THE PEACE OF GOD. By Lyman Abbott "And the peace of God, which passeth all understandtng, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." — PhiAppians iv. 7. If peace is a grace, it cannot be described as a characteristic American grace. If growth in peace is growth in divine childhood, then in so far this age lacks divine childhood. We have other virtues, and we are wont to plume ourselves upon them; and we have a right to care for them and, in some sense, to be proud of them. We are active, energetic, vigorous; we are courageous; we do not lack bravery on the platform and in the pulpit or in the press. Our teachers have in large measure the courage of their convictions. The virtues that apparently belong with strife and battle grow in American atmosphere. The virtues that belong with conflict and toil in the mine, in the factory, in the shop, in the household, grow naturally on American soil. But I do not think that peace is very common in America, — neither the peaceful heart nor the peaceful face is very common. If we trust at all the representations in our newspapers, where domestic diflSPly mouth Church, Sunday morning, November 4, 1888.
THE PEACE OF GOD, 247 culties are emblazoned abroad with such shameful frequency, peace in the home is none too common. If you will stand on Broadway and look at the faces of the people that are going up and down, you will see care written there, eagerness written there, energy written there, force written there; but how often will you see peace ? Even in our recreations we are loath to take peace. It is the drama which stirs men and excites them that placards at its door, " Standing room only." It is the romance that is intense and creates tempestuous emotions in the reader's heart that sells by tens of thousands. I wonder, as I look on your faces this morning, how many there are of you that enjoy quietness and repose; how many there are of you that are glad to get an hour to be absolutely by yourselves; how many there are of you that find yourselves good company for yourselves. And yet the Bible puts great emphasis on peace, and makes it in some measure a test and standard of character. On the one side it declares that the wicked know no peace. It would, perhaps, be too much to say that those who know no peace are there-
fore wicked, although we might well consider whether there is not a truth on that side of the affirmation. Laying aside the Old Testament, and taking the New only, we find Christ's advent inaugurated with the angel's song of " Peace on earth, good-will to men;" Christ's message to the repentant sinner, " Go in peace;" Christ's lamentation over apostate Jerusalem, that she does not know what belongs to her peace; Christ's last gift to his disciples just before the cul-
248 SIGNS OF PROMISE, mination of his passion, — a gift of peace. We find peace coupled in the apostolic benediction with grace, interwoven in the apostolic promises of the kingdom with righteousness and joy, declared to be a fruit of the spiritual mind, a gift of God, an evidence of the indwelling Christ, a means of sanctification, and access to it afforded by faith. And, finally, in the picture of the perfect beatification of the heavenly rest, the sea, on earth tossed by perpetual tempests and ever throwing up mire and dirt, becomes a sea of glass, whose pacific surface no wind shall ruffle, and on which no cloud shall cast a shadow.* So, then, the state of individual or national or church experience that lacks this (][uality of peace is
seriously lacking. I sometimes like to take words and trace them to their meaning — their original meaning — and so find the significance of virtue on the one side and vice on the other. And if you will take the words that represent that which impinges upon and disturbs our peace, you will find nothing but weakness and imperfection wrought into them. " Anxiety " is torture. " Care " is only another word for pain. He is " distracted " who is pulled in different directions, like a man torn by wild horses, or a wayfarer lost in the woods and not knowing which path to take. We are " perplexed " when we are en* Luke it 14; vii. 50; viii 48; xix. 42; — John xiv. 27; xvi. 33; XX. 19, 20; — Romans i. 7; ii. 10; v. i; viii 6; xiv. 17; xv. 33; — Gal. V, 22; — Ephes. iL 14; iv. 3; — Col. iii. 15; — i Thess. v. 23; iii. 16.
THE PEACE OF COD. 249 tangled, like a fly caught in the spider's web. So ' every word that represents want of peace represents, not a strength, but a weakness; not a virtue, but a vice. I want this morning to repeat to you a little, very simply, some things which the Bible seems to me to say about peace.
In the first place, the peace which the Bible commends to us is the peace of God. It is God's own peace. I think, perhaps, we shall best realize that without peace we fall away from our godly estate, if we realize in what state God forever lives. Can you think of the plowshare of care running a furrow across God's brow ? Can you think of anxiety brooding on God's heart? Can you think of perplexity entangling God in its meshes ? Can you think of God hurrying and worrying and fretting and perplexed lest he shall not get this or that or the other thing done in time ? Can you think of God as harassed, bearing a burden too great for him to bear, and weighted down by the very armor he is carrying? O, no, no ! we know that God lives and works in a perpetual peace. He is light. In him there is no variableness or shadow of turning. Did you ever think how the light works always in peace ? For what is the most potent thing in nature ? Not the earthquake. Not the lightning. Not the thunderbolt. Not the wind, with its vociferation and its noise. Light! All the forces of nature are born of light and are carried earthward in the sunbeam. It is light that gives the wind its wings. It is light
250 SIGNS OF PROMISE.
that gives the waterfall its force. It is light that equips all machinery with its vast powers. Light is the potential element in you that makes you live. Wrap the world in eternal darkness, and it would be wrapped in eternal death and inactivity. But the light sounds no drum as it marches on its way; sends forth no clarion note, of triumph or of defeat. The light marches noiselessly. Its sandals are of satin. No listening ear can catch the tread of its footstep. The wind howls against the sunbeam, and the sunbeam shines on undiverted by so much as the tenmillionth fraction of an inch. The cloud puts itself athwart the sunbeam, and the sunbeam shines through the cloud with a diffused instead of a radiant light, or turns it into golden glory by its magnificent shining. There is nothing that can divert it; nothing that can thwart it; nothing that can disturb it. It moves upon its way in eternal quietness and calmness. The greatest tempest that ever rocks the earth is but a few feet in height as compared with the eternal silence and the eternal ethereal substance of light in which the globe moves around in its appointed orbit. And so we live in God, if we do but know it, — God, who is a perpetual light and a perpetual peace. O, when anxiety plows into your heart, when perplexity entangles you, when troubles gather around you and upon you, think for a moment — for a moment? think for one half-hour — of the eternal quietude and peace of your Father. Come
into his presence, and from him take peace. For this peace that is of God belongs to God, is
THE PEACE OF GOD, 2$$ them settle down upon the valley below, and have heard the thunder muttering there, and have seen the lightning-flashes playing below my feet, and have seen the birds come flying up through the clouds, singing on the mountain-top, while the thunder was threatening and the lightning was playing havoc in the valley. So learn to fly above these lower earthly storms that are so low and lie only in the hollows, and And that song always to be found in the mountain-top and in the sunlight. It is possible. We can do it. Men and women have done it. This peace that I have talked to you about this morning is not a peace from trouble ; and when we try to find the peace from trouble we always fail. It is peace m trouble. It is hinted at in that word of Christ, " In the world you shall have tribulation ; but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world." We would have God lead us through no dark valley and shadow of death. But he gives us no promise of that kind. What he says is this : " Though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, my rod and my staff they shall comfort you." We come
to the deep water, and shrink back, saying, '^ Not into that river, not into that river !" We come to the furnace of fire, saying, " Not into that flame, not into that flame !" But the answer is this : " Though thou walkest through the deep waters, they shall not overflow thee ; though thou walkest through the flame, it shall not consume thee." And so we are to find our peace, not by exemption from trouble, but by living in the midst of trouble. Yea, baring our
254 SIGNS OF PROMISE. breast to the trouble, yet rejoicing in it, for they that are exercised thereby are they that follow after peace and find it. O, if I could only tell this story to you as it has been told me sometimes, — yes ! as it has been told me this very past week, by the radiant faces, and the unclouded hearts that were filled with peace, and the home that was sweet with the note and song and radiance of peace in a time of great sorrow, — you would go away saying, I will seek this peace and pursue it. Last August, as we sailed out of Queenstown Harbor in the steamer, we went into the teeth of a great gale. The wind was howling, the rain was .beating upon the deck of our steamer, the great waves were running and every now and then sweep-
ing over our lower decks. And we sat there under the awning, protected from the rain, looking out on the waters, and on the Mother Carey chickens riding on the crest of the waves, in the midst of the tempest. Every now and then a great wave would dash over a little bird, and it would seem to be gone, and then in a moment there it was again, shaking its head and wings and flinging off the spray and riding in the storm and exulting in it. " O little bird, you have been a messenger of the good God. Teach me how, when the time of tempest and storm shall come to me — teach me how to ride on the waves, to be overwhelmed and yet not be overwhelmed, to shake off the trouble and yet live in the trouble. Teach me that lesson, little bird!" And I bring the message of
THE PEACE OF GOD. 255 the little bird to you. Will you not take a message from the little bird you cannot take from me ? My peace give I unto you, said Christ. I think I see him now, standing in the midst of that howling multitude clamorous for his death ; the blood is streaming from his back ; the crown of thorns is upon him, and the blood is streaming from those wounds also. But cruder and harder to be borne than wounds of scourge or wounds of thorns are the
wounds that enter the heart of love, when it feels the storm of hate and fury and passion let loose to work its worst. And yet he is at peace. And I see the far-away look in his deep blue eye, and the heavenly calm on his placid countenance ; for he is in the midst of the tempest, but unperturbed by it. Peaceful ! peaceful ! And this is the peace he gives to us his disciples. Grant to us, O Thou that wert at peace in the tempest, thine own spirit of faith and trust, that in our loneliness we, too, may not be alone, but, in the companionship of God, may have the peace of God thou givest to thy followers.