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back without some regret on those happy days when children played, and no ragged orphans pined, in the streets, when manners were simple, and people were guileless, and the rich were kind to the poor, and the poor did not scowl upon the rich, and nobody was trodden on or neglected, and no wide yawning gulf separated the highest from the lowest classes of the community.
The ordinary salutation of the East, however, was one of peace. It is so still. Seated on his fiery steed and armed to the teeth, the Bedouin careers along the desert. Catching, away in the haze of the burning sands, a form similarly mounted and similarly armed approaching him, he is instantly on the alert; for life is a precarious possession among these wild sons of freedom. His long spear drops to the level; and grasping it in his sinewy hand he presses forward, till the black eyes that glance out from the folds of his shawl recognise in the stranger one of a friendly tribe, between whom and him there is no quarrel, no question of blood to settle. So, for the sun is hot, and it is far to their tents, like two ships in mid-ocean, they pass; they pull no reign, but sweep on, with a "Salem Aleikum," Peace be unto you. Like their flowing attire, the black tents of Kedar, the torch procession at their marriages, this salutation is one of the many stereotyped habits of the East. Throughout the Holy Land and the neighboring countries, the modern traveller hears the old salutation, fresh and unchanged, as if it were but yesterday that David was a fugitive in the wilderness of Paran, and sent this message to that rude, surly, niggard churl, with whom Abigail, "a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance," was unhappily mated, Peace be both to thee, and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast.
Beautiful as this custom is, like the fragrant wallflower that springs from the mouldering ruin it adorns, it sprung from an unhappy condition of society. Why peace? Because frequent wars, sudden interruptions of hostile tribes, made the people of these lands sigh for peace. Hence their habit of expressing their kindly feelings to each other in the wish that they might have peace; a blessing which many had not, and which they who had might not long enjoy. War does not take us unawares. We see the black stormcloud gathering before it bursts; and by prudent policy we may avert it, or, if it be inevitable, prepare bravely to meet it. But this course of humanity, this dreadful scourge fell on the villages and cities of these countries with the suddenness of the sea-squall that strikes the ship, and, ere time is found to reef a sail or lower a boat, throws her on her beam-ends, and sends her, crew and cargo, foundering into the deep. Look at the case of Job; camels, cattle, sheep and servants gone, he is reduced in one short day from affluence to the most abject poverty. One morning the sun rises in peace on Abraham's tents; and ere noon or nightfall they are ringing with cries to the rescue; in wild confusion children are crying, women are weeping, and men are arming; there is hot haste to mount and away; and, with two hundred retainers at his back, Abraham scours the country, raising it as he goes, to deliver Lot and his family from the hand of the spoilers. Three days ago, David and his followers left Ziklag, sweet peace brooding over the quiet scene; and where is Ziklag on their return? They come back, but not to happy homes; they are silent, a mass of smoking ruins; no wife hastens to embrace her husband, no child runs to climb its father's knee; the red-handed spoiler has been there; their mountain nest has been harried ; and, appalled at the desolation, these stout-hearted men burst into frantic grief, weeping till, as the Bible says, they can weep no more. Looking at these scenes, it is easy to understand how the most kind and common greeting in such countries was Peace be unto you.
Though the practice would ill accord with our conventional manners, that have often more of art than of nature, I think, considering the day, the place, the purpose of the assembly, it were a beautiful and appropriate thing, when ministers and people meet in the house of God, to meet after the manner of Boaz and his people; the minister, on appearing in the pulpit, saying The Lord be with you, and the people responding The Lord bless thee. Our vine and fig-tree are good laws, a free government, a home around which the sea throws her protecting arms, and a stout people who fear God and honor the king. Thus preserved from the fears of those countries, we have not learned their fashions. Yet when we ransack these sunny lands for gay flowers to adorn our gardens, why should we not transplant some of their beautiful habits? While others introduce offensive novelties into the pulpit, as if the gospel required such wretched aids, he would follow the footsteps, and give utterance to the spirit of Jesus, who, boldly breaking the ice of our cold customs, should meet his people on the morning of the blessed Sabbath with his master's salutation, Peace be unto you.
With these words our Lord, on returning from the grave, accosted his disciples. Nor on his lips were they mere words of course, the ordinary courtesies of life. How well did they suit the occasion! The battle of salvation has been fought out, and a great victory won ; and in that salutation Jesus, his own herald, announces the news to an anxious church. Passing into that upper room which holds it, passing through the barred and bolted door which protects it, he suddenly appears among them. He has fulfilled the anthem with which angels sang his advent, and ushered him into this distracted, guilty world. Though he had to recal herefrom heaven, where she had fled in alarm at the Fall, or, rather, had to seek her in the gloomy retreats of death, he brings back sweet holy Peace to earth. And hastening to tell them the good news, the glad tidings of great joy, he proclaims it in the words, Peace be unto you. He shows them his hands, with the nail-marks there; he uncovers his side with the spear-scar there; and when the disciples are gazing through streaming eyes on these affecting lovetokens, his heart swells, fills, overflows with tenderness, and, as if he could never tire of saying it, nor they of hearing it, he bends over them to say again and again, Peace be unto you.
Suppose that, instead of descending, like dews, in those gracious but silent and unseen influences of the Spirit, that people should pray for and preachers should trust to, our Lord were to come in person, appear in a visible form, and reveal his glory to every eye, how would he address us? I believe that he would bring from heaven the very salutation which he brought from the grave. As he looked around on those he had purchased with his blood, and renewed by his grace, I can fancy him breaking the deep silence, and stilling the heart-throbbings, and dissipating the sudden terrors which a vision might produce, with the old gracious words, Peace be unto you. And what a load would that take off some hearts; what a calm, like his voice on Galilee, would it impart to some troubled minds; what a gracious answer would it bring to some earnest prayers! To hear his own voice, however, to behold his blessed face, to be assured of forgiveness from his own lips, these are joys reserved for heaven. Yet with strong, though childlike faith in exercise, the next best thing is to be assured, as we are assured in my text, that peace has been made, and that God, for the purpose of reconciling us to himself, has made it through the blood of Christ's cross.
I. The text implies that by nature man is at enmity with God.
So says the apostle Paul. Nor is it possible to lay down that doctrine more clearly or more strongly than he does in these remarkable words, " The carnal mind is enmity against God." He does not say that it is in a state of enmity. Not at all; for states and frames may undergo change, and are variable as wind or weather. As God is love, so the carnal mind is enmity; this being so much the nature, essence, element c° its existence, that if you took away the enmity, it would cease to be; enmity being the breath of its life, the very marrow of its bones. From such a view of the heart, from so hideous a picture some start back; they hesitate to believe it, while others plainly, indignantly deny it. Pointing us to a beautiful, sweet, angel-like child, as with open brow and unclouded face, it bends at a mother's knee, and, lifting its little hands to heaven, repeats from her gentle lips its evening prayer, they ask who can fancy that creature to be