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province of his empire, and leading a multitude which no man can number, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, to throw down their arms, and sue for pardon. God has set forth his only begotton and well-beloved Son as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins ; and if offenders are received into favor at all, it must be in this way. As there is in the whole universe but one source of true peace, so there is but one channel through which it can come to men. In vain is it, as thousands have found by sad experience, that we run here and there, knock ing at every door, and asking, Who will show us any good? The depth saith, is it not in me; and the sea saith, is it not
It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed as the price thereof."
This priceless blessing is in God, and of God, and can only be enjoyed by those who are humble and self-emptied enough to receive it as His gift, througb Jesus Christ our Lord. The provision is, from beginning to end, of his making, and it must be embraced only in the way of his pointing out.
Who is there that, apart from God's favor as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ, has ever tasted solid joy and satisfaction of spirit? You might as well talk of making the waters of the ocean fresh, by showers from the sky. The Most High has assured men that they can find peace only where they lost it, in conscious union with himself, and happy participation of his own blessedness.
Such, we are all aware, is the constitution of the human mind, that it can find real repose only in God. To essay to fill it with the riches, and satisfy it with the honors of this poor world, is but to tantalize its hopes, and mock its disquietudes. It must have food adapted to its character, or it will prey upon itself, and eat away its own vitality. If anything is plain, it is that the good which the soul craves comes from God alone; and equally plain is it, that it can come from him only through the channel of redeeming mercy. Here may peace be found, grounded upon promises, revealed in emblems, and secured by pledges which can never fail. It has a divine authorship, and well may it strengthen those who possess it with all might in the inner man.
We now pass on to inquire, secondly, into the nature of this peace, denominated in the text perfect.
The blessing, coming as it does directly from God, will cer: tainly bear the impress of its high and holy origin. By that sort of connection, which is sure to subsist between the effect and its cause, there must always be something in the inward repose of a truly good man to mark its source and reveal the hand which bestows it. His joy though not at present all that it will be, or all that it might be, is still a joy, with which the stranger intermeddleth not. What if the stream does take up occasional particles of impurity as it pursues its way, and become somewhat discoloured by the sol rough which it flows?
Less cannot be expected. But this does not prevent the existence of qualites in it which tell of its fountain and spring head. Thus too in every case will it be with the man who has felt the pangs of a guilty conscience, and has learned that healing and peace are to be found in God alone. His very defects are mingled with excellences, which show that they come from above.
This is a point which ought to be carefully considered. The laws of the human mind are such that a man's bappiness will partake of the character of the object on which he rests. If, therefore, the peace which he feels is derived from an uncertain and unsatisfying world, the peace itself will be just as uncertain and unsatisfying as is the world that supplies it. Should he have no other basis of repose than the affections of kind and tender friends, when these friends die he must be left disconsolate. Should he gather wealth, and build mansions, and acquire fame, to make him happy, when these fail he is wretched. But let him once put bis trust in the im. mutable and eternal God, and his peace, so far as the seurces of it is concerned, will be no less immutable and eternal than God himself. Its nature, like his, will be abiding, and its duration, like his, will be everlasting. The cross, the blessed though shameful cross, opens a new and living way of confidence in God, and like the ladder in Jacob's vision, becomes a medium of intercourse between man and his Maker which nothing can interrupt.
Hence, as regards its ground-work, the believer's peace may be said to be perfect for its resting-place is immovable. Whether pangs of conviction may have preceded it, and whatever doubts and fears may still attend upon it, the foundation upon which it is built, being less than the promise and the oath of God, can never be overturned. Only let the sinner cast himself upon the mercy provided for him, and offered to him, and urged upon him, and he need never be ashamed or confounded. This is doing precisely what he ought to do, and what he is on. couraged to do ; and doing it, he is as safe from eventual ruin, and may
feel as secure in present peace, as the power and grace of God cau 'possibly render him. No one, not even Satan, or the world, or his conscience, can lay anything to his charge, successfully. God himself has engaged to be his justifier, and who is there in heaven, earth, or hell, to condemn ?
There is that in the plan of salvation, revealed in the Bible and embraced by faith, which is adapted to remove every doubt and silence every apprehension. God is now regarded as a Father, Christ as an elder brother, and the Holy Spirit às a Comforter ; and what reason is there why the greatest of. fender should give way to despondency? In the great doctrines of the gospel every man on earth is authorised to take rofugo, assured that hero there is grace to pardon bis sins, strength to hold up his støps, and joys to refresh his spirita.
His helper is omniscient and omnipresent, all-wise and all-merciful, and how can he come short at last ? Here he may take sanctuary, and in spite of the malice of the devil, the temptations of the world, and the corruptions of his own heart, find settled peace and consolation. Such an one is surrounded by munitions of rocks, and overthrow is impossible. A voice rising above all the tumult of inward and outward trouble says in his ears, “ Fear not, for I am with thee ; be not dismay. ed, for I am thy God."
And as this peace is secure in its foundation, so is it also large in its measare. At one time it rises like a river, and swells and rolls onward, until it bears both sin and sorrow away into the land of forgetfuluess. At another it takes the tempted and careworu believer up, and carries him along as on the wings of an eagle, towards the celestial world. Water cannot quench the bright and buoyant flame, nor can floods drown it, nor can persecution dim its lustre. Most truly may wə say of it, it is a peace which "the world cannot give nor take away."
This blessing is enhanced too by the fact that it comes in when all other joys go out, and erects its brightest monuments on the ruins of earthly hopes. It is when heart and flesh fail that its blessedness is generally most fully felt. There is no tril which it cannot endure, no sorrow which it cannot remove, no darkness which it cannot dispel, no agonies which it cannot alleviate! No wonder that Jesus calls it his peace, and bequeathes it to his disciples as the best legacy in his power to bestow. That very repose in God which so filled and cheered his own holy bosom, he delights to share with all who love him and wait for his appearing and his kingdom.
Who can measure the height and depth, the length and breadth of such a gift as this? Never does it loom up so largely as when it takes its position by the dying couch, and the opening gravo, and speaks of joys which can never fade away. Here is something that can afford support even amidst the swellings of Jordan. Can we turn aside and see what light this peace
of God can diffuse through the chamber of disease ; how it can tranquilize the bosom of the poor widow surrounded with her helpless, babes; what serenity it can shed around the tottering steps of some aged saint ; and how it can irradiate the gloom even of the grave itself, and not feel that it is rightly called perfect? True, it might often be more fully possessed on earth, and it will be more fully possessed in heaven. But if we remember what it has actually done in ten thousand instances, when the dear, est friends have died, and property has taken wings and down away, and one pall of sadness, has seemed to overspread the entire world, we shall feel that it is impossible to give it too good a name, or attach to it too high a value.
That this peace is not always as full in degree as it is sure in its foundation, is not the fault of the Giver or the gift. It may
be temporarily broken by sinful indulgences; it may be inter-, rupted by a derangement of the mentalor physical system; and it may be for a while withdrawn, to produce a deeper feeling of dependence. The privilege of the Christian is, in this respect, by far in advance of his actual and ascertained attainments. It is but uttering a well-known truth to say, that many good men are often in heavines through manifold temptations, and their peace is more like the uncertain brook than the perpetual river, inoving calmly unto the ocean. Too frequently do they hang down their heads in despondency and refuse to be comforted. Still there is a blessing for them rich, and large be. yond expression, and nothing is necessary but that they should embrace it, and rejoice in it as their own. This prepares the way to contemplate
Thirdly, the means of enjoying this peace, callod staying the mind on God, or trusting in him.
Tbe provided mercy, in order that it may work out its appropriate results, must become an accepted and an embraced mercy. So far as it respects any real repose of heart, it matters not that there is a blessing, of which God is the author, and which is perfect in its nature, unless this blessing does, in fact, come into our possession, and come as it were part of ourselves. There must be a connecting link between the Benefactor and the recipient; and that connecting link, is a simple, earnest, child-like faith in Christ. Hear in what delightful language the blessing itself, as well as the medium of its conveyance, is spoken of : “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only. begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Mark, it is the mind's resting in God, staying on him, and confiding in his Word, upon the terms of the gospel, that secures this peace. Nothing else will answer the purpose. Whatever was the strength of the ark built by Noah, or its fitness to float on the water, it could save from the deluge none, except such as entered it, and were inclosed by its doors. An anchor may be sufficiently heavy and firmly set to hold the vessel in the most violent storm, but it can never do this without a cable to connect the two together. So the mere fact that Jesus died on the cross to procure peace, is of itself, and by itself, nothing at all. In addition to what God has done, there is something for man to do, or actual, personal salvation is impossible. The language of the Bible is
, “ Look unto me, and be'ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else."
Let this be done in the first instance, and be repeated as often as clouds overcast the mind and doubts arise in the heart, and there can be nothing to hinder the enjoyment of peace. A -way is now opened, in which man can come into favor with God, without the least detriment to the claims of divine just ice, or the least injury to the interests of the divine govern ment. Whatever the sinfulness of believers, the atonement of
Christ is underneath them as an eternal rock ; and whatever their guilt, the righteousness of Christ is upon them as a spotless robe; and built on this rock, and clad in this robe, they have nothing to fear. In the single, grand and precious truth, that Jesus has undertaken the work of Mediator, there is that which can convey peace to the conscience, and joy to the beart, let the winds blow ever so high, and the waves roar ever so loud. Nothing is surrendered in regard to the strictness and sanction of the law, and yet that law is so satisfied, that it has no more any curse to utter. Justice and mercy meet on this gracious platform, one securing all its demands in the sufferings of the Saviour, and the other displaying all its triumphs in the deliverance of the sinner.
Man's position in this whole matter is that of a mere pauper, a simple recipient. Instead of working out a righteousness of his own, he is to submit to a righteousness, or yield to the acceptance of a righteousness, which is unto all and upon all them that believe. Just to take what is brought to him and laid down at his door, is all that is required. Calling the joys of heaven his own, depends on nothing as its antecedent but the embracing the message which God gives of his Son.
To believe in Christ simply, truly, entirely, without a thought of any goodness to be looked for, either in the feelings of the mind or the way of the life, is the true catholicon-the genuine panacea—the real heart's ease. Its power is almost omnipotent. All those dark wants and dim apprehensions which make the whole head sick, and the whole heart faint, are sure to give way before the influence of a cordial trust of Jesus, as the Son of God. Every thing turns on faith, and the man who can believe, and who does believe, is authorized to possess a settled and stable peace. This, be it remembered, is not a blessing which comes meritoriously, or by right of purchase, either from his own doings or from his own deservings. As his hope of the divine favor rests exclusively on the atonement of Christ, neither personal merit nor personal demerit has any. thing to do with a tranquil frame of mind. Trusting and not doing, relying on another and not confiding in himself, is the main point. So far as the question of acceptance is concerned, and hence so far as the question of peace is concerned, nothing is necessary but a bare staying of the mind on Christ. This done, all is done ; this neglected, nothing is done.
It is a conclusion founded on the fullest experience, that up. on the plan, Do and live, real and permanent peace of mind never has been attained, and never can be. This object is gain. ed only when we really enter into the spirit of-Believe and be saved. Once let the feeling of a simple trust in the merits of the Saviour take possession of the bosom, and it will go fur ther to produce abiding consolation than all the tears and vigils of the most perfect devotee. It is not by works of righteousnobs which we have done, but according to the mercy of God , that we are saved. Here is something complete in itself,