« PreviousContinue »
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 2 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 1 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 her from 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 stlence, 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 enmity against God? True. But who would fancy, as it twines its arms around a mother's neck, and kisses her, and sings itself asleep on her loving bosom, that the day can ever come when it will stab that bosom, and these little hands will plant wrongs sharper than a dagger in her bleeding heart? Yet that happens. And many things else happen that you would never fancy. The purple bells of the nightshade change into poisonous berries; the cold, dull flint sends out sparks of burning fire; the viper that lay quiet in the “bundle of sticks” is aroused by the heat, and leaps from the flames to fasten on an apostle's hand. Sins, like seeds, lie dormant till circumstances call them into active existence. Aware of that, Satan knew right well what he was saying when, in reply to God's praise of his servant Job, he said with a sneer, “Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast thou not made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side 2 thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.” And so the good man had done, but for restraining grace. What a burst of pent-up passion, like the fic-y couption of a volcano, breaks the seven days' awful silence, “Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived; let that day be darkness. Why died I not from the womb? Why did the knees prevent me? Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; which long for death, but it cometh not ; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; which rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they can find the grave?” Here Job curses the day that he was born ; and he who curses God's provi. dence has to take but another step, and he curses God himself. But that a divine arm had borne his burden, but that a divine hand curbed his passions, that woman, raging like a bear bereaved of her whelps, would have had no occasion to reproach him for his tame submission. No. He had vented curses, if not as loud, perhaps, like the river where it flows, sullen and black, more deep than hers; and, standing side by side over a grave big with bodies and with griefs, they had raised their hands together against the heavens, and flung back their life at him who had embittered it. But for the grace of God Job had been no pattern of patience. And let the grace, which both sustained and restrained him, be withdrawn from any of us, and our natural enmity and corruption would break out after such a fashion as would astonish ourselves, shock the ears of the public, and lead many to hold up their hands to exclaim, Lord, what is man This enmity is a doctrine into which the believer does not need to be reasoned. He feels it. He reads its evidence elsewhere than in the Bible; he reads it in his own heart. He, who knows himself, knows it. Breaking out like old sores, the sins of heart, and speech, and conduct, by which it makes itself manifest, are his daily pain, and fear, and grief. Other soldiers have easy times of peace, when swords rust idly in their sheaths, and the trumpet sounds but for parade. Not he. There is never a day but he has to fight this enmity to the holy will and sovereign ways of God. His life is a long battle and a hard battle; and, like a soldier tired of war, though true to his colors, he often wishes that it were over, as, overcome of evil, and vexed with himself, he throws himself on his knees to