stones’ (Luke 21:5). This makes Christ’s spiritual temple look beautiful, and the stones of it appear goodly, when they are cemented together in peace and unity.
10 Unpeaceableness of spirit is to make Christians turn heathens. It is the sin of the heathens to be ‘implacable’ (Romans 1:31). They cannot be pacified. Their hearts are like adamant. No oil can supple them; no fire can melt them. It is a heathenish thing to be so fierce and violent, as if with Romulus men had sucked the milk of wolves.
11 To add yet more weight to the exhortation, it is the mind of Christ that we should live in peace. ‘Have peace one with another’ (Mark 9:50). Shall we not be at peace for Christ’s sake? If we ought to lay down our life for Christ’s sake, shall we not lay down our strife for his sake?
To conclude: If we will neither be under counsels nor commands, but still feed the peccant humour, nourishing in ourselves a spirit of dissension and unpeaceableness, Jesus Christ will never come near us. The people of God are said to be his house: ‘Whose house are we . . .’ (Hebrews 3:6). When the hearts of Christians are a spiritual house, adorned with the furniture of peace, then they are fit for the Prince of peace to inhabit. But when this pleasant furniture is wanting and instead of it nothing but strife and debate, Christ will not own it for his house, nor will he grace it with his presence. Who will dwell in an house which is smoky and all on fire?
How shall we attain to peaceableness?
1 Take heed of those things which will hinder it. There are several impediments of peace which we must beware of, and they are either outward or inward.
(i) Outward: as whisperers (Romans 1:29). There are some who will be buzzing things in our ears purposely to exasperate and provoke. Among these we may rank talebearers (Leviticus 19:16). The talebearer carries reports up and down. The devil sends his letters by this post. The talebearer is an incendiary. He blows the coals of contention. Do you hear (says he) what such an one says of you? Will you put up with such a wrong? Will you suffer yourself to be so abused? Thus does he, by throwing in his fireballs, foment differences and set men together by the ears. We are commanded indeed to provoke one another to love (Hebrews 10:24), but nowhere to provoke to anger. We should stop our ears to such persons as are known to come on the devil’s errand.
2 Take heed of inward lets to peace; for example:
(i) Self-love: ‘Men shall be lovers of themselves’ (2 Timothy 3:2). And it follows they shall be ‘fierce’ (verse 3). The setting up of this idol of self has caused so many lawsuits, plunders, massacres in the world. ‘All seek their own’ (Philippians 2:21). Nay, it were well if they would seek but their own. Self-love angles away the estates of others either by force or fraud. Self-love sets up monopolies and enclosures. It is a bird of prey which lives upon rapine. Self-love cuts asunder the bond of peace. Lay aside self. The heathens could say ‘We are not born for ourselves alone’.
(ii) Pride: ‘He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife’ (Proverbs 28:25). Pride and contention, like Hippocrates’ twins, are both born at once. A proud man thinks himself better than others and will contend for superiority. ‘Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence’ (3 John 9). A proud man would have all strike sail to him. Because Mordecai would not give Haman the cap and knee, he gets a bloody warrant signed for the death of all the Jews (Esther 3:9). What made all the strife between Pompey and Caesar but pride? Their spirits were too high to yield one to another. When this wind of pride gets into a man’s heart, it causes sad earthquakes of division. The poets feign that when Pandora’s box was broken open it filled the world with diseases. When Adam’s pride had broken the box of original righteousness it has ever since filled the world with debates and dissensions. Let us shake off this viper of pride. Humility solders Christians together in peace.
(iii) Envy; envy stirreth up strife. The apostle has linked them together. ‘Envy, strife’ (1 Timothy 6:4). Envy cannot endure a superior. This made the plebeian faction so strong among the Romans; they envied their superiors. An envious man seeing another to have a fuller crop, a better trade, is ready to pick a quarrel with him. ‘Who can stand before envy?’ (Proverbs 27:4). Envy is a vermin that lives on blood. Take heed of it. Peace will not dwell with this inmate.
(iv) Credulity. ‘The simple believeth every word’ (Proverbs 14:15). A credulous man is akin to a fool. He believes all that is told him and this often creates differences. As it is a sin to be a talebearer, so it is a folly to be a tale-believer. A wise man will not take a report at the first bound, but will sift and examine it before he gives credit to it.
2 Let us labour for those things which will maintain and cherish peace.
(i) As faith; faith and peace keep house together. Faith believes the Word of God. The Word says, ‘Live in peace’ (2 Corinthians 13:11). And as soon as faith sees the king of heaven’s warrant, it obeys. Faith persuades the soul that God is at peace, and it is impossible to believe this and live in variance. Nourish faith. Faith knits us to God in love and to our brethren in peace.
(ii) Christian communion. There should not be too much strangeness among Christians. The primitive saints had their ‘agapai’ that is, love-feasts. The apostle exhorting to peace brings this as an expedient: ‘Be ye kind one to another’ (Ephesians 4:32).
(iii) Do not look upon the failings of others, but upon their graces. There is no perfection here. We read of the ’spots of God’s children’ (Deuteronomy 32:5). The most golden Christians are some grains too light. Oh, let us not so quarrel with the infirmities of others as to pass by their virtues. If in some things they fail, in other things they excel. It is the manner of the world to look more upon the sun in an eclipse than when it shines in its full lustre.
(iv) Pray to God that he will send down the Spirit of peace into our hearts. We should not as vultures prey one upon another, but pray one for another. Pray that God will quench the fire of contention and kindle the fire of compassion in our hearts one to another. So much for the first thing in the text implied, that Christians should be peaceable-minded. I proceed to the second thing expressed, that they should be peacemakers.
All good Christians ought to be peacemakers; they should not only be peaceable themselves, but make others to be at peace. As in the body when a joint is out we set it again, so it should be in the body politic. When a garment is rent we sew it together again. When others are rent asunder in their affections we should with a spirit of meekness sew them together again. Had we this excellent skill we might glue and unite dissenting spirits. I confess it is often a thankless office to go about to reconcile differences (Acts 7:27). Handle a briar never so gently, it will go near to scratch. He that goes to interpose between two fencers many times receives the blow. But this duty, though it may lack success as from men, yet it shall not want a blessing from God. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’ O how happy were England if it had more peacemakers! Abraham was a peacemaker (Genesis 13:8). Moses was a peacemaker (Exodus 2:13), and that ever-to-be-honoured emperor Constantine, when he called the bishops together at that first Council of Nicaea to end church controversies, they having instead of that prepared bitter invectives and accusations one against another, Constantine took their papers and rent them, gravely exhorting them to peace and unanimity.
It sharply reproves them that are so far from being peacemakers that they are peace-breakers. If ‘blessed are the peacemakers’, then cursed are the peace-breakers. If peacemakers are the children of God, then peace-breakers are the children of the devil. Heretics destroy the truth of the church by error, and schismatics destroy the peace of it by division. The apostle sets a brand upon such. ‘Mark those which cause divisions and avoid them’ (Romans 16:17). Have no more to do with them than with witches or murderers. The devil was the first peace-breaker. He divided man from God. He, like Phaeton, set all on fire. There are too many make-bates in England whose sweetest music is in discord, who never unite but to divide. As it was said of one of the Arian emperors, he procured unity to prevent peace. How many in our days may be compared to Samson’s foxtails, which were tied together only to set the Philistines’ corn on fire! (Judges 15:4, 5). Sectaries unite to set the church’s peace on fire. These are the persons God’s soul hates, ‘Sowers of discord among brethren’ (Proverbs 6:19). These are the children of a curse: ‘Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour secretly’ (Deuteronomy 27:24), that is, who backbites and so sets one friend against another. If there be a devil in man’s shape, it is the incendiary.
The text exhorts to two things:
1 Let us take up a bitter lamentation for the divisions of England. The wild beast has broken down the hedge of our peace. We are like a house falling to ruin, if the Lord does not mercifully under-prop and shore us up. None of the sons of England comfort her, but rather rake in her bowels. Will not an ingenuous child grieve to see his mother rent and torn in pieces? It is reported of Cato that from the time the civil wars began in Rome between Caesar and Pompey, he was never seen to laugh or shave his beard or cut his hair. That our hearts may be sadly affected with these our church and state divisions let us consider the mischief of divisions.
(i) They are a prognostic of much evil to a nation. Here that rule in philosophy holds true, ‘All division tends to destruction’. When the veil of the temple was rent in pieces, it was a sad omen and forerunner of the destruction of the temple. The rending the veil of the church’s peace betokens the ruin of it. Josephus observes that the city of Jerusalem when it was besieged by Titus Vespasian had three great factions in it, which destroyed more than the enemy and was the occasion of the taking it. How fatal intestine divisions have been to this land! Camden and other learned writers relate how our discerptions and mutinies have been the scaling ladder by which the Romans and the Normans have formerly gotten into the nation. How is the bond of peace broken! We have so many schisms in the body and are run into so many particular churches that God may justly un-church us, as he did Asia.
(ii) It may afflict us to see the garment of the church’s peace rent, because divisions bring an opprobrium and scandal upon religion. These make the ways of God evil spoken of, as if religion were the fomenter of strife and sedition. Julian, in his invective against the Christians, said that they lived together as tigers rending and devouring one an other. And shall we make good Julian’s words? It is unseemly to see Christ’s doves fighting; to see his lily become a bramble. Alexander Severus, seeing two Christians contending, commanded them that they should not take the name of Christians any longer upon them, for (says he) you dishonour your Master Christ. Let men either lay down their contentions, or lay off the coat of their profession.
(iii) Divisions obstruct the progress of piety. The gospel seldom thrives where the apple of strife grows. The building of God’s spiritual temple is hindered by the confusion of tongues. Division eats as a worm and destroys the ‘peaceable fruits of righteousness’ (Hebrews 12:11). In the Church of Corinth, when they began to divide into parties, one was for Paul, another for Apollos; there were but few for Christ. Confident I am that England’s divisions have made many turn atheists.
2 Let us labour to heal differences and be repairers of breaches: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’ Jesus Christ was a great peacemaker. He took a long journey from heaven to earth to make peace. Peace and unity is a great means for the corroborating and strengthening the church of God. The saints are compared to living stones, built up for a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5). You know the stones in an arch or fabric help to preserve and bear up one another. If the stones be loosened and drop out, all the fabric falls in pieces. When the Christians in the primitive church were of one heart (Acts 4:32) what a supporting was this! How did they counsel, comfort, build up one another in their holy faith! We see while the members of the body are united, so long they do administer help and nourishment one to another; but if they be divided and broken off, they are no way useful, but the body languishes. Therefore let us endeavour to be peacemakers. The church’s unity tends much to her stability. Peace makes the church of God on earth in some measure like the church in heaven. The cherubims (representing the angels) are set out with their faces ‘looking one upon another’ to show their peace and unity. There are no jarrings or discords among the heavenly spirits. One angel is not of an opinion differing from another. Though they have different orders, they are not of different spirits. They are seraphims, therefore burn, not in heat of contention, but love. The angels serve God not only with pure hearts, but united hearts. By an harmonious peace we might resemble the church triumphant.
He that sows peace shall reap peace. ‘To the counsellors of peace is joy’ (Proverbs 12:20). The peacemaker shall have peace with God, peace in his own bosom, and that is the sweetest music which is made in a man’s own breast. He shall have peace with others. The hearts of all shall be united to him. All shall honour him. He shall be called ‘the repairer of the breach’ (Isaiah 58:12). To conclude, the peacemaker shall die in peace. He shall carry a good conscience with him and leave a good name behind him. So I have done with the first part of the text ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’. I proceed to the next part.
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