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woe; not to relieve it by the sweet voice of mutual sympathy; but refusing that alleviation, they have condemned themselves to a silence as perpetual as it was profound. Here, in the gloomy cell, or the cheerless cloister, might be seen the victims of delusion, giving their nights to sleeplessness and prayer, from which the morning called them off only to dig with ceaseless toil the grave where they hope to find repose.
And there might be witnessed the scourgings and lacerations of the wasted frame, which were intended to appease the inquietude, and still the apprehensions, of the troubled spirit. Who can tell how dreadful have been the austerities, how painful the mortifications, how severe the abstinences, under which human nature has been condemned to groan, until exhausted and destroyed, it has sunk into its suicidal grave?
But all these are only so many attestations to the value of that peace which all men have lost, and which, in a thousand ways of error, they are seeking to regain.
But peace of mind cannot be purchased by pains of body; neither does tranquillity necessarily dwell in the loneliness of solitude; and minds which would not dare to abide the selfcommunion of retirement, nor to seek composure there, might hope to find comparative stillness in more boisterous scenes.
Not only in the solitude of the desert, there
fore, not in cloistered silence, not in monastic glooms, nor yet in penance and severity alone, have men sought to still the restlessness of an unquiet mind. From a life of mortification, and from the rigours of penance, they have rushed to the excesses of indulgence and of pleasure. From the privacy of the desert, and the cave of the anchoret, they have turned to the crowded city, and there, in the headlong tumult and the busy throng, in the resorts of dissipation, and the scenes of active toil, in unwearied occupation or thought-dispelling folly, we may alike discover their anxiety to escape from their own reflections, and in incessant change to find or to forget the peace which they have lost. Thousands who urge this ceaseless pursuit, this constant endeavour for something yet unattained, are unconscious of their own true motive; but all, if they would pause and reflect, might discover and confess that they are only obeying the impulse of an unsettled and restless mind.
The words before us hold out the promise of a perfect peacema peace with God. But who can tell the blessedness of being at peace with God? Who can tell the confidence, and hope, and joy, which that peace sheds abroad in the heart? Would you know its power? Ask them who, possessing it, have triumphed over persecution, contempt, and death. Ask them who, through fear of loosing it, have resisted unto blood, striving
against sin. Ask, and hear their answer in the cheerfulness and constancy of their self-devotion. Ask the noble army of martyrs, who had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonments; who were stoned, were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword, were destitute, afflicted, tormented. Ask them what were all the horrors of rack and of sword, what the pains of the cross and of the flame, what all the rage of the world without, when the peace of God reigned within?
Would you still know the value of the peace of God? Ask him who has it not. Ask him who, by neglect or contempt of the Gospel, has finally lost his day of grace; who has been given up to spiritual abandonment; and in whose bosom dwells only horrible despair, and a fearful looking for of fiery indignation. Ask him whom the vipers of conscience have already begun to gnaw; who even now anticipates the weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; who feels already the infliction of the worm that never dies, and the burnings of the fire that is never to be quenched; him who has sinned away his life, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, who has quenched the spirit of grace, whose probation is ended, and for whom there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin; ask him, in his dying hour of terror and despair, what is the value of peace with God.
Or if scenes of gentleness and mercy have more
power to move you, if the composure and consolation of a quiet end, can better touch your heart with sensibility, go, mark the perfect man, and behold the upright. Go to "the chamber where “ the good man meets his fate;" go to the death bed of the righteous, and see with what composure a Christian can die. Hear one exclaim, I am ready to be offered up, and the time of
my departure is at hand. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of glory, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day. I know in whom I have believed. I have a desire to depart, and be with Christ; for when I am absent from the body, I shall be present with the Lord. Need we ask such an one what is the value of peace with God? He cannot explain it, for it passeth understanding. His joy is unspeakable, for it is full of glory.
My brethren, it is in the Scriptures alone, and on the ground of assurance, which they set before us, that we can find the only foundation of a perfect peace. To be reconciled to God by faith in
. Christ; to have pardon and remission of sins; and to be restored to the forfeited favour of God; must be the basis of our confidence; for there is no other name under heaven through which we can enjoy a peace that shall be unshaken and abiding.
We do not assert that there is no worldly delusion by which men deceive themselves into apparent tranquillity. On the contrary, there are many such. The atheist has what he calls
peace, when he can persuade himself there is no God. The infidel, when he derides an hereafter, and mocks at retribution and judgment. And sinners have peace, when they join hand in hand to do evil; or when, having resisted, grieved, and quenched the Holy Spirit, they are hardened in iniquity, and can sin without remorse. But this peace is the stillness which precedes the tempest; the hush which is followed by the earthquake.
We ourselves often see the end of that peace which the wicked enjoy. And whether we see it or not, we know that it must terminate in horror and despair ; for the triumphing of the wicked is short, and their joy but for a moment. Even while they cry, Peace, peace, sudden destruction overtakes them, from which they cannot escape. What, I ask, will it avail us, in the hour of affliction or death, to rely on ourselves, or on any created thing, to give us support? Our unbelief, our scoffing, our evil companions, the insensibility of our conscience, the world itself, and all that is in it, will then be insufficient to give us peace. Nor can we be safe while we rest in any thing short of the favour and protection of him who rules and governs us.
He made and upholds all things. Our peace must be with God. But, my brethren, as to the ground of obtaining VOL. II.