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without us, to guard, relieve, heal, sanctify, and save; to give us strength to endure, and power to overcome. Under his influence and direction, we shall successfully fight the good fight, keep the faith, finish our course with joy, and receive that crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to all them that love his appearing.'— Thanks be to God for this unspeakable gift.' Amen.
PEACE OF CONSCIENCE.
PEACE I LEAVE WITH YOU: MY PEACE I GIVE UNTO YOU: NOT AS THE WORLD GIVETH, GIVE I UNTO YOU.
JOHN XIV, 27.
HAVING examined the Nature of adoption and sanctification, I shall now proceed to consider another consequence of this change in man, viz. evangelical peace.
These words are a part of Christ's first discourse to his apostles after the institution of the Lord's Supper. He was now about to leave the world. His death he had often predicted to them in the plainest language; yet so strong were their expectations of a reigning, conquering Messiah, that they seem never to have believed these predictions. So far as they were able, they appear to have interpreted them in any manner rather than the true one; and, when they could not misinterpret them, to have concluded, that they involved some mystery which it was beyond their power to unriddle.
However, as the time drew near, and the events which led to this great one began to thicken, they became apprehensive and alarmed. What evils were before them they seem not to have realized; but they appear to have been fully sensible that something terrible was at hand, and to have become deeply discouraged by loose and undefined forebodings.
Christ understood perfectly the state of their minds; and, with his own peculiar tenderness, commenced the benevolent work of furnishing them the necessary relief. This he accomplished in three Discourses; the first included in this, the second in the two following, and the third in the seventeenth, chapters. Never were consolations so well devised, or so well administered. The discourses are beautiful beyond all parallel; supremely instructive, exquisitely tender, and replete with considerations of the most supporting nature. The last of them is a prayer, more interesting, more sublime, more wonderful, than ever was or ever will be uttered in the present world; and may fairly be regarded as a specimen of that intercession which the divine Advocate makes for his followers 'before the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.'
Among the considerations which endear these discourses of Christ to his children, the most affecting one is, they are his dying words; his last addresses before he ascended the cross. They succeeded the institution of the sacramental supper; they preceded the crucifixion. Never was there an occasion so interesting, so solemn, so divine; nor was any mind, beside that of Christ, ever so perfectly fitted to understand and feel the nature of this occasion, or so able to employ it to the best of all purposes. He seems here to have poured out his soul with supreme love and infinite endearment. The whole Saviour is brought out to view; the God becomes visible in his most lovely and glorious character.
The apostles were now to be left by him, to go unbefriended and unprotected into a world of enemies, and to meet all the evils which could be inflicted on them by bigotry, malice, and persecution. To support them in this state of suffering, he promises them a rich variety of blessings, particularly the presence and everlasting love of his Father and himself; reminds them of his own sufferings, and of the fortitude with which he had endured them, and assures to them the consolation of the Spirit of truth, as a most desirable and delightful support under all external distresses.
Of all the blessings contained in these promises, none seems to be better suited to their situation and their wants than that which is announced in the text. When contentions multiply and enemies invade from without; when friends withdraw, and comforts diminish; when enjoyments lessen,
and hope retires; nothing can be more timely, more desirable, more welcome, than peace within; peace, quieting all the tumults of the mind, soothing the wounds of a troubled conscience, and allaying, on the one hand, fear, on the other, suffering.
That we may understand the value of this legacy left by the Redeemer, not to the apostles only, but to all his followers, it will be useful to consider,
I. The nature of the peace which he
endeavour to explain the nature of the peace
which Christ gave his disciples.
Peace is always opposed to war; and, when begun in any instance, involves the cessation of the preceding conflict. With a direct reference to such a conflict Christ was pleased to bestow the blessing mentioned in the text; and called it by a name fitted to show both the nature of the evils to be, remedied, and the nature of the remedy.
Such a conflict actually exists between man and himself, his fellow-men, and his Maker. Against God this hostility manifests itself in ten thousand acts of resistance to his pleasure. While he claims the supreme love and implicit obedience of every intelligent creature, man denies both his claims, and the rights on which they are founded; and boldly sets up, in opposition to them, claims and rights of his own, which he determines to support to the utmost of his power. For this end he commences a progress of revolt and contention, which occupies most of his time and most of his thoughts; and at death leaves, not unfrequently, the controversy undecided.
With his fellow-men his contention arises from two sources, his own selfishness, and theirs. The mind in which selfishness reigns, always wishes, intends, and labours to make every other interest subservient to its own; or, at the least, to prevent it from disturbing, precluding, or diminishing its own. From this source have sprung all the private and all the public contentions which have destroyed the peace of neighbourhoods, and ravaged the world; the sufferings and the sighs, the tears and the groans, which have spread from one end of heaven to the other.
Nor is man less busily employed in conflicting with himself.
The passions and appetites of the human heart have ever opposed the dictates of conscience. The conscience was intended by God to regulate the moral conduct of the man ; and strenuously and firmly asserts its right to this important and most necessary controul. Still more strenuously the passions rebel against it, force the man to submit to their own dictates, and hurry him into a course of disobedience. In this progress of guilt, conscience holds out her dreadful mirror to his terrified eye, exhibits him to himself, odious, deformed, and fearfully exposed to the anger of God.
To this distracted, miserable being peace is announced in the text, by him who knew all the wants, sufferings, and dangers of our race. Upon a strict examination, the legacy will be found to be exactly suited to the state of those for whom it was intended.
1. It is a happy state of the mind, or intellect.
Every person, who has at all entertained serious and solemn thoughts concerning religious subjects, must have often perceived a multitude of doubts springing up in his mind at different times, concerning the Word of God; the evidence, by which its divine origin is evinced, and the nature of the doctrines and precepts which it contains. These doubts may at times grow out of ignorance; usually they spring from the heart, from its disrelish to the truth itself, and its opposition to its Author. Every doubt on this subject is attended with some degree of distress. The soul is unwilling that there should be any such truths, and that God should have such a character, as to be capable of being the Author of them. Especially is this observation applicable to those doctrines which exhibit ourselves as guilty, condemned, and ruined; and God as pure, holy, and sovereign. Against these doctrines mankind have contended in all ages; have doubted their truth, have denied their import, and have exploded the evidence by which they were sustained. In the place of these doctrines the mind substitutes others which are more palatable to itself. For their obvious and real meaning, which it is determined not to admit, it substitutes others; kindred perhaps, and plausible, but oblique, and incapable of being supported. In this manner it struggles to get loose from the truth of God, sometimes by believing that he has made no revelation of his will to mankind; sometimes by determining that he has made