THE PEACE OF GOD. BY R. DRUMMO D B. RAW SLEY, M.A.
Col. iii. 15. And let the peace of God ride in your hearts. There is mucli excellent counsel in the short Epistle selected for this Sunday, much advice upon our behaviour as Christians, which it behoves us to follow, — Tut on m the elect of Ood, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering. That is the first injunction of the Apostle. He calls upon us as the elect of God — men whom He has called out of the world to be His adopted sons in Christ Jesus, to walk answerably to our calling — to walk in love, and in the spirit of our Master — a spirit of meekness and long-suffering — a spirit that enables a man to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please himself. Together with this St. Paul enjoins, in the
280 THE PEACE OF GOD. next words the duty of forgiveness. Forbearing one another y and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any. And this he enforces with a very powerful argument — even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye ! My brethren, this surely is counsel not to be disregarded. There is not one amongst us who does not need to lay it to heart. Every week, every day, brings with it an occasion on which to
exercise this leading duty of forgiveness. We have our quarrels, and our strifes, alas ! pursued sometimes to terrible consequences ; we are ruffled in temper, and feeling, and apt to make the most of our grievances, and to desire redress, and to press hard for punishment against the person who may have done us wrong. We are impatient if told that we ought to be more forbearing, more long-suffering : we stand upon our right, and will not listen to those who counsel forgiveness. And why? Surely because we have forgotten how much we ourselves stand in need of forgiveness ! We have forgotten what is our condition before God — sinners, open to condemnation, pardoned solely through the merits, and intercession of our Redeemer ! Would it not be well, if we all kept this truth more constantly in mind ? Would there not be less quarrelling, less bearing of malice, less com-
THE PEACE OF GOD* 281 plaining of our neighbour, if we had always before us the recollection of our own state before God — of the mercy which we ourselves need, and have received? As Christ forgave you, so also do ye! ot less valuable, not less to be laid to heart, are the next words of this Epistle, — And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond ofper-^ fectness. We know from another passage of St. Paul's epistles what he has spoken in praise of charity ; how he has set it, as it were, on a pedestal by itself — above faith, above tope. We remember that he tells us that all gifts and graces, however great and precious, are, apart from
charity, nothing. And we do not wonder that when, as in this Epistle to the Colossians, he is laying down the rule of a Christian life, enumerating the chief qualities of mind, and character that ought to be ours, he should sum up all by insisting upon the surpassing excellence of charity. And above all things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness ! It is but saying in a little what he has said elsewhere more fully. But the fact that St. Paul has twice emphatically recorded his opinion on the subject, must make it of yet greater weight with his readers. There can now be no excuse for us who accept him for an inspired teacher — a man
THE PEACE OF GOD.
blessed with immediate reyelations from God — a man who thought, nor without reason, that he had the mind of Christ — if we do not follow after charity — charity in thought — charity in word — charity in deed — as the first and foremost of our Christian duties — that which can never be dispensed with in any man, " the bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before God!" The next words — and I shall go no further than this to-day — the next words in this Epistle are the words of my text, — And let the pe^ice of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are
called in one body. The peace of God ! peace which is the end of strife — which is the opposite to confusion — which is the fruit of the Spirit — who would not wish that this blessed peace might rule in his heart ? We are called to it in one body — we hope to share it in one body ; should we not all then study to attain it ? should we not avoid all that may tend to the breaking of peace, or to the loss of peace ? should we not follow after things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another? But it is not so much peace with our neighbours of which the text speaks, but tlie pe€u>e of Qod ; and this must be the peace which comes from God, which God bestows — that tranquillity of
THE PEACE OF GOD. 283 mind, that repose and rest of the poul, out of which all disturbing, and terrifying influences have gone — that peace which the poor demoniac found, out of whom the devils were departed, when he sat at his Deliverer's feet, calm and collected, and in his right mind ! That, surely, is the peace referred to in this passage — that is the peace which in another epistle (the Epistle to the Philippians) St. Paul promises to his converts, and which he describes as the peace of God which passeth all understanding ; which shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus! . We use in our English Church these very words at the conclusion of our service ; and it is a great privilege to utter them — a comfort too, I believe, to many, to hear them. They are words
which come home to us, which seem to be charged with the very message which we most need. For what can the heart of man, toiling, restless, uneasy, so much desire as this very thing-" the peace of God? And how is it to be obtained ? how shall we arrive at this great blessing? Looking back to what goes before the mention of this peace in the Epistle, we find theQewoTda,-^-Be careful fornothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto
284 THE PEACE OF GOD. Ood. And then lie adds, as tlie consequence of so doing, and the peace of God, which passeth all under" standing, shull keep your Jiearts and minds through Christ Jesus. It would appear from this that prayer — a habit of seeking God in all our wants and diflGlculties — bringing our whole life, its troubles, its sorrows, its perplexities, before Him, is one condition of enjoying what is here described as the peace of God. And such is ever the teaching of the Bible, The poor cry and the Lord heareth them ; yea, and saveth them out of all their troubles. — Thou shalt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon Thee. one know, but those who have made the experiment, what a true word this is — how sure a refuge God is to those who seek Him — how deep the rest which they enjoy who make God their trust, and " lean upon the hope of His heavenly grace." But, again, the peace of God is that which the
soul enjoys that is reconciled to Him. So long as we are enemies to God through wicked works, we can know nothing of true peace. There may be an assumed peace, a reckless hardihood of indifference ; there may be the peace of an unawakened conscience, but there is no real genuine peace, no rest, no tranquillity, in the heart of the man who goes on still in his wickedness. Such a
THE PEACE OF GOD. 285 man, if he ever thinks about God, must think of Him as a great, awful Being, Whom he has offended. Whose laws he has broken, Whose power he has defied ; Who will one day bring him into judgment, punish him with a terrible punishment for all his provocations. There is no peace, saith my God — there can be no peace — for the wicked! But let a man turn from his wickedness — let him cease provoking God — let him come to himself, as the prodigal did in the far country, and break away from his evil habits, and go back and throw himself, in penitence, upon God's great goodness. Let him cry but one sincere, heartfelt cry, " I have sinned ; I am not worthy of the least of Thy mercies ! *' — let him have the courage to speak to God as to a Father, and he is already far on his road to peace. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, long-suffering , and of great goodness. Like as a father pitieth his own children, even so is the Lord merciful unto them that fear Him ! - Bear it in mind, brethren ; draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Remember that true peace, true rest, true deliverance from the fear of hell, is only to be found by the heart that is reconciled to God — that has learnt to look upon God, not as an enemy and avenger, but as a
Father — a God Whom we best describe when we say, that He is a God of Love !
286 THB PEACE OF GOD. And wliat ground have we for saying this, that God Ls a God of love? Every ground! But on this alone we may take our stand — on the ground of our redemption by Jesus Christ. God so loved the world that He sent his only-begotten San, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life, — Herein indeed was love, not that we loved Ghd, but that He loved tM, and' sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins! Aftet this who shall dispute whether God is a God of love ? He that spared not His oum Son, but de^ livered Him up for us all, shall He not also with Him freely give us all things ? Yes— even that great boon of which the text speaks — that peace of Ood which passeth all understanding ! To conclude : the peace of God that keeps the heart— that makes a man at ease, happy, full of a good hope — this peace, we have seen, is the result of prayer, and of holding fast to the belief that God is our Father, and that we are His adopted and reconciled children in Jesus Christ. Being juS" tified by faith, we have peace with Ood ! We cannot have it in any other way. There is no peace, we have seen already, for the wicked ;. neither is there any peace for the man who, mis-' taking the true nature of God, seeks to make Him favourable by acts of penance and austerity-— giving the joys of life, as it were, a bribe for hia
THE PEACE OF GOD. 287 transgression, afflicting his body for the sin of his soul. I do not think we shall ever attain peace by that plan : because when we have given all, and suffered all things, that all is as nothing to take away the guilt of sin. It costs more, infinitely more, to redeem the soul. A better course is surely that which I have endeavoured to point out to you. The true road to peace lies in a thankful acceptance of what God has done for us, and in a ready acknowledgment of Him as He has been pleased to reveal Himself to us in the Gospel. The true road to peace li^s in regarding God as our Father — more ready to give than We to seek His gift of pardon — and in going to Him for that pardon continually — going to Hiim through the one door of approach He has opened to us, in the name of the Lord JemB^ giving thanks to God the Father hy Him!